The song “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley


I recently wrote to Elvis Presley Enterprises, the organisation which represents the dead pop singer Elvis Presley. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you regarding the lyrics of the 1962 song “Return To Sender” by Elvis Presley. In case you are not familiar with the song, the lyrics are as follows:

Verse 1
I gave a letter to the postman
He put it in his sack
Bright and early next morning
He brought my letter back

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone
We had a quarrel, a lover’s spat
I write “I’m sorry”, but my letter keeps coming back

Verse 2
So then I dropped it in the mailbox
And sent it special D
Bright and early next morning
It came right back to me

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown
No such person, no such zone

Verse 3
This time I’m gonna take it myself
And put it right in her hand
And if it comes back the very next day
Then I’ll understand

The writing on it
Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone
Return to sender
Return to sender
Return to sender
(Repeat to fade)

You can see that I have included the sub-titles “verse 1”, “verse 2”, “verse 3” and “chorus”. Please note these are for reference purposes only and are not sung as part of the song itself.

My first concern relates to the sequence of events described in verse 1.

The first line of verse 1 describes Elvis Presley giving his letter to the postman. Let us say that Elvis Presley gives his letter to the postman on day x. Assuming that the postman does his job properly and that the rest of the postal service is operating efficiently, the earliest day on which Elvis Presley’s lover will receive the letter is day x + 1. If Elvis Presley’s lover then acts promptly, marking the letter with the words “return to sender” (as described in the chorus) and posting the letter in a timely manner, then the earliest day on which the postman will bring the letter back to Elvis Presley is day x + 2; not, as line 3 of verse 1 would have us believe, “bright and early next morning” (in reality, due to a combination of human error and unavoidable delays, and bearing in mind that a weekend might be included in the sequence of events, there is every chance that the letter would be returned later than day x + 2).

It would therefore be more accurate and/or realistic to say, instead of “bright and early next morning”, something along the lines of “two to three days later” or “three to four days later”.

However, there is a problem with both of these alternative lyrics: they do not scan. It is absolutely essential that the replacement lyric contains the same number of syllables as the original lyric (seven).

My suggested replacement, therefore, is as follows:

“Six to seven days later”.

But we are presented with another problem in verse 2, when Elvis Presley sends the letter “Special D”. I believe this is short for “Special Delivery” which guarantees delivery before either 9am or 1pm the next day, depending on how much one is willing to pay for the service. Either way, neither the original version, where the letter is returned bright and early next morning, nor my amended version, where the letter is returned six to seven days later, is appropriate.

I therefore propose that in this verse, instead of sending the letter “Special D(elivery)”, Elvis Presley sends it “Recorded D(elivery)”. Recorded Delivery provides proof of posting and delivery, but no guarantee of delivery times. Therefore the six to seven days later lyric could again be employed with some feasibility.

In the final verse, in which Elvis Presley proposes hand-delivering the letter, a next-day return is entirely possible, so this verse can remain “as is”.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Bright and early next morning, I received the following reply:

Dear Daniel Drummond Harvey,

The song “Return to Sender” was written in 1962 by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott.

Therefore the lyrics are theirs not Elvis’s.

Best Regards,

Archives Staff
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

I rather feel that they are just passing the buck.

2 thoughts on “The song “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley

  1. Andy A. January 27, 2013 / 5:24 pm

    Oh man, It’s a beautiful song leave it alone. Who cares when the girl received the letter. I guess you were just too bored that day. What’s next jailhouse rock? Prisons don’t let inmates dance all over the place, squash the video.

    • Daniel Drummond Harvey January 27, 2013 / 6:49 pm

      Hello there Andy! Thank you for your comment. I think you make a good point about Jailhouse Rock – although if more inmates were encouraged to dance, perhaps prisons would be less violent and aggressive places!

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