The Box Tops

The Letter

Add to Song Favorites ♥

Song Review by

"The Letter" is in and out in just under two minutes, making it one of the shortest number one singles of all time (only Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' 96-second wonder "Stay" beats it), as well as an ironically auspicious introduction for one of rock & roll's most unapologetically perverse talents. Alex Chilton wasn't even old enough to have a driver's license when he sang the lead vocals on the Box Tops' debut single, but his gruff lead is one of the most effortlessly soulful vocals of 1967. The strained falsetto Chilton would use for most of Big Star's best songs in the next decade seems like a deliberate response to this affectedly deep voice, which Chilton has since claimed was his attempt to imitate producer Dan Penn, whose own husky voice does resemble the effect Chilton gets here. (Urban legends claiming that Chilton's voice was artificially lowered through heavy doses of amphetamines fall apart once one realizes how cockamamie that idea is.) Behind this vocal, Penn blends blue-eyed soul with a slicker and more pop-oriented sound featuring neat touches like the string section that appears on the fadeout, along with the sound of a jet engine. Short, sweet, and just about perfect, "The Letter" brought Alex Chilton to the world at large with a bang.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Letter/Neon Rainbow 1967 Sundazed 1:58
No Image 1969 Bell 1:58
No Image 1972
Various Artists
Bell 1:58
The Best of the Box Tops 1974 Arista / BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 1:54
Oldies But Goodies: Legendary Hits 1979
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:49
No Image 1982 Rhino
16 Solid Gold Hits 1986
Various Artists
Deluxe
The Ultimate Box Tops 1988 Warner Bros. 1:58
Golden Oldies, Vol. 14 [Original Sound] 1989
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 1:55
History of Rock, Vol. 1 [Collectables 1992] 1990
Various Artists
Collectables 1:59
History of Rock: The 60s, Pt. 4 1990
Various Artists
Collectables 1:53
Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 12 1990
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 1:55
History of Rock: The Rockin' 60's - WCBS FM 101 1991
Various Artists
1:58
Jukebox Giants: WCBS New York, Vol. 3 1992
Various Artists
Collectables 1:52
Rock & Roll Years: 1967 1993
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel Distribution 1:58
60's Sound Explosion 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:58
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Varese
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Hollywood / IMG 1:57
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Deluxe 1:59
The Best of the Box Tops [BMG Germany] 1995 Arista 1:55
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Arsenal
Super Box of Rock, Vol. 3 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:54
Best of Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 12-13 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 1:55
Wild Thing: 60s Rock Bands 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:54
Only Rock 'N Roll 1965-1969: 20 Pop Hits 1996
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 1:56
The Best of the Box Tops: Soul Deep 1996 Arista 1:52
Seasons in the Sun [Video] 1997
Various Artists
Galaxy Music 1:55
Super Non-Stop '60s Dance Hits 1997
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel Distribution
20th Century Rocks, Vol. 7: '60s Rock Bands - Wild Thing 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:56
Comin' Together 1997
Various Artists
Coyote Records 1:54
Hits to Remember, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
Galaxy Music 1:58
Whole Lotta Rock: 1966-1967 1997
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 1:52
Rockin' 60's [BMG Special Products] 1997
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:02
The Ultimate History of Rock 'N' Roll Collection 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:54
The Number Ones: The 60's 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 1:52
Greatest Hits of the 60's: 1967 1998
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 1:56
The Ultimate History of Rock & Roll Collection, Vol. 7: The Great Bands 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:56
Love Songs of the 60's, 70's and 80's 1998
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 1:53
Chart Toppers: Rock Hits of the 60s 1998 Priority Records 1:53
#1 Hits of 1965-1969 1998
Various Artists
GNP / Crescendo 1:54
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Chronicles / Polygram 1:58
Classic 60's: The Beat Goes On 1998
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 1:54
Tear Off! 1998 Last Call 2:07
Millennium: Forty Hits 1965-1969 1998
Various Artists
Disky 1:52
Love Songs [Columbia River] 1999
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 1:53
Greatest Hits of the 60s, Vol. 3 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 1:55
60's Decade #1 Hits 1999
Various Artists
St. Clair / Boxsets 1:55
40 Hits: 1965-1969 1999
Various Artists
Millennium Hits (Netherlands) 1:52
The In Crowd [Crimson] 1999
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 1:57
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 1:58
Best of the Best: 60's Pop & Rock, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Primary Colors 1:58
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 1:58
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Starday Records / King 12:45
Classic '60s [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 1:54
Rock N' Roll of the 60's, Vol. 2 1999
Various Artists
Madacy 1:58
Greatest Hits of the 60's [Platinum] 2000
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 1:58
Rock N Roll Dance Party [Madacy] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:40
Sixties Shakin' All Over 2000
Various Artists
Legacy 1:55
60's: Wild Things 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:56
Rock N' Roll Hits of the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 1:57
60's Flower Power 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:56
Casey Kasem: America's Top 10 Through the Years 2000
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 1:54
Rock N' Roll Reunion: 1960 to 1969 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 1:58
The Woodstock Generation: Everything Is Beautiful 2001
Various Artists
Woodstock Records 1:52
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 1:53
Casey Kasem: America's Top 10 Through Years - The 60's 2001
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 1:54
Mega 60's 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 1:54
No Image 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 1:56
Jammin' Oldies: Swingin' 60's 2001
Various Artists
Masters / Intercontinental Records 1:56
The Letter [BMG Special Products] 2001 BMG Special Products 1:55
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 1:55
Dick Clark's #1's: 50's to 70's "When AM Radio Was King" 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 1:54
This Is Soul: Soul for Dancing 2001
Various Artists
Pegasus 1:56
Number 1 Hits 50's 60's & 70's 2002
Various Artists
St. Clair 1:57
Jukebox Hits 1967 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 1:57
Ultimate Jukebox Collection [Ross] 2002
Various Artists
Ross Records 1:56
Pure 60's: The #1 Hits 2002
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 1:56
Then: Totally Oldies, Vol. 4 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 1:58
History of Rock Box 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 1:53
Chartbusters USA, Vol. 3 2003
Various Artists
Ace 1:54
Box of Rock 2003
Various Artists
Import 1:55
Nostalgie 20 Ans La Légende: Légendes Internationales 2003
Various Artists
ULM TV
I Love Rock & Roll, Vol. 1 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 1:58
No Image 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:01
Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Rock 'n' Roll 2004
Various Artists
BMG / BMG Heritage 1:54
This Is the Modern World [Universal] 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 1:55
Last Call's Happy Hour 2004
Various Artists
Last Call 2:09
Super Hits 1967: The Summer of Love 2004
Various Artists
Gusto Records / King 1:54
The 60's Pop Classics [Legacy] 2005
Various Artists
Legacy 1:55
Night on the Town [K-Tel UK] 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:56
Sensational Sixties [BMG Special Products] 2006
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 1:55
#1 Hits of the Summer 2006
Various Artists
Collectables 1:58
#1 Super 60's Hits 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 1:54
Number 1's: '60s Pop 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 1:53
100 Hits: 60s 2007
Various Artists
DMG / DMG TV 1:55
Top of the Pops 1967 2007
Various Artists
EMI 1:53
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 1:56
Pure... Psychedelic Rock 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 1:54
Haynes Ultimate Guide to the 60s 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 1:54
Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios 2012
Various Artists
Ace / Ace UK 1:54
Pure... 60s 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 1:54
Saturday Night Party: '60s Party, Vol. 2 2012
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 1:53
The Original Albums 1967-1969 2015 Raven Records 1:58
60s Golden Memories 2018
Various Artists
Stargrove 1:53
300 Hits: Saturday Night Party
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 1:53
60s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson 1:53
Blue Eyed Soul [Simitar]
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 1:54
Box of Rock [Disc 5]
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 1:55
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
Lost and Found: 1962-1969
Various Artists
EMI
The Rebirth of the Sixties
Various Artists
Music Brokers 1:45