Nov 04

ELVIS PRESLEY – “Return To Sender”

Popular10 comments • 2,090 views

#143, 15th December 1962

At last an Elvis hit with some vim – “Return To Sender” isn’t necessarily a better song than his other ’62 singles but his approach to it is spot on. He’s much more aggressive than usual, the staccato attacks on line endings (“Add-ress un-KNOWN”; “A lover’s SPAT!”) reflecting the frustration of the postal shut-out scenario. It’s an absurd scenario too, so the snarling Elvis is backed up by a breezy band performance, all brisk steps and cartoon honkings.



  1. 1
    Tracer Hand on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Looking through the Popular list in celebration of the halfway point I’m surprised to see no comments for this song (tho I dimly recall some Great Technical Comment Conflagration around the time this was posted).

    Quite simply, this is one of the top three Elvis songs ever recorded (the other two being “That’s All Right (Mama)” and “Little Sister”). Everything sounds just right – you get a real feel for the size of the room you’re in.

    And the call-and-response backing vocals here evoke a lovely kind of companionship and buddy loyalty. I imagine a baffled Elvis coming back to his friends from the mailbox, exclaiming the words of this song to them – ranting, practically – so upset that they have to support his shoulders as they bring him into the sitting room. You’re right, they’re saying. It’s true. We agree with every word. What’s the world coming to? What’s wrong with her? She wrote upon it.


  2. 2
    Tom on 2 Sep 2009 #

    Great comment Tracer – pre-2005 comments for this song were lost to the vagaries of Haloscan.

  3. 3
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    Byrn Terfel, opera singer(2003).

  4. 4
    thefatgit on 15 Jun 2011 #

    I kind of view RTS as part of Elvis’ departure from Rock ‘n’ Raunch, to something much more wholesome and Middle-America. He’d been out of the Army for 2 years, so all that youthful vim & vigour had departed. His mother had passed, and I guess from a certain perspective, RTS represents that missing female influence. A hole that Priscilla struggled to fill.

    All those Army boys in Germany faithfully writing away to their sweethearts, fruitlessly waiting for the Red Machine to march. Only their sweethearts had moved on, the letters returned unanswered. And so to the red light district to console themselves amid its dubious delights (perhaps a grotty little club, with some greasy Liverpudlians making a racket).

    Of course, Elvis was long gone by then, only to be replaced by another phalanx of fresh-faced All-Americans, whose younger brothers would be bound for a god-forsaken jungle in South-East Asia. How many of THEIR letters home would go unanswered?

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 15 Jun 2011 #

    A couple of lovely comments there.

    Re 4: Or could you see it as a last hurrah? His mother died while he was in the army and he’d made his last attempts at serious acting in ’61 with Flaming Star and (the rather good) Wild In The Country (Tuesday Weld as bad girl… good gosh). So the move away from Elvis Is Back’s wild diversity and sauce was well underway. With the exception of Devil In Disguise, pretty much everything he recorded in ’61, ’62 and ’63 was adult Nashville pop. Some great Don Robertson ballads, and Suspicion is one of his dozen greatest performances, but decidedly non raunchy.

  6. 6
    hectorthebat on 10 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 21
    John Peel (UK) – Peelenium: Four Tracks from Each Year of the Last Century (1999)
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 23 Jan 2015 #

    as much as I enjoy this I don’t find it as affecting as ‘She’s not you’ which seemed to draw on a deeper well of loss. Nevertheless Elvis effectively turns the hard consonants into vocal percussion that seem to match a rising tide of frustration at the breakdown in communication. It’s all texts and emails these days innit?

  8. 8
    IJGrieve on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Here are my notes & rates for the #1s of 1962

    It’s hard to hear this now and not immediately think of the 1980s sitcom that borrowed its title. It starts off like any number of the Shadows’ other hits, but what follows is a patchwork of styles that make this a kind of 3-minute ’1962 in miniature’. On balance I like it, but it’s not something I’ll be listening to much once I’ve moved past the year in question 6

    ELVIS PRESLEY – “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”
    Solid love ballad that effectively showcases Elvis’ vocal range. The less said about the other side of the double-A, ‘Rock A Hula Baby’, the better. For ‘Can’t Help Falling’, 5

    THE SHADOWS – “Wonderful Land”
    For me the best of the Shadows’ instrumental number ones, this wonderfully atmospheric string-plucking tune was good for eight weeks at #1 and scores the same 8

    Rock ‘n’ roll returns to the top, in the form of a drums-and-piano instrumental that insists you move your feet. This is good dancey fun without really making a lasting impression 7

    ELVIS PRESLEY – “Good Luck Charm”
    An uninspired workout, it’s doubtful that any other performer would have taken this humdrum track to the top 4

    I was surprised how familiar this call-and-response comedy track sounded given that I didn’t really know anything about it before starting this project – Wikipedia provided the answer, it was covered in a by-now largely forgotten episode by a collection of celebrities for Children In Need 1991. It seems a strange choice, this must have been naff in 1962, never mind 29 years later. That said, the response “But I wan’ another twist” surely wouldn’t have sounded half as out of place on the original! 4

    RAY CHARLES – “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
    The contrast from the previous record could scarcely be greater – this is a dreary, mournful country croon. The skip button beckons well before its near 5 minute runtime is reached 2

    FRANK IFIELD – “I Remember You”
    Yodelling Ifield is one of the more puzzling musical success stories of the early 60s. Musically this isn’t at all bad, with its upbeat guitar melody and harmonica interludes – for me at least, it’s a vast improvement on the tedium of the previous track. The vocals, though, are devoid of appeal. 5

    ELVIS PRESLEY – “She’s Not You”
    Another one of ‘the King”s more forgettable outings 4

    THE TORNADOS – “Telstar”
    The third instrumental number one of 1962 is deservedly the most celebrated of the year’s chart-toppers (and my highest-rated). Seldom has a record been released that encapsulated its time so perfectly. Telstar transmitted the first transatlantic TV signal to the UK, and the overwhelming sense that you get from listening to this record more than 50 years later is that this was the moment that, for the public at large, the future had arrived. There was no going back from here. 9

    FRANK IFIELD – “Lovesick Blues”
    It’s actually originally from a 1920’s musical, but his could have been written to showcase Ifield’s talents. Despite the downbeat lyrics, this is enjoyable enough fluff 6

    ELVIS PRESLEY – “Return To Sender”
    The fourth of Elvis’ number ones this year is by far the best, a breezy, catchy tune that bounces along and pulls you in. Just don’t over-think the slightly silly lyrics 8

  9. 9
    chrisew71 on 29 Mar 2018 #

    Proof that songs from the films could be good when they made the effort. Always seemed crazy to me that the goal wouldn’t have been to have at least one hit song per film.

  10. 10
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    An enjoyable single from the King imho. 7/10 for me.

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