It came in the mail here at work today. The address didn’t include my work title or even the name of my company; the sender had handwritten only my name and the street address. It was a small padded envelope, and inside was a CD with the words THE LETTER PEOPLE scrawled on it. I’d emailed a stranger asking for this CD two years ago, and when it never showed up I wasn’t too surprised. But here it is.
The Letter People was the kindergarten phonics program at my school, and two years ago I was obsessed with finding out everything I could about it. Now I know there was a freaky psychedelic-puppet Letter People TV show based on the program, but I don’t think any of the local stations carried it; my only experience was with the funky artist’s renderings of the Letter People, the “huggable” (and totally kickable) inflatable Letter People, and the songs. Especially the songs: they were all in different musical styles–country, 60s ballad, dixieland, sousa march–and the hands-down favorite in our kindergarten was the hard rockin’ Mr. M song. For years, little pieces of the songs stuck in my head, along with weird synaesthetic notions about letter sex roles. I mean, the Letter People were not an equal opportunity alphabet. The consonants were male and vowels were female. I sort of sensed that the English alphabet was like a large corporation and the vowel ladies were the secretarial pool, because you couldn’t make a word without them, but they didn’t get to start words as often as the male counterparts. I understood this completely.
Anyway, two years ago I began to look up the Letter People and came across a bulletin board where someone had offered to send free CDs of the songs. I’d responded, waited a few weeks, and then wound up buying a cassette of the songs on eBay (where you should look for Letter People stuff instead of asking me, okay? Thanks).
There’s nothing trippier than hearing songs that you know you haven’t heard in over twenty-five years. It turns out the Mr. M song is not the rock anthem we kindergarteners thought it was. It’s pretty lame. The Mr. S song, however, is a fucking masterpiece. And Miss A is exactly like Petula Clark, except, well, completely demented and sneezing. The other day I was thinking about how Letter People songs could be a part of every mix CD I’d ever make–if only I had a CD version. AND NOW I DO!