THE BEATLES' CHRISTMAS RECORDS: They wanna wish you a merry crimble and a gear new year

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THE BEATLES' CHRISTMAS RECORDS: They wanna wish you a merry crimble and a gear new year

Among the many remarkable things about the Beatles' short but crowded career in the global eye was that despite touring, recording, making films, doing interviews, filming clips of songs for broadcast (the precursors of video clips) and so much more, they managed to keep going in to the BBC studios to record radio shows.

They first recorded for the Beeb before they had a record contract (through the belief, insistence and dedication of their manager Brian Epstein) and carried on through until June '65: they made 275 recordings of 88 different songs.

Some of those songs were released on the two sets of The Beatles, Live at the BBC.

And beyond that, every Christmas during the lifespan of the band from 1963 to 1970 they recorded Christmas messages for their British fans which were sent out on flexidiscs through the fan club. 

Those recordings -- some pretty slapdash, some very funny -- were eventually collected on a semi-official album, but they were also snapshots of how the members were changing in personalities along with the musical changes.

What was at first funny and heretical became more removed and even fractious.

As a series of annual updates of the state of the Beatles' nation they are curios but interesting nonetheless.

We begin at the beginning . . .

1963 -- the year they broke in Britain

The famous Royal Variety performance 


      'The Beatles' Christmas Record' (1963)

        xmas1Here we hear them enjoying the first flush of fame (Love Me Do had charted in late '62 and 1963 was the year of Beatlemania in Britain)

        So they are knocking about in the studio on October 17 -- with their PR man Tony Barrow feeding them leading questions -- as they put the finishing touches to songs which will appear on the chart-topping album With the Beatles released a month later.

        The flexidisc was sent to approximately 30,000 fans. 

      The Beatles Christmas Record 1963


    1964 .. the year the world fell at their feet

    The Ed Sullivan Show, February. Seen by 72 million Americans

    the famous film which captured the excitement of the period

    'Another Beatles Christmas Record' (1964)

      c202199c9c44762e4c76c81938aeb367Under a title with some of the throwaway cyncism of their one-for-Christmas album Beatles for Sale, Another Beatles Christmas Record came at the end of the year when the band and Beatlemania went global.

      Some of the cynicism comes through in the way they mock the idea of a script (although ever the pleaser, McCartney thanks the fans with "Don't know where we'd be without you, really,” and Lennon gets a sharp rejoinder in!)

      The membership of the British fan club had now more than doubled to 65,000 members.


      Another Beatles Christmas Record 1964

      1965 . . . constant touring

      Help and Rubber Soul albums


      playing Shea Stadium



      'The Beatles' Third Christmas Record' (1965)

        250px_Beatles_christmas_1965Having finished off George Harrison's somewhat morose and finger-wagging Think For Yourself which would appear on the forthcoming Rubber Soul album, they gathered around for what PR man Tony Barrow referred to as "a tradition" to send out funny messages and little self-mockery . . . which showed the confidence they had.

      The Beatles Third Christmas Record 1965



      1966 . . . massive musical growth

      (Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows), LSD, the end of touring and more time in the studio. The boys are men.



      'Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas' (1966)

      99c85d0711cf4329c6efc0e415b2dff9"We thought it was time we had entirely different approach," McCartney said . . . as befitted a band which had gone from holding hands to the psychedelic wonder of Tomorrow Never Knows in just over two years.

    So now in control of the studio technology they clowned around and had a pantomime script which made fun of the traditional Christmas panto shows.

    And of course here was a group who had been huge fans of The Goon Show ... and their producer George Martin had produced Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and other comedy records. 


    Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas 1966


    1967 . . . the golden year

    It begins with Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, then it is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, All You Need is Love . . . but their manager dies, the year ends with the poorly received Magical Mystery Tour film. The start of the slow unravelling of the myth



    'Christmas Time Is Here Again!' (1967)

  • The_Beatles_Christmas_Time__Is_Here_Again__CoverWith Sgt Pepper being a landmark six months previous they showed the same ambition for this Christmas message where they adopt another persona (The Ravellers) and gently mock the BBC itself.

    And of course it came in a cover emblematic of its psychedelic period. 

    It was the last time they would be so unified at Christmas.

    Christmas Time is Here Again



    1968 . . . the first signs of fraying.

    The year begins on a meditation retreat in Rishikesh, Northern India where they write, return home and release The Beatles double album (aka The White Album). It is less a band album than a collection of individual Beatle songs, sometimes with the others playing on them, sometimes not.

    Lennon meets Yoko Ono and things change in the Beatles' dynamic

    The Beatles Sixth Christmas Record (1968) 

    xmas68The Beatles Sixth Christmas Records showed a band going very much their separate ways. Kenny Everett was given the task of knitting together a Christmas disc out of the bits the Beatles recorded separately.

    McCartney sings a downbeat acoustic number and Lennon recites more of his distinctive punning prose ("Jock and Yono" -- with a barb about their "beast friends" -- and "Once Upon a Pool Table").

    It is like The White Album in a Christmas guise. Tiny Tim plays "Nowhere Man."!


    Happy Christmas 1968

    1969 . . . it's the end.

    Sessions for Let It Be (during which Harrison quits), getting together for Abbey Road, Ono a constant presence in the studio and at Lennon's side, they are all wanting to pursue different directions, litigation begins . . . 

    The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record (1969)

    R_2335194_1277755497.jpegAnd by now it is all over bar the lawyers!

    Everett again weaves together a Christmas record with messages by four men who are almost past caring for the band, the project and each other.

    Ringo plugs the movie he is in (The Magic Christian), Lennon and Ono talk to each other, McCartney offers a Christmas jingle and Harrison sounds like he'd rather be elsewhere (and by this time he usually was).

    It was the final Beatles' record for Christmas because by 1970 they were no more.


    Happy Christmas 1969

    BUT . . .

    The biggest Christmas-themed hit by a former Beatle was still to come. In the years ahead Ringo would release Christmas songs (to no effect), Harrison knocked off the dreadful New Year song Ding Dong and McCartney released a number of Yuletide songs, the most notable being the catchy Wonderful Christmas time.

    But it was Lennon, perhaps the least sentimental Beatle, who delivered a hardy annual in his heartfelt -- and unfortunately timeless -- Happy Xmas (War is Over) in 1971.


    You can see it  here  but have to accept the images may be disturbing











and back to the start again

She Loves You here


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