Meet the Beatles (Christmas Club Singles!)
I posted a video in the last post that featured audio from some of The Beatles Christmas singles, so I thought this might be a good time to delve a bit deeper into some Beatles history that a lot of people today aren’t aware of.
At the beginning of their career, The Beatles were pretty much a teeny-bopper band, singing sweet love songs aimed directly at the teenage music market. Back then, before the internet, one of the ways movie stars, TV personalities, and especially popular music acts engaged with their young fans was through their official fan clubs. And The Beatles were no exception.
Starting in 1963, the group released a special Christmas single, in the form of a flexi-disc, to members of their fan club, as a way of saying thank you to their growing legions of fans, whose thousands of daily letters couldn’t possibly be answered personally. The annual discs featured spoken word messages from John, Paul, George and Ringo, as well as skits and holiday music, both traditional songs as well as original music by Lennon & McCartney. And quite a bit of goofing around.
While their massive popularity and ever-evolving and maturing musicality meant that they certainly didn’t need to continue the Christmas Single tradition started in 1963, The Beatles to their credit continued to issue their annual holiday discs every year, up until 1969. As the Beatles music evolved (very, very rapidly) so did the Christmas singles, becoming longer and more elaborate each year (and some of it’s just kinda weird.)
The Beatles Christmas Club singles showed the boys in a much different light than their ‘official’ record albums. Often recorded on the fly, they are relaxed, often improvised, and sometimes just plain silly. It’s scary to think of the magnitude of the Beatles’ importance and influence when you consider that, as the Christmas discs often demonstrated, they were so incredibly young at the time they were actively writing and recording.
I first became aware of the Christmas Club recordings back in the 1980’s, when I heard a DJ on a local radio station playing a couple of them, and going into their backstory a bit. Back then, with no internet, no Google, no youTube, sometimes the only way to be exposed to something new was to randomly come across it on the radio, or on the 3 or 4 TV stations available (or, gasp, at a bookstore!). I wonder sometimes if we weren’t better off back then, when things could remain hidden and mysterious to all but those willing to spend the time, effort, and money to really dig in and do the research to find them. Anyway, these recordings have never been officially compiled or released commercially, and I had been completely unaware of their existence. I spent a ridiculous amount of money 15 or so years ago on a bootleg CD I ordered from Argentina just to get my hands on them…. A radio edit of the 1967 single, Christmastime (is Here Again) was released as a b-side to their “new” recording Free as a Bird in 1995. Lucky for you, today just about anything imaginable is just a click away, including these forgotten Beatles tracks. So rather than try to describe each year’s Beatles Christmas Single to you, I’m going to just let you listen to them yourselves…Enjoy. If you’ve never heard these special Christmastime recordings, you’re in for a treat.
The Beatles Christmas Record, 1963
Another Beatles Christmas Record, 1964
The Third Beatles Christmas Record, 1965
The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas, 1966
Christmas Time Is Here Again!, 1967
The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record, 1968
And finally, The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record, 1969
For Beatles fans, these are a wonderful way to experience a different side of the group. Being that these were originally sent out on flimsy, easily damaged flexi-discs to typically young, irresponsible (yeah, I said it) boys and girls, they are today pretty rare finds. Especially in anything resembling good condition. They fetch a pretty price on eBay and elsewhere. But until The Beatles find it in their heart to properly remaster these priceless artifacts and compile them into a proper release (and I have absolutely no doubt they will, eventually), bootlegs and youtube videos will have to make do. Happy Christmas!
But wait!! Here’s a bonus, the one (very briefly)commercially-available Beatles Christmas song:
And lastly, this past Monday marked 34 years since John Lennon was gunned down outside his apartment in New York. So: