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The Official Beatles Fan Club: The Christmas Records – A Perfect Retro Gift For Santa and Mrs. Claus

The Official Beatles Fan Club: The Christmas Records – A Perfect Retro Gift For Santa and Mrs. Claus

The Official Beatles Fan Club: The Christmas Records – A Perfect Retro Gift For Santa and Mrs. Claus
December 17
11:15 2017

For the longest time I was curious about how and when Apple Corps Limited would bring out the Christmas singles The Beatles sent to their fan club members. It seemed inevitable, given the care with which Apple Corps Limited was handling the band’s legacy.

I first encountered that strategy professionally in the early 90s when I was working at Philips Media (a division of the Dutch conglomerate) and we were pushing the edge of the envelope in the burgeoning arena of interactivity. We were presented a proposal to produce an interactive history of The Beatles, which would gather the music, the visuals, the history, the details, the works. The proposal came from inside the band’s coterie, and had the initial imprimatur of the band’s label. But the project died, with no apparent reason other than radio silence.

Several years later it became apparent that Apple Corps Limited took stock of what they where really about and quietly secured rights to as many outstanding assets as possible. The first visible result was The Beatles Anthology series, a rather thorough treatment of the band’s legacy satisfying to the novice and the smug expert. Released as a TV documentary, in multiple volume audio formats and a coffee table book, the enterprise collected unreleased and intriguing material. Inevitably, given the band’s stature, that only seemed to fuel the fire for more, and a river of books have been published over the years. The bootleg recording market still thrives.

But it is the authorized releases which are given the most careful treatment, as witnessed earlier this year by the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Brad Auerbach

Santa arrived early this year.

All of which finally brings us around to the timely and inevitable release of The Christmas Records.

The records were originally sent to fan club members as flexi-discs each year from 1963 to 1969, and a compilation album was sent out in 1970, after the band broke up. (The US version of the LP was the first time the material was fully available in America).

Deferring to another day the almost insurmountable reality that the band existed as a recording unit for only seven years while leaving the largest mark on modern music, these once disposable artifacts provide yet another facet to the cheeky and creative persona of the four Liverpudlians.

Presented here as a tasteful box set, the seven discs have been “remastered and pressed on seven inch coloured vinyl for the first time” replicating the original release. The accompanying 16 page booklet includes the fan club newsletters and further production notes.

Apple Corps Limited

The 1964 installment.

Apple Corps Limited

The whole package.

As with The Beatles unprecedented growth during their short tenure, The Christmas Records evince an increasing sophistication and experimentation across the years. Indeed, each record is generally longer than the previous.

Tony Barrow handled the writing of the first few holiday discs, but the lads took over increasing control of the final content. In the early years, they ad-libbed their way through what seems to be a script, interspersing traditional Christmas carols and original ditties. Kudos to the once seemingly vocal-shy Ringo in taking the lead on “Good King Wencelas.” Paul tries to get the fans to stop sending Jelly Babies (to no avail as they continued to be pelted onstage).

By the fourth installment, arriving in 1966, the band was clearly envisioning a more cohesive presentation, albeit in less than seven minutes. Recorded in the middle of “Strawberry Fields Forever” sessions, the disc was titled Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas. The songs include “Everywhere It’s Christmas” and “Please Don’t Bring Your Banjo Back.” McCartney holds the proceedings together on piano.

By 1967 the band had fully embraced the idea of creating an alter ego (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and they proffered a holiday disc envisioned as BBC auditions. A year later Tiny Tim probably could not believe his luck being asked to perform “Yesterday,” probably one of the earliest covers of what is now the most covered song in history. In the last installment, the band submitted their contributions separately, much like The White Album. Yoko giggles her way through a prediction of the imminent 1970s.

Throughout the discs, The Beatles are knowingly self-referential spoofing their own songs. Lennon leads the charge with clever wordplay, but his mates hold their own. Clearly riffing on comedians they adored like The Goons, the quartet show their spontaneity and push back gently on the early scripts. “Christmas Time Is Here Again!” is the most familiar track in the collection, as it appeared in the aforementioned Anthology three decades later. At one point Lennon references being banned from the Olympics, a seemingly timeless issue.

As the years passed and the band took increasing control of their output, The Christmas Records became looser and more extemporaneous. Nonetheless, they also reveal more thoughtful production. The closest these discs come to a previously released track available for purchase is the non-album B-side “You Know My Name Look Up My Number.”

As a stocking stuffer for The Beatles fans on your list, and there are likely a few, this box set is perfect holiday fare. It will be released on December 15, just in time for Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

Happy Crimble!

Source: The Official Beatles Fan Club: The Christmas Records – A Perfect Retro Gift For Santa and Mrs. Claus

About Author

Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

Martin A Nethercutt is a writer, singer, producer and loves music. Creative Director at McCartney Studios Editor-in-Chief at McCartney Times Creator-in-Chief at Geist Musik President (title) at McCartney Multimedia, Inc. Went to Albert-Schweitzer-Schule Kassel Lives in Playa del Rey From Kassel, Germany Married to Ruth McCartney

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