Beatles 1970 Christmas Album:
“BUZZ” Newspaper Article (#57 Dec 2015)
By: RLSchwinden aka MrZer0
When I was a kid growing up in on the Westside of Sioux City, my favorite time of year was Christmas, I loved the snow on the ground, the 2 weeks off from Smith School (I hated school, & it hated me), I loved going to pick out our “Real” Christmas tree, though I was never allowed to decorate it, (in all fairness my Mom is a wonderful artist & no one else really could compare to her when it came to her creating anything) I would sit & stare at the Christmas tree lights for hours on end (in fact my Grandpa & Grandma Kessler would call the Christmas tree “Ricky’s Baby sitter”, there’s even 8mm film footage of me in front of their Xmas tree as a toddler), it was 1 of the 2 times a year we really got any toys, oh, yea & the candy & cookies!!!
The other thing I loved about Christmas time, was the Christmas Music (so does my youngest sister Carrie as she starts listening to Xmas music in Aug.), I don’t really remember the AM radio stations playing too much Christmas music, back then, & if they did it was usually the old “Easy Listening” standards of yester-year: Ray Conniff, Harry Simone, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, etc. Never any other the artists I loved, Monkees, Beatles, Partridge Family, Osmonds, ELP, Jethro Tull , etc. It wasn’t until I started in the “Record Biz” back in ’85, I was able to get a hold of some of the “Pop Rock Artists”, that I loved, some of them recorded Xmas Songs, that I had discovered in later years, 2 friends of mine (Bob A. & Marc H.) made yearly “Christmas Cassettes” so started my yearly tradition of “Dr. Rock’s Time-Machine To Xmas Past” & so this marks my 30th Year making these Xmas Mix CDs (tapes).
Of course I had heard Lennon’s “Happy Xmas” but it was my friend Ace (not Frehley) who clued me into the fact ‘The BEATLES’ had a “Christmas Album” well sort of, anyway. So here’s how the story goes. Starting in 1963 ‘The Beatles’ recorded a special “Christmas” message & this was sent out to the UK members of their “Fan Club”. Now they were not pressed on standard “Vinyl Records” but on what was referred to as a “Flexi-Disc” or a “Sound-Sheet”
“Flexi-Discs” were introduced in 1962, a thin vinyl sheet, with grooves pressed in the vinyl sheet, some were 1 sided with 2 songs or they were 2 sided with 1 song per side. One inherent problem with “Flexi- Discs” were the lack of mass, not having enough weight to properly spin on a turntable, therefore they had a spot for a coin, to give them more weight to spin properly, this eventually lead to people putting coins on the tone-arm of inexpensive record players in order to cut down the “skipping” on well-played records. Flexi-discs were generally “Premiums” or “Give-aways” in magazines or books, production on Flexi-Discs roughly ended about 1999 then recently brought back sometime in 2010.
In 1990 Glen Buxton (10 Nov 1947: Akron, OH – 19 Oct 1997: Clarion, IA) (Alice Cooper Group) told me he wanted to release a couple of songs on a ‘Flexi- Disc’ that ‘The Spiders’ had recorded in 1967 in Phoenix. We had to inform him; (at that time) no one really used turntables anymore & therefore probably would not buy these rare recordings if they were on Flexi-Disc. To my knowledge, Buxton died with those songs still being unreleased.
So once a year generally in the Fall, The Beatles would record a “Thank you Message” to the fans & then the Flexi-Discs were mailed out to the UK members of The Beatles: Fan Club. So here are the years they were made a brief description of what the recordings were, as the band were from Liverpool the Mid West Coast of the UK, they had Very British humor. As much as The Monkees: (1966-68) were a TV Show that released Records, The Beatles were a Musical Band that release Comedy films, much like Monty Python that was formed in 1969, however the Beatles started recording these comedy recordings a full 6 years before Monty Python, needless to say if you do not get or enjoy British humor, you may not enjoy these recordings, as they are more comedy than musical, there are some bits of improvisational songs contained on them, however, they are, by in large comedy recordings, each came with a cardboard photo cover & a flexi-disc inside.
1963: The Beatles’ Christmas Record (5:00min)
This being the 1st one of the 7 starts off with “Good King Wenceslas” John then remarks “I’d like to personally thank everyone, but I haven’t enough pens” then breaks out into “Garry Crimble”. Paul then comments on how they used to love “Jelly Babies” but now they have had their fill, & then breaks out into ”Good King Wenceslas” in German followed by Ringo who states he was “The last one to join in 1962” & then he breaks out into “Good King Wenceslas” with a Lounge delivery, followed by George who offers “Thank you Ringo, we’ll phone you” then they all break out into “Rudolph Red Nosed Ringo” with Lennon singing “When everybody picked it”
1964: Another Beatles’ Christmas Record (3:58min)
This 2nd Beatles Christmas Flexi opens with “Jingle Bells” using a hand written script by the band’s press agent Tony Barrow the members have some trouble reading what’s been written for them as Paul says “It’s been fun melting them, no that’s wrong, & we wish you a very new year” followed by John who had fun with the script “Thanks to you bought my book, there’ll be another out soon says here, it’s the usual rubbish” it would seem George read over his part as he has less trouble “Thanks for seeing film, we have another one out next year ‘cept this one will be in a colour” & finally Ringo “Thank you for being fans”
For the USA fans, opposed to using flexi-discs, the US fan-club sent the ‘63 message (in ’64) in a tri-fold cardboard mailer, with the “record” embedded in one of the flaps of cardboard, it was only about 3 x 3inches, the bottom held the vinyl record, the middle, which is the speaker, folded up, making the top fold straight down, into the tone arm, holding the metal stylus, you operated the device by turning the record with your finger! Very Low Fidelity, but Really Cool!
The film the band refers to is “A Hard Day’s Night” a “Black & White” comedy film released in July 1964, & the book Lennon refers to is “In His Own Write” also released in1964 a collection of abstract art & ironic stories such as “No Flies On Frank”
1965: The Beatles’ Third Christmas Record (6:20min)
This one starts off with the boys singing, “Yesterday” intentionally off key, with an opening Ringo “Well, thank ya Johnny it’s been a nice to know ya” followed by Paul, as always John is his usual sarcastic self thanking the fans for “Playing card make out of knickers” (knickers = underwear) then George says “On behalf of John & I we’d like to thank you for cards presents” (seems the John & George pairing up as a team started very early on) Lennon breaks out into “Bonny Christmas” & then into “Auld Lang Syne” & then the old standard “It’s The same Old Song” at which point Harrison blurts out “Copyright Johnny” to which John spouts out “How about we’ll gather lilacs in a Old Brown Shoe” (later in ’69 a Harrison song) then the guys goof on some loosely constructed songs, “Christmas Comes But Once A Year” & “Christmasday” signing off Lennon proclaims “This is Johnny Rhythm saying goodnight to ya”.
In ’65 Lennon releases his 2nd book “A Spaniard In The Works” followed by the band’s 2nd comedy film, a spy thriller; “Help!” released in Aug 1965. Lennon made his 1st appearance as a guest on the BBC TV Show “Not Only … But Also” in Season 1; Episode 1.
1966: Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas (6:36min)
This next one begins with Paul & John singing “Everywhere It’s Christmas” right into the song “Oh Louania” Ringo then beings to tell the tale; “2 elderly Scott’s men munch on a rare cheese” sort of a radio play, in the UK referred to as a “Pantomime” set in Corsica & the Swiss Alps & on the HMS Tremendous with the improve song “If I ever see another Banjo”
Also in Winter 1966 McCartney wrote the soundtrack for the BBC “The Family Way” & Lennon made his 2nd appearance on the BBC TV Show “Not Only … But Also” on the Christmas Episode as a “Lavatory Attendant”
1967: Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (6:06min)
This ’67 flexi disc, is probably the most musical of them all in the vein on “You Know My Name” with the reoccurring theme song “Christmas Time Is Here Again” played throughout the recording , it starts off with “The boys arrive at the BBC House” a sort of musical & radio play of a mock BBC radio show written by Lennon & Victor Spinetti, with commercials like; “Get one of us for your trousers, get one of us for your homes” & ‘The Ravellers’ sing “Plenty of Jam Jars” towards the end Lennon reads a poem “When Christmas time is over” as the cracks in the band begin to show this will be the last one to be recorded as a band.
This year 3 different films were released “The Beatles At Shea Stadium (Aug 1966 NYC)” in Jan 1967 the 5th to last Beatles concert ever performed & “How I Won The War” hysterical British humor about WW2 in Oct 1967 with Lennon as “Private Gripweed” & “Magical Mystery Tour” released in Dec 1967 directed by: McCartney; a musical journey on a psychedelic bus.
1968: The Beatles’ 1968 Christmas Record (2 sided @ 7:48min)
This year’s message was recorded separately by each Beatle then was compiled by The Beatles friend & DJ Kenny Everett, in the vein of “What’s The New Mary Jane” starting off with “Ob La Di Ob La Da” Ringo is the 1st to speak followed by Paul’s “Happy Middlemas” & a snip-it of “Helter Skelter” is played, then Lennon reads the poem of “Jock & Yono: “Once upon a pool table” George adds in a snip-it of “Music from “Wonderwall” & then Mal Evans says “Merry Christmas” followed by Ringo who does a very “Monty Python- ish” skit, & then the only other musical artist to appear on the Beatles Christmas recordings, George has Tiny Tim (Herbert Khaury: 12 Apr 1932: NYC – 30 Nov 1996: MPLS) sing “Nowhere Man”. I had my Album signed by Tiny Tim, as I lived in Des Moines, IA for a number of years & he lived downtown @ the Savary Hotel, Tiny used to play the “Holiday Inn South” once a month in 1992, he had an amazing memory for pre- “Rock & Roll” music history the recording closes with “God bless you TinyTim”.
This year Harrison wrote the soundtrack for the film “Wonderwall” (1968) released in Jan 1969 followed by the cartoon feature film “Yellow Submarine” released in Nov 1968 (my RecordStore Mr. Zero’s was able to get famous DC Comic Artist Jose Delbo (9 Dec 1933: Argentina) to create our mascot, as Delbo’s 2nd job was for the “Gold Key” comic book of “Yellow Submarine”
1969: The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record (2 sided @ 7:39min)
The final Christmas Felxi was done very much in the style of “Revolution #9” John & Julian, being with Yoko & her asking John “If he had any special thoughts for Christmas” Lennon: “Any special thoughts towards Christmas are eating, I’d like some cornflakes” followed George & George Martin commenting “Christmas comes but once a year” then Ringo sings “Good Evening To You Gentlemen” then a snip-it of “The End” is played, Paul then sings “This Is To Wish You A Merry Christmas” it’s too bad they didn’t finish up some of these bits of songs, some of them could have been quite good. John interviews Yoko “I was wondering Mrs. Lennon what do you foresee in the 70s” Yoko “Everybody will be just flying around” & as with the very 1st one Lennon breaks out into “Good King Wenceslas”. Then John & Yoko go into a very “Two Virgins” -ish “Happy, Happy Christmas”. Ringo does a plug for his new film in the form of “Merry Christmas warping into Magic Christian” finishing out is John & Yoko playing “What do you want from Santa” Lennon “Mommy, I want a man on the Moon” This is the only actual Flexi I own of the 7.
This year it’s Ringo’s turn in movies as “Magic Christian” is released in Dec 1969 , Ringo appears as “Youngman Grand” a homeless boy.
In 1970 The Beatles call it day & release the film “Let It Be” a documentary about recording an album, in May 1970 to mark the end of an era, in addition too they do not record a 1970 Christmas flexi, but instead compile all 7 messages into 1 LP in the UK, titled “From Then To You” with a black & yellow photo from ’63, this was also only sent out to “Fan Club Members’ in Dec ’70, in the USA the LP was sent out to fan club members in the Spring of ’71 as “The Beatles Christmas Album” with a blue collage cover.
> In The Aftermath: The 70’s <
In the ’70s three of 4 the Beatles recorded & released “Holiday Songs” in order;
>John Lennon: 1971<
“Happy Christmas (war is over) b/w Listen The Snow Is Falling (Yoko)” released in Dec 1971 as a 45 single & the original version, a #36 Hit on the charts, as with all Lennon singles from that time a Lennon song was on the “A-Side” & an Ono song was on the “B-Side” Then a 2nd version was released on the LP ‘Shaved Fish’ in Oct 1975, a “Best Of LP” as Lennon had retired from the music business to be a full time Father to his 2nd son Sean.
Worth noting The Monkees: Jones, Dolenz & Tork reunited in 1986, & filmed a Christmas video for MTV with Nesmith making a surprise appearance, the video was a medley of several Christmas songs, Tork sang this song as part of the medley.
>George Harrsion: 1974<
“Ding Dong Ding Dong b/w Hari’s On Tour (express)” Harrison’s “New Year Song” was released in Dec 1974 as a 45 single & hit #36 on the charts & was included on the LP ‘Dark Horse’ Harrison made his 1st Promo Video Clip for this song. Harrison wanted to release a “New Year’s Song” in celebration of the beginning of his new found life at the time.
>Paul McCartney: 1979<
“Wonderful Christmastime b/w Rudolph Red Nosed Reggae” from Nov 1979 a #6 hit in the UK, where every year since 1973, they have a race for the “Christmas #1”, unfortunately Paul missed, they did film a “Promo Video” for this song featuring ‘Wings’ though they do not play on the recording, as it was recorded entirely by McCartney himself, something he had been doing for over 10 years by this time. I met the drummer for ‘Wings’ Steve Holly while he was playing in Ian Hunter’s band in 2001 @ ‘1st Ave’ in MPLS. He didn’t have a whole lot to say about his time in ‘Wings’.
>Ringo Starr: 1999<
The only Beatle to release a whole “Christmas” CD, ‘I Wanna Be Santa Claus’ came out in Oct 1999. 2 songs “Dear Santa” & “Christmas Eve” were recorded in 1998 & then the rest of the CD followed it contains 6 originals & a cover of The Beatles “Christmas Time Is Here Again”
In ’95 The Beatles ‘Anthology 1’ was released with the CD Single “Free As A Bird b/w Christmas Time Is Here Again (remix)” in Dec 1995 the re-mix was pulled from 3 different flexi discs to make an all new recording.
Sometime in the early 80s a Vinyl Bootleg Album ”Sessions” contained a 1 minute version of “Christmas Time Is Here Again” & another Bootleg contained the un-cut 5 minute backing track, version of the song.
So there you have “Beatle Collectors” as fairly complete list of the Beatles Christmas Recordings, Books & Films.
So we shall see you in the New Year 2016 to celebrate my 5th year of writing these articles.
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