Monday, December 07, 2009

The Beatles - Christmas Messages (1963 - 1969)

For seven straight years beginning in 1963, even before they were famous in America, The Beatles recorded annual Christmas messages exclusively for their fan club members as a holiday thank you. They were issued on seven-inch, flexible, vinyl sheets that were very thin, very bendable, and easily damaged. These flexi-discs, as they were called, could not be used on record changers.

Over the years the messages have been bootlegged in countless ways and, as far as research indicates, there has never been a legal release outside of the the fan club. Members were finally sent copies on real 33 RPM discs after the boys from Liverpool went their separate ways. The LP cover shown here is from that album.

Many Beatles fans managed to hear these records over the years, and with the Internet being what it is, there are now several websites where anyone can easily download all seven messages. This website, The Beatles Source, is one of them. Just click on the record label for each year to hear that season's ridiculous piece of anarchy.

The records were never made with any pretensions of creating high art. They are mere screwball comedy bits. While many people consider them to be highly entertaining it is easy to find just as many fans who believe they are the stupidest recordings ever laid down on vinyl. Because all four Beatles had an unforced sense of humor the scripted moments often felt relaxed and spontaneous. John Lennon even pokes fun of the fake spontaneity on the 1964 record. The messages from early in their career are the best ones because all four Beatles were in the studio together singing, joking around, and carrying on with each other. Not coincidentally, by 1968, the very same year their internal squabbles began to destroy the group, each member went into the studio and recorded their parts independently from each other with the engineers splicing the fragments together into a cohesive whole. While there is no interaction between the band members at all guest star Tiny Tim sings "Nowhere Man" accompanied by his ukulele on the 1968 flexi-disc and John and Yoko appear together on the '69 finale.

Listening to all seven messages in a row can be a bit tiring spread out over forty-four minutes, especially because the later ones are not as compelling, but the quartet's humor, camaraderie, and love of being Beatles was easily apparent on the early editions. Listen for yourself and laugh a little this holiday season.

1 comment :

  1. The ones from 66 and 67 are entertaining, but the outtakes from some of those sessions are extremely candid, dark and funny all at once.

    ReplyDelete