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Collector’s Corner -The Beatles Christmas Album: U.S. edition issued to fan club members, 1970

Happy Nat holds his copy of The Beatles Christmas Album (SBC 100)

Happy Nat holds his copy of The Beatles Christmas Album (SBC 100)

One week before Christ­mas Day, 1970, mem­bers of The Beatles Official Fan Club received in their mailboxes an entire vinyl album con­taining seven very spec­ial Christmas messages from the group to their fans. The disc was a compilation, accumula­ting all of the individual Christmas me­ssages that had been distributed each year to the fan club between 1963 and 1969. The English version of the album was called From Then To You. The Amer­ican version, which is the subject of this article, was simply called The Beatles Christmas Album. The front and back of the American album and the front of the English album are shown below (click to see enlarged photos).

Apple SBC 100 The Beatles Christmas Album (front), released Dec. 1970

Apple SBC 100 The Beatles Christmas Album (front), released Dec. 1970

Apple SBC 100 The Beatles Christmas Album (back), released Dec. 1970

Apple SBC 100 The Beatles Christmas Album (back), released Dec. 1970

Lyn 2154 From Then To You (front), released Dec. 1970

Lyn 2154 From Then To You (front), released Dec. 1970

Tony Barrow

It was Beatles PR man Tony Barrow who came up with the idea in 1963 for The Official Beatles Fab Club to issue free Christmas messages from the group to all paid-up fan club members. Tony had many good ideas during his years with The Beatles and even coined the now widespread term “Fab Four” in an early press release. Tony remained with The Beatles until they set up their company Apple Corps. in 1968, at which time he set up his own show business PR firm in London.

Format of the original Christmas message releases

The Christmas messages began in 1963 and came in the form of a 7-inch record made of very thin flexible plastic (called a “flexi” or “flexi-disc”) in the U.K. Most came with a newsletter of sorts from the fan club office, and a couple also had liner notes by Tony Barrow himself. In the U.K. there were seven issued in all, for every December between 1963 and 1969. In the U.S., the 1963 message was sent out in 1964, as the American fan club did not begin until 1964. It was sent on a tri-fold “soundcard”, similar to a post card that can be played on one side with a turntable, while the other side of the card contains newsletter info. The 1965 disc was not sent at all because it was not received from the U.K. in time. Both the 1966 and 1967 messages were issued in America on a “soundsheet,” which was a larger rectangular black piece of thin plastic. It had a newsletter on one side, and the other side was playable on a turntable. The 1968 and 1969 American discs were flexis, just like the U.K. messages. All but one of the discs played at 33 1/3 rpm (like a long play record), due to the fact that they were longer than a typical song of the day (between 4 and 8 minutes). The shortest message was on the 1964 disc and clocked in at 4:04. This was the only one that played at 45 rpm, like a single. The last two flexis were the longest (between 7 and 8 minutes each) and played on two sides, whereas all of the others were one-sided.

Description of each message 1963-1969

Each of the seven messages are described briefly below:

  1. 1963 xmas flexiThe Beatles Christmas Record (1963): John Lennon & Ringo Starr both sing a few rounds of “Good King Wenceslaus,” and The Beatles all sing “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.” There is also a Christmas greeting script that was written by Tony Barrow that each Beatle cheerfully delivers. Also released on soundcard in U.S. in Dec. 1964. Time: 5:00
  2. 1964 xmas flexiAnother Beatles Christmas Record (1964): The Beatles run through another script prepared by Tony Barrow and conclude by singing “Oh, Can You Wash Your Father’s Hair” to a piano accompaniment followed by the sound of running feet as the sound on the disc fades away. Unlike other flexis, this one plays at 45rpm instead of 33 1/3 rpm. Not issued in U.S. (where the 1963 message was distributed in 1964 instead). Time: 4:05
  3. 1965 xmas flexiThe Beatles Third Christmas Record (1965): The group sings an off-key account of “Yesterday.” The Beatles follow another of Tony Barrow’s scripts, though it is obvious John is doing so reluctantly, judging by his mumbling and not making much sense. They sing a short line of “It’s The Same Old Song” (a Four Tops hit) and a cadence-driven version of “Auld Lang Syne” that somehow references the gore in Vietnam. After a few more words they sing “Christmas Comes But Once A Year,” which segues back into another off-key rendition of “Yesterday.” Not issued in U.S. (because it was not received by the U.S. fan club in time to be distributed for the holiday season). Time: 6:26
  4. 1966 xmas flexiPantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas (1966): Unlike previous years, there is no Tony Barrow script to follow. The Beatles came up with a pantomime idea and open with a short piano tune called “Everywhere It’s Christmas,” followed by some group harmonies where they sing something called “Orowaynya.” After that, there is a series of humorous skits, sound effects and even yodeling. Then there is another piano tune called “Please Don’t Bring Your Banjo Back” followed by a reprise of “Everywhere It’s Christmas.” The British sleeve has colorful artwork designed by Paul McCartney. It was issued in America on a one sided thin vinyl record similar to a flexi-disc and a postcard without the artwork. Time: 6:40
  5. 1967 xmas flexiChristmas Time (Is Here Again) (1967): Another series of skits interlaced with bits and pieces of a theme song, “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” with Paul on piano and George on acoustic guitar, John on timpani, and Ringo on drums. All four cheerfully chant the title. There are also parody commercials and a segment where The Beatles portray a band called “The Ravellers” to sing a song called “Plenty Of Jam Jars.” It was issued in America on a one sided thin vinyl record similar to a flexi (called a soundsheet) and a postcard without the artwork. Time: 6:10
  6. 1968 xmas flexiThe Beatles Sixth Christmas Record (1968): Each Beatle recorded his part separately, and it was later edited together. Paul plays an acoustic Christmas song which starts off with him singing “Happy New Year, Happy Christmas, Happy Easter, Happy Autumn, Happy Michaelmas, Happy Christmas, everybody to you.” John reads some of his crazy writings similar to what he did in his In His Own Write book, with various echo effects on his voice. George speaks with Tiny Tim who sings “Nowhere Man” in a falsetto voice, and Ringo talks nonsense. For the first time the disc plays on two sides instead of one due to it’s longer duration. Issued in U.S. on flexi-disc just like the U.K., however the year-old 1967 U.K. cover is used on the 1968 U.S. version and the title is listed as “The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record.” Time: 7:55
  7. 1969 xmas flexiThe Beatles Seventh Christmas Record (1969): Each Beatle recorded his part separately, and it was later edited together. On this message we hear John and Yoko walking around outside and talking outside their new Ascot home. John also interviews Yoko about “freedom of mind and everything.” Paul plays another acoustic Christmas improvisation where he sings “This Is To Wish You A Very Merry Christmas, This Is To Wish You A Happy New Year.” Ringo sings something that seems to be called “Good Evening To You Gentlemen,” which continues into part of “The End” from the Abbey Road album. George gives a quick holiday greeting. Once again, due to its longer duration, the disc plays on two sides instead of one. Also issued with same cover art on flexi-disc in the U.S. Time: 7:42

Even though only five of the seven messages were received by U.S. fan club members, all seven messages appeared on both the U.S. and U.K. fan club albums. Both contained the 1963-1966 messages on side 1 and the 1967-1969 messages on side 2.

Spotting the fakes

The Beatles Christmas Album has been frequently counterfeited. Here are some authenticity tests to determine if your copy is real. If any one of these tests fail, you have an illegitimate version of the record.

  1. The Beatles Christmas Album, Apple SBC 100The earliest fakes have blurry cover photos on the front side. One authenticity test is to look at the photo of the four Beatles in the lower left corner. The photo should be sharp enough to see both of Ringo’s eyeballs. If the right eye is covered by a dark shadow, it is a counterfeit. Click photo at right to enlarge.
  2. Similar to the first test, if you look directly over John’s head in the photo immediately to the right of the lower left corner photo, you will plainly see the words “Theatre Royal”. If this does not show up distinctly, it is a counterfeit. Click photo at right to enlarge. Note: The album pictured in the photo is authentic, but the “Theatre Royal” is not not large enough to be seen in this picture.
  3. All legitimate copies of this record were manufactured at Capitol’s Winchester, Virginia factory. The pressing machines there made a 1 ½” diameter indentation ring which is 5/8″ out from the center hole. If the LP has a different sized indentation, or if there is no indentation there at all, then it is a fake. Most fakes have a significantly larger indentation ring. I see them on sale for $400 on Ebay all the time, and they aren’t worth $10. The correct appearance of this ring is seen in the photos below, and it shows up clearest on the sliced Apple side (i.e. side 2) (click to enlarge).

    The Beatles Christmas Album Side 1 Label

    The Beatles Christmas Album Side 1 Label

    The Beatles Christmas Album Side 2 Label

    The Beatles Christmas Album Side 2 Label

  4. On legitimate copies, four markings are etched into the trail-off area of the vinyl (all should be apparent):
    • the catalog number “SBC-1-100-A” on side 1 and “SBC-2-100-B” on side 2
    • a crudely drawn rifle (symbol of Winchester, VA, factory where all legitimate copies were pressed).
    • a hand etched “sf”
    • a scripted typset that reads “Bell Sound”
  5. Any colored vinyl pressings are fakes.

When in doubt about any of these, consult a reputable dealer, such as ones I’ve listed below.

Worth

Here is a general idea of what different pressings of the fan club Christmas releases are valued at today (near mint/very good) Note: “Near mint” (NM) or “Very Good” (VG) conditions are in line with the standards of Goldmine magazine as defined here:

  1. The Beatles Christmas Album (Apple SBC 100) $500/$200
  2. From Then To You (U.K. Christmas Album) (LYN 2153/54) $600/$240
  3. I’ve recently seen a set of all seven of the U.K. original flexi-discs with jackets and all accompanying newsletter literature in near mint condition for $5000. Individual flexis will have variable worth depending on condition and whether or not jacket and all accompanying literature are present.
  4. 1964 U.S. Soundcard (actually 1963 message) $300/$120
  5. 1966 U.S. Soundcard $300/$120
  6. 1967 U.S. Soundcard $300/$120
  7. 1968 U.S. Flexi-disc $250/$100
  8. 1969 U.S. Flexi-disc $200/$80

Note: 1964 and 1965 messages not issued in U.S.

Final info/acknowledgments

The subject of all photographs of singles, album jackets, etc., in this article are of actual items within my very own record collection. These items are listed as entries in my online vinyl inventory as linked below:

  1. Apple SBC 100 The Beatles Christmas Album (US LP)
  2. Lyn 2154 From Then To You (UK LP)
  3. Lyn 492 The Beatles Christmas Record (1963 UK flexi)
  4. Lyn 757 Another Beatles Christmas Record (1964 UK flexi)
  5. Season’s Greetings from The Beatles (1964 US flexi)
  6. Lyn 948 The Beatles Third Christmas Record (1965 UK flexi)
  7. Lyn 1145 Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas (1966 UK flexi)
  8. Season’s Greetings from The Beatles (1966 US flexi)
  9. Lyn 1360 Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (1967 UK flexi)
  10. Season’s Greetings from The Beatles (1967 US flexi)
  11. Lyn 1743/1744 The Beatles Sixth Christmas Record (1968 UK flexi)
  12. Americom H-2041 The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record (1968 US flexi)
  13. Lyn 1970/1971 The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record (1969 UK flexi)
  14. Americom H-2465 The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record (1969 US flexi)
A few dealers in Beatles collectibles

Perry Cox: email to perrydcox@aol.com
Gary Hein: visit online at www.beatles4me.com
Rockaway Records: visit online at www.rockaway.com.

Happy Nat would like to credit the following people and resources for assistance with this article:

  • Beatles For Sale On Parlophone Records by Bruce Spizer
  • Introducing The Beatles Record Price Guide by Stanley Panenka
  • Price Guide For The Beatles American Records by Perry Cox & Frank Daniels
  • The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia by Bill Harry
  • www.mybeatlescollection.com, fab4collectibles.com
  • Heather for photography, coding and proofreading

Please let me hear from you if you have questions, comments, corrections or anything to add about the Beatles Fan Club Christmas releases. I’d love to hear from you!


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some holiday-type Beatles-related music:

1) Christmas Collection: 20th Century Masters A nice CD of Christmas tunes by Ringo Starr (2003).

2) Free As a Bird / I Saw Her Standing There / This Boy / Christmas Time (Is Here Again) 1995 CD-single “Free As A Bird” containing track “Christmas Time (Is Here Again)” used in 1967 Beatles fan club message.

3) McCartney II (Archive Collection) – Deluxe remastered 2011 3-CD & DVD edition of original 1980 LP, containing a couple different edits and video of “Wonderful Christmastime”.

4) Power To The People: The Hits – John Lennon 2010 CD hits compilation w/”Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”.

5) More Amazon links for any of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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29 Comments

  • Mark Boersma says:

    Thanks for this, Mark. I just confirmed that I have a fake copy. Ah well. I digitized mine. Assume this has been endlessly bootlegged on CD?

  • Happy Nat says:

    Yep Mark. MOST copies are fakes. They still play the material though. And yes…many bootleg CDs circulate.

  • Rick says:

    Great information. Have you ever written an article about Ebay? Right now, they have loads of colored vinyl copies of the xmas album up for bid. I realize they aren’t the real deal, but where do they come from? How easy is it to do this sort of thing these days? Keep up the good work, long live The Beatles!

    • Happy Nat says:

      I haven’t Rick, but it sounds like it would be an interesting article. Somebody should, or if they already have, maybe we should find it. Somebody must be making a killing on this stuff somewhere.

  • Frank says:

    Thanks Happy Nat for pointing out this stuff. I happen to have a fake copy myself that I bought off an Ebay seller that lived in Israel who is no longer a registered member. My copy is a fake as it is on green vinyl. Not only that, even the cover is fake as it is also on a green background like the record, but all the pics on the front and back are the way that they have them on legit copies, though it is a fake. Still, I do enjoy the record and with the record being on green vinyl, because green is one of the colors of the Christmas season, it does make a nice conversation piece in and of itself. I guess that sentimental value is better than no value at all.

    I also have a suggestion. Could you do a post on The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl? I only ask because I also have a fake 2 record album of the Hollywood Bowl concerts from August 23rd 1964 and August 30th 1965 that claim that it is “The Complete Concerts”, but the August 29th, 1965 show is not among this 2 record set. It also looks legit as it is on Odeon and claims to be a German pressing, but I learned later on in another online Beatles group that this was a fake as only the May 1977 one record album release was the only legit album and it was followed by other foreign pressings that had the same thing on them also as a one record album. It is heartbreaking when you find that the supposed legit album you have found and bought is not legit, but fake.

    Live and learn, I suppose.

    • Happy Nat says:

      At least fake doesn’t mean you can’t still hear the content and sometimes even with comparable quality. The Hollywood Bowl discs you mention are also bootlegs. You are correct in that the only official version of the album was the single LP with a few selections from one of the 1964 shows and one of the 1965 shows released in 1977 and only on vinyl. All three of the recorded Hollywood Bowl shows do appear as both vinyl and CD bootlegs.

  • trina simon says:

    i have a few beatles records i’d like to sell. Is ebay not the best place to sell these? your fb is its not the best place to buy some lp’s so i wondered about this. just have a few left over, plus many more vinyl by other artists. How do we know the true value? I got rid of a ton for very low prices as I had to move 5 yrs. ago. The ones left over are not in great condition (most). & I do have “yesterday & today” with the trunk cover. Ironically, I luv the music from this lp! But must unload stuff…trying to figure out the value of this one is like a bottomless pit cuz evryone’s talking about the other rare cover–no i dont have that one, just the trunk cover! ps, for what its worth, I met Yoko; & then Sean the next day when they did some art stuff here in the 90′s. I had Sean’s girlfriend’s phone # on a piece of paper for years but never called & finally lost it when most of my stuff was stolen 5 yrs. ago. Have u ever done “polls” where folks vote for their fave Beatles songs? There was a radio show here once that gave away prizes if u got picked w/ur list of faves by ur choice of artist. I won twice! The prize was a limo for 3 hrs. & dinner at a local place (S.B.)…thanks, trina

    • Happy Nat says:

      Hi Trina! For selling Ebay is a possibility or one of the dealers I list above in the article. The site or FB page is for information/discussion only and not for selling. Good luck!

  • Gary T. says:

    Hi..Just discovered your site. Also got a boot. Bought it back in the 70′s at a record store near UCLA. They had a bunch & price was not much, as I remember. The boot factor is the indentation ring & cover photos. Everything else matches the description. Thanks!
    Only piece of rarity,I guess,I own is the KFWB radio 45 giveaway.

  • Happy Nat says:

    @Gary…good to hear from you Gary. Those KFWBeatles singles were heavily counterfeited too but real ones are worth about $12,000 in near mint condition. The fakes I know of do not have the Capitol logo on the label as the real ones do. If you have the mailer, the flaps are noticeably smaller on the fakes too.

  • JudeMac says:

    Funny how this is so commonly faked, never really checked mine but it appeared original when I got it, would never sell it as well as my paste of “Butcher Cover”. I can’t play covers only the records. Good info for everyone Nat. ;-)

  • BrennanR says:

    Hi Nate. I have a copy of this album that has a large indentation ring but has all of the correct markings in the matrix (crude rifle, bell sound in script, sf, and matching numbers). I was wondering if this is a real copy that was manufactured differently or it’s a really good fake. Any more info would be appreciated

    • Happy Nat says:

      Paste from #3 in “Spotting the fakes” above: All legitimate copies of this record were manufactured at Capitol’s Winchester, Virginia factory. The pressing machines there made a 1 ½” diameter indentation ring which is 5/8″ out from the center hole. If the LP has a different sized indentation, or if there is no indentation there at all, then it is a fake. Most fakes have a significantly larger indentation ring. I see them on sale for $400+ on Ebay all the time, and they aren’t worth $10.

      I used to have the same “fake” and yes it’s a good one. That is why I made sure to include this info in the post but I had a feeling people would be asking me about it anyway. It is a fake. Sorry! It’s “Nat” by the way – but that’s okay. Happy New Year…

      • P. Stoned says:

        https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Vb2cyobyWNY/U9WNSCxXJcI/AAAAAAAAAz8/0y_nStnrWlM/w1238-h825-no/755369984_o.jpg

        https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-vWKtrexSa-0/U9WJcJv2_CI/AAAAAAAAAzQ/Emd7saJ2nYY/w1238-h825-no/755369977_o.jpg

        Correct Bell Sound Stamp, Sam Feldman initials & Winchester wineglass. Looks absolutely legit to me. If this is a counterfeit from the 70′s, then it was pressed from legitimate stampers. No way the bootleggers would have gone through the trouble of recreating all those deadwax details that nobody in their right mind was paying attention to. (The counterfeit copies of Let It Be do not have the Bell Sound stamp either, btw.)

        I’m not disputing the authenticity of the Winchester ring. But just because the wineglass appears on the deadwax does not mean by default that it was pressed at that particular plant. Maybe they sent metal parts to a non-Capitol related plant, in order to quickly produce a large quantity?

        • Happy Nat says:

          Without the Winchester ring – they are fakes. Good fakes, but fakes. End of story. There were only enough real ones made to cover the fan club membership so the quantity was relatively small. For further info please check out The Beatles On Apple Records by Bruce Spizer.

          • P. Stoned says:

            So, you are saying those deadwax stamps and scribbles on the pictures I uploaded are clever forgery but not the real deal?

            I don’t mind being corrected but it’s disappointing to see you’re not addressing this point and directing me to a external source.

          • Happy Nat says:

            Sorry P – not trying to be too short with you or anything – it was just a long article that I feel already addresses that (see #3 and #4 in the Spotting the Fakes section). For further info please check out The Beatles On Apple Records by Bruce Spizer. I personally have been ripped by buying one of the fakes that are just about right in every other way and made triple sure that these were not real because I had already spent $100 on mine. Unfortunately they are not and I had to find a real one all over again. The “Theatre Royal” test in Spotting The Fakes #2 is another good one to check, however it isn’t impossible for shady dealers to swap legit covers with illegitimate records.

  • BrennanR says:

    Thank you for the quick response and all the info. I only spent $10 on it so it’s a good filler until I can find the original. Sorry about the name (autocorrect these days). Happy new year to you as well

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    I think I spent like $30 on what appeared at the time to be a really good one years ago. I took it into my favorite record store owner (he was the only guy there every day – I miss him and his store) to confirm if it was legit or not & he spotted it right away. I hadn’t known. Once I knew it was fake, I sold it. I had bought a CD copy by then. Oh and there are better copies on CD than either that vinyl copy I had OR the first CD I had purchased. The good thing about those CDs is they aren’t as expensive because they aren’t trying to pawn those off as originals.

    I agree with you though Nat, if you have a decent copy of the tracks, then you are in good shape. I just won’t pay a lot for my stuff – ever! I shall find a butcher cover at a yard sale any day now! lol I can feel it!! Either that or I ate too much fiber.

    I have a truly remarkable Hollywood Bowl as well. 2 CDs but 3 concerts and they are like masters from what was used to make the album in 1977. For me though, I still prefer studio albums to live music any day anyway. I maybe paid $30-50 for the box set.

    I just want an official Christmas release one day. I don’t care if it’s download only, or what you have to do to get ahold of it legitimately, I just want it. Of course, my choice would be a stereo remix like the Free As A Bird bonus track/B-Side. But I can wait since I already have the content. It can only get slightly
    cleaner. lol

  • Katteal says:

    Hi there,
    Just found you while i was looking up what my Beatle Christmas album might was worth and I can’t believe how many ppl said they have fakes! I know mine is the real deal I was in the fan club when it came to my door!

  • Cody White says:

    Hi Nat,
    I just bought a fake from ebay for 60 dollars, I thought it was real because I referenced this article before I bought it but I didn’t see the deadwax and this one has no markings whatsoever but I guess you win some you lose some. That’s why collecting the Beatles is so fun.
    P.S. I was wondering if you could do a Collector’s Corner about the Hey Jude Lp Thanx for the great info on this site.

  • Doug says:

    Hi Nat–I was just reading this when something occurred to me: I wonder if the real reason the ’65 record wasn’t released in America was the sarcastic reference to Vietnam. “Down in Vietnam where low cannons too, and look at all the bodies floating in the River Jordan.” Has anyone suggested this?

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      Is that what they sung? I thought it was something else. lol

    • Happy Nat says:

      I have never heard this cited as a reason for not being issued to Americans in the fan club. If there was a censorship problem they would likely have just used he 1964 recording since they used the 1963 recording in 1964 in the US.

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