Welcome to the Beatles Rarity of the Week and Happy Holidays! Here’s hoping that this holiday BROW finds you in good spirits regardless of when you happen to be reading it. Over the past five holiday seasons The Beatles Rarity has featured recordings of the special Christmas messages The Beatles sent to their fan club members between 1963 and 1969. Since last year’s message hailed from the 1967 “Christmas Time Is Here Again” disc, I’m moving ahead to the 1968 offering this year. This was the first year that the message was actually recorded separately by each member of The Beatles and then edited together. The man who had the honors of editing and mixing was a London DJ they hired for the task named Kenny Everett.
One may surmise that the reason the message was not recorded together was simply because The Beatles were not getting along well at the time and that would not really be an inaccurate assessment. But it wasn’t the only reason. It was also very much a matter of convenience. In past years, The Beatles had been together in the studio after completing an LP or single and simply knocked off a message before calling it quits for the day. In 1968 this became impossible since two Beatles left the country before the White Album was even completed. Ringo Starr left for Sardinia on holiday and after some final work on “Savoy Truffle,” George Harrison took off for America. Paul McCartney, after working an entire 24 hours straight with John Lennon and George Martin on preparing cross-fades, edits and the sequencing of the double-album, took off to New York City to spend about ten days getting better acquainted with his newest girlfriend, Linda Eastman. When he returned to London in early November, Paul quickly got wrapped up with producing Apple artist Mary Hopkin’s Post Card LP.
Realizing the best chance of getting the message recorded on time would be to have each of The Beatles submit a separate tape that could be edited together was someone at Apple’s brilliant idea. John’s tape included him reciting his two poems Jock and Yoko and Once Upon A Pool Table. The first of these poems include a couple subtle shots at the other Beatles and certain people within Apple doing their best to ostracize John’s girlfriend, Yoko Ono, who is also heard on John’s tape playing piano in the background. Paul’s tape likely recorded while working in London on Mary Hopkin’s album, has him strumming a festive acoustical improvisation while singing through a list of holidays and seasons to include Christmas, but also Michaelmas, Autumn, Easter and New Year’s Day. Ringo’s tape includes a greeting that is appropriately used to start off the Christmas disc where he enthusiastically says “Hello this is a big hi and a sincere Merry Christmas from yours truly, Ringo Starr!” Ringo’s other contribution includes a nonsensical phone conversation with himself. George’s part, recorded in Los Angeles includes special guest Tiny Tim, who sings a version of “Nowhere Man” while playing it on a ukelele. Throwing in some sound snippets taken from the White Album, Kenny Everett mixed each of the tapes up into the message that, like previous years, was sent via a thin plastic “flexi-disc” to Beatles fan club members around the world. Have a listen now, if you like, to the finished product.
The Beatles - The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record
For more detailed info about The Beatles Fan Club Christmas releases, click here.
In closing I’d like to echo Paul’s message of Happy Christmas, Happy Michaelmas, Happy Autumn, Happy Easter, Happy New Year or whatever holiday you want to make of it – make it a happy one! Thanks go out to everyone reading for being the part of The Beatles Rarity that keeps it going. Cheers for that and keep your spirit up!
Beatles music/literature makes great gifts for the holiday season. Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) I Wanna Be Santa Claus – 1999 CD of holiday tunes by Ringo Starr including his remake of “Christmas Time Is Here Again.”
2) Postcard – 2010 CD remaster (or vinyl) of original 1969 LP by Mary Hopkin, produced by Paul McCartney.
3) The White Album – 2009 2-CD (or double-disc vinyl) remaster of original stereo double LP released by The Beatles in November 1968.
4) On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2 A new 2-CD (or 3-disc vinyl) compilation of Beatles recordings with the BBC between 1963 and 1965. Companion set to earlier BBC compilation first released in 1994 called Live At The BBC.