Between 1963 and 1969, The Beatles sent out annual Christmas songs and messages on flexi-disc (produced by Lyntone, a London firm which wasn't really a label as such, but more of a record pressing plant for hire, specializing in small-run stuff) to members of their official fan clubs in the UK and US. The idea for these Christmas records came from Tony Barrow, the Beatles' press officer. As the volume of fan mail grew exponentially in the wake of the band's meteoric rise, the group fell further and further behind in answering the torrent of cards, letters, and club membership applications. Barrow suggested, as a way to assuage increasingly pissed-off fans, that the Beatles should look to Queen Elizabeth, who sent out annual yuletide greetings to her subjects via TV and radio. In his words, they should "follow her fine example, but in their own way." It was intended to be a one-off method of damage control with fans in 1963, but it became an annual Beatle tradition, a nice bonus for joining their club and a unique way to acknowledge all of their fans.
In 1970, in the aftermath of the band's dissolution, the UK fan club collected all seven of the Christmas records and released them on vinyl (for members only) that December on a disc entitled From Then To You. The record was repackaged in the US as The Beatles Christmas Album and released by the American fan club to its members in the spring of 1971. For most US fans, this was the first time any of them had heard the 1965, 1966 or 1967 records - American fans got ripped off in those years. Instead of receiving the flexi-disc, all they received in those years was a crappy postcard with a holiday message from the band.
Outside of these fan club releases and the one song mentioned above, the Beatles Christmas records have never received official general release. There were attempts to produce bootleg releases in the early 1980s, but lawyers representing the band beat those efforts back. After that, nothing widely available containing all of these records existed . . . until the Purple Chick bootlegs appeared in the last decade.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I acquired this in 2008 during my frantic gathering of Purple Chick Beatles-related releases in the wake of Rolling Stone's thoughtless magazine article. Purple Chick's version contained all seven records, along with outtakes, sketch snippets and portions of their early holiday radio shows. Here's the lineup for you:
1. The Beatles Christmas Record 1963If you've never heard these before, you're in for a treat. Get ready for another side and dimension of the Beatles you may have never been aware of. For the most part, these are excellent and essential parts of the Beatles oeuvre, and as such I can't for the life of me figure out why they haven't been put out on an official album yet. EVERYONE needs to hear this great stuff.
2. Another Beatles' Christmas Record 1964
3. The Beatles Third Christmas Record 1965
4. Pantomime Everywhere It's Christmas 1966
5. Christmas Time Is Here Again 1967
6. Happy Christmas 1968
7. Happy Christmas 1969
8. Hello Dolly
9. Speech - Take 1
10. Speech - Take 2
11. Speech - Take 3
12. Speech - Take 4
13. Speech - Take 5
14. The Lost Christmas Message
15. The Lost Christmas Message II
16. Messages For Radios London And Caroline
17. Jock And Yono
18. Once Upon A Pool Table
19. Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
20. ITN News Interview
21. A Saturday Club Christmas
22. Newsreel Interview
23. Christmas Show Interview
(Tracks 9-15 are outtakes from the 1964 Christmas session)
But, you all are first! So, for your holiday listening pleasure, The Beatles' From Then To You, released by Purple Chick sometime in 2007 (I only have it in .m4a - sorry). Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.
Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download links ASAP:
My friend, the writer and frequent NPR guest Colin Fleming, has done a few things over the recent holidays related to this post - here they are for your edification and enjoyment. Great job and good stuff as always, Colin!
NPR - When The Beatles Gave Fans A 'Crimble' Present (21 Dec 2014)
The Tom Dunne Show - The Beatles Christmas With Colin Fleming
Vanity Fair - A Guide to the Strange, Little-Known, Hard-to-Find Beatles Christmas Recordings (17 Dec 2014)