Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Beatles - From Then To You (Purple Chick)

More Christmas-related rarities for you . . .

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.

The early Beatles Christmas records (1963, pictured above, and 1964) were casual affairs, seemingly thrown together at the last moment by a group with a lot of other things pending on their schedules. But that isn't to say there wasn't any preparation involved. Barrow wrote the script for these two records, which the band followed more or less. What's great about these early ones is that, in them, fans got an extended glimpse at the 'offstage' Beatles - goofing off, acting silly, laughing and joking, having fun and being totally comfortable and casual with one another. It wouldn't last.

Things began to get a lot more involved beginning with the 1965 Christmas record. The Beatles started to take a more active part in the writing of the record, which featured more extensive skits and song parodies. This trend continued through the next two releases, including the 1966 Pantomime - Everywhere It's Christmas disc. The 1967 flexi-disc was the most elaborate yet, with the group members playing several different characters in sketches revolving around fictional bands auditioning for a BBC radio show.

The '67 disc was titled Christmas Time Is Here Again!, and featured an original song of the same name played throughout the record. This song was the only segment of any Beatles Christmas record to receive official release (it was eventually put out in 1995 as the B-side on the "Free As A Bird" 7" single).

In the 1968 release, you can start to sense a band on the verge of falling apart. The 'group' dynamic was all but long gone - members recorded most of their segments separately. John's contribution that year included a particularly biting 'fable' called "The Ballad of Jock & Yono", obliquely calling out people (including band members) critical of his relationship with Yoko Ono:

"Once upon a time, there were two balloons called Jock and Yono. They were strictly in love, bound to happen in a million years. They were together man. Unfortunate timetable, they seemed to have previous experience which kept calling them one way or another (you know how it is). But they battled on against overwhelming oddities, including some of their beast friends. Being in love, they clung together even more man. But some of the poisonous-monsters-of-outdated-busloadedshitthrowers [said very garbled and quickly, but you get the general idea] did stick slightly, and they occasionally had to resort to the dry cleaners. Luckily, this did not kill them and they weren’t banned from the Olympic Games. They lived hopefully ever after and who could blame them?"
By 1969, it was over. The band had effectively split by the time this Christmas record was recorded, so everyone's segment was recorded separately. There's a LOT of John and Yoko on this one, with scant contributions by George and Ringo. Actually, if you think about it, the progression of the seven Beatle Christmas records from 1963 to 1969 closely follows the history of the band - from the happy, carefree early days of the group, to the increased experimentation of their middle years, to their final estrangement and breakup.

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 1963
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)
If 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.

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:

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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)

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for your work. These are now much more listenable and cheerful.

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  2. Very happy that you're enjoying this, Mystere2! Thanks, and keep on coming back!

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  3. More great rare Beatles, thanks for all the hard work!

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  4. Thank you for the fast response and great collection!

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  5. Yay, downloading right in time for Christmas!

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  6. Thanks so much for the great rare Beatles music! Great site, thanks for sharing.

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  7. The Beatles From Then to You is fantastic! Thanks for the share!

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  8. These recordings demonstrate why they were so popular I think. Not only extremely talented as a individuals and as a group but they are also all very charismatic and very entertaining. Pete Best would have held them back in this area I feel sure - too quiet and moody. Maybe he would have fit in well with a group like the Stones. Ringo was also a superb yet subtle drummer - listen to his work on I feel fine - more "latin" than rock.

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  9. Oops. I forgot to say a big thank you for sharing.

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  10. Thanks yet again for sharing. This is such a great collection. I'm really pleased to have it in such good sound quality. I previously had it on an old vinyl bootleg, but this is much better. The out-takes are really good to have as well.

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  11. Thanks for links to another great collection. The Beatles could have so much fun and even make fun of themselves, but still be taken seriously by fans and critics alike, so remarkable!

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  12. thank you kindly! What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to listen to the fabs go off piste!

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  13. Thank you for making these little gems available to fans of The Beatles everywhere !

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  14. I have a really poor recording of these on vinyl. Nice to hear them in good quality. Wonderful website...I am going to do some more shopping!

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  15. WHAT MAKES PURPLE CHICK THE BEST?
    SO GOOD!

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  16. Thank you very much for your generosity.

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  17. Thank you for giving us this incredible record from purple chick. Fantastic release.

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  18. Good article as well as hub to other good articles (though I wasn't able to find the Tom Dunne show). Thanks.

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  19. Thank you very much for making these fantastic Purple Chick sets available to fans of The Beatles. Thank you again for your quick response and your time, you are doing a great job here!

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