Conceived as a means to appease fan-club members whose letters, due to their sheer volume, were not always being answered in a timely manner, the records included the Beatles’ messages of thanks to “loyal Beatle people”, along with skits, Christmas carols, and original compositions.
None of the original recordings has ever been subject to general release though a version of “Christmas Time (Is Here Again)”, an original composition which appeared in edited form on the 1967 record, eventually gained an official release in 1995, as part of the The Beatles Anthology project.
1) The Beatles Christmas Record – Issued December 6, 1963
The first Christmas recording from the Beatles featured several renditions of the traditional carol “Good King Wenceslas” and individual messages from the four, ending with a closing chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Ringo”.This offering, as well as 1964’s, was scripted by Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow, who had instigated the Christmas message programme.
2) Another Beatles Christmas Record – Issued December 18, 1964
The song “Jingle Bells” is sung, followed by individual messages to the fans. John mocks the prepared statement, doing an imitation of Paul Harvey and includes his own pseudo-words and ad-libbing. When Paul asks him if he wrote this himself, he says, “No it’s somebody’s bad hand-wroter. It’s been a busy year Beople peadles, one way and another, but it’s been a great year too. You fans have seen to that. Page two … Thanks a lot folks and a happy-er Christmas and a Merry Grew Year. Crimble maybe.” (The statement is apparently handwritten as at various points in the recording, Paul reads “making them” as “melting them” before correcting himself and George reads “quite a time” as “quiet time” before correcting himself with “great time” as well.) Finishing up the record is a brief rendition of the traditional song “Oh Can You Wash Your Father’s Shirt?”
Another Beatles’ Christmas Record was not sent to American fans. Rather, at Christmas time 1964, US fans received an edited version of The Beatles’ Christmas Record, which had been sent to British fan-club members in 1963. Also, as opposed to using flexi-discs, the US fan-club sent the message in a tri-fold cardboard mailer, with the “record” embedded in one of the flaps of cardboard.
3) The Beatles Third Christmas Record – Issued December 17, 1965
Several off-key, a cappella versions of “Yesterday” are dispersed throughout the record, alongside Lennon’s “Happy Christmas to Ya List’nas”, “Auld Lang Syne”, a one-and-a-half-line version of the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song” (which they quickly stop before they violate the copyright) and an original poem titled “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”.
Members of the Beatles’ US fan-club did not receive this (or any) Christmas flexi-disc in 1965. Rather, they received a black and white postcard, with a photo of the Fab Four and the message “Season’s Greetings – Paul, Ringo, George, John.” The Beatle Bulletin, the publication of the US fan-club, explained in its April 1966 edition that the tape arrived too late to prepare the record in time for Christmas.
4) The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas – Issued December 16, 1966
Recorded between sessions for “Strawberry Fields Forever”, for the 1966 offering, the usual greetings and thanks gave way to a ‘Pantomime’-themed collection of original songs and dramatic skits. The songs include “Everywhere It’s Christmas”, “Orowainya”, and “Please Don’t Bring Your Banjo Back”. Paul McCartney plays the piano. The sketches performed include “Podgy the Bear and Jasper” and “Felpin Mansions.”
Once again, the US fan-club members did not get a flexi-disc. Instead, they received a postcard with the message on one side and a short version of The Beatle Bulletin on the other, with enough room for a mailing label and postage.
5) Christmas Time Is Here Again! – Issued December 15, 1967
An elaborate production, Christmas Time Is Here Again! was developed around the concept of several groups auditioning for a BBC radio show. The title song serves as a refrain throughout the record. The Beatles portray a multitude of characters, including game show contestants, aspiring musicians (“Plenty of Jam Jars”, by the Ravellers), and actors in a radio drama (“Theatre Hour”). At the end John reads a poem, “When Christmas Time Is Over.” This offering was likely a deliberate homage to/continuation of the broadly similar “Craig Torso” specials produced for BBC Radio 1 that same year by the Beatles’ friends and collaborators the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and also shares much in common with their then-unreleased track “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”, recorded six months previously.
While British fans received a flexi-disc in an elaborate sleeve, American fans received a postcard similar to that of 1966.
6) The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record – Issued December 20, 1968
The first Beatles Christmas fan-club disc to be recorded separately, the 1968 offering is a collage of odd noises, musical snippets, and individual messages. McCartney’s song “Happy Christmas, Happy New Year” is featured, along with John’s poems “Jock and Yono” and “Once Upon a Pool Table.” Also notable is a rendition of “Nowhere Man” by the ukulele-playing Tiny Tim. Also included is a sped-up snippet of the Beatles’ own “Helter Skelter” and a brief snippet of Perrey & Kingsley’s “Baroque Hoedown” which was used three years later in Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Yer Blues,” and “Birthday” are also heard in the background for part of the message.The dialogue and songs for the flexi-disc were organised and edited together by DJ and friend of the Beatles, Kenny Everett.
Finally, the US fans got a flexi-disc for Christmas in 1968, but it came in a modified version of the 1967 UK sleeve.
7) The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record – Issued December 19, 1969
The final Beatles Christmas offering was also recorded separately, as the band had effectively split by this point. It features an extensive visit with John and Yoko at their Tittenhurst Park estate, where they play “what will Santa bring me?” games. Harrison appears only briefly, and Starr only shows up to plug his recent film, The Magic Christian. Paul sings his original ad-lib, “This is to Wish You a Merry, Merry Christmas.” Starting at 1:30, at the tail-end of Ringo’s song, the guitar solos from “The End” are heard, followed by Yoko interviewing John.
For the only time, the American and British jackets were identical. The US version of the flexi-disc had an elaborate drawing of the Beatles’ faces on it. Drawings were credited to Richard Starkey & Zak Starkey.