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UK Release date : Friday, December 6, 1963

The Beatles Christmas record

By The Beatles7" Single • Part of the collection “The Beatles • Christmas records

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Side 1

  1. The Beatles' Christmas Record

    Written by Tony Barrow

    5:01 • Studio versionA

    Performed by : Paul McCartneyRingo StarrJohn LennonGeorge Harrison Geoff Emerick : Second engineer Norman Smith : Engineer Tony Barrow : Producer

    Session Recording: Thursday, October 17, 1963 • Studio EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Each Christmas, from 1963 to 1969, The Beatles sent out musical and spoken messages to members of their official fan club, in the UK and in the US. “The Beatles Christmas Record” was the first of those tracks, recorded for Christmas 1963.

From Wikipedia:

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.

An edited version of this recording was sent to members of the Beatles’ American fan-club in December 1964.

From Rolling Stone, December 13, 2020:

The tale of the first Crimble begins on October 17th, 1963, inside Abbey Road’s Studio Two. Before beginning work on what would become their next single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles had some Yuletide housekeeping to attend to at the behest of their press officer, Tony Barrow, who suggested that they record a Christmas greeting as a special treat to their rapidly swelling fan club. The band liked the idea enough to acquiesce, but were still content to leave the specifics to a seasoned professional like Barrow, who prepared a script filled with standard expressions of gratitude and seasonal platitudes. […]

Celestial chimes, the only musical instrument to appear on otherwise a cappella track, herald the band’s arrival as they gather around the microphone to sing a version of “Good King Wenceslas” that’s both hilariously off-key and also hilariously wrong (the snow is not “deep and crisp and crispy” nor is Betty Grable’s name checked). The earnestness and showbiz sincerity of Barrow’s script is immediately undercut as Lennon introduces himself with a cheery, “Hello, this is John speaking with his voice!” Thanking fans for a “really gear year,” he notes the deluge of cards he’d received for his 23rd birthday the week before: “I’d love to reply to everyone personally, but I haven’t enough pens.”

After some irreverent dog barking, he hands it over to McCartney, who echoes the gratitude – save for one thing. Ever since the Beatles expressed their fondness for Jelly Babies (an English cousin of jelly beans) in a recent interview, fans had been shipping them by the crate-load. No longer wishing to be pelted by the confection during live appearances, McCartney takes the opportunity to tell the world, “We’ve gone right off Jelly Babies!” Striking up a faux-German reprise of “Good King Wenceslas” with Lennon, he passes off to Starr, who responds with his own in the style of a hep-cat nightclub crooner. “Thank you, Ringo,” Harrison deadpans as their mock applause dies down. “We’ll phone you!”

The band left it to Barrow to cobble together a workable recording from their banter. “I actually cut the tape recording with scissors, patched the pieces together, and let the discarded bits drop to the floor,” he wrote in his memoir, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Me. “In doing this we destroyed a master tape that at some future date might have raised many thousands of pounds at auction as a unique piece of memorabilia – particularly with all the unused bad language left in!”

Thirty thousand copies of the one-track single were pressed on Lyntone “flexi-vinyl” and sent to fan-club members in the first week of December. In among the jokes and half-songs (like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Ringo”) heard by anointed “Beatle People,” McCartney delivered a surprisingly prescient mission statement. “Lots of people ask us what we enjoy best – concerts and television or recording. We like doing stage shows, ’cause it’s great to hear an audience enjoying themselves. But the thing we like best – I think so anyway – is going into the recording studio to make new records,” he says. “What we like to hear most is one of our songs taking shape in a recording studio, one of the ones that John and I have written, and then listening to the tapes afterwards to see how it all worked out.” Hours after committing these words to tape, the band would have their first transatlantic hit in the can, elevating the Beatles to a level they could scarcely imagine, and insuring that “The Beatles Christmas Record” would have a sequel. 

Paul McCartney writing

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