Every year from 1963 to 1969 the Beatles recorded and released a Christmas single on flexi discs to be mailed free to members of their UK fan club. These singles have now been collected and reissued on vinyl in a singles boxed set by Universal Music, The Christmas Records. All seven are now in a different color of vinyl, from green to orange, and other than 1965, which is at 45rpm, the rest spin at 331/3rpm. As the liner notes in the 16-page booklet frankly state about the original flexi disc format: “This was not hi-fi.”
The first two Christmas fan club records are just the band talking, winging it one at a time, wishing everyone a “Happy Christmas” and having a good time. By 1965, John thanks everyone “for playing cards made of knickers,” and then proceeds to sing in a Scottish accent. A version of “Auld Lang Syne” by John, again this time singing in a grizzled seaman’s voice, follows. A breezy, out-of-tune version of “Yesterday,” with a last verse changed to “bless you all on Christmas day,” closes the 1965 version. At this point the band was together making these records, having a good time.
For the 1966 Fan Club Record, Paul indulged his passion for the English Music Hall and Vaudeville and worked up a loosely scripted production called “Pantomime,” which tells a story, there are no greetings from the band members on this one and speaking parts alternate with a couple of songs.
At the 1967 version, which pokes endless fun at the BBC’s stuffy broadcast standards and programming, is a fully assembled recording of “Christmas Time (Is Here Again).” The BBC send-ups are funny and fairly classic.
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Helter Skelter” from the The Beatles make appearances in the 1968 Christmas record, which is a mix of sound effects, such as applause, Paul playing guitar and singing, and John reading his poetry in a variety of accents.
The final record from 1969, mostly just John and Yoko, is more high jinx, all mixed into a fast-paced wash of sound containing twinkly music-box music, bits of acoustic guitar, and even orchestral moments of swaying violins.
ORDER THE BEATLES CHRISTMAS BOX … H E R E .