The Beatles' Christmas Records

As a Beatle fan, one of the most exciting musical surprises ever was delivered to us at the end of 2017 : the first official release of The Beatles' Christmas Records!  Originally issued on fragile "flexi-discs" to fan club members only  -- later compiled at the end of The Beatles' run into an LP form -- The Beatles Christmas Records have been heavily pirated over the years in many forms including unauthorized reproductions of the LP, illegal downloads and plenty of postings up on social media sites. Finding original copies is a difficult and often pricey prospect

AR-BeatlesChristmasRecordsCOVER225.jpgBut there is nothing like having the real thing in your hands and thanks to the folks at Universal Music / Capitol Records, Beatle fans can now have an arguably better-than-the-originals experience with the new boxed set.  Featuring all seven of the original Christmas messages newly pressed on colored vinyl, these are a sturdier format for the ages than the old flexi's. Given that these recordings are a combination of spoken word and music snippets, Audio Vérité pastiche and mini audio plays, there is no real need for an "audiophile" version of something like this -- thus the colored vinyl singles are not only more than adequate, they are fun and totally appropriate.  

That said... happily, all in all these discs sound quite good!! The singles are quiet and well centered. The printing on the artwork is of a high quality, seemingly made from original production elements. The package was manufactured in Germany. 

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While you won't find The Beatles Christmas Records up on streaming services like Tidal, to get the full experience you'll really want to be playing each of the singles just as original Beatle fans did back in the day -- one at a time on your trusty record player, spinning mostly at 33 1/3 RPM (one of the discs is pressed at 45 RPM).   While doing that, you can read the notes on the picture sleeves and in the booklet you'll find reproductions of the original Beatle Fan Club newsletter which came with the records each year.  You can also explore the ever-increasingly-groovy cover art which gets decidedly more free-form and psychedelic as the 60s decade marched onward.  

Some of these Beatle Christmas messages are admittedly pretty trippy sounding folks -- "far out," even -- so go in to this listening experience with an open mind if you've never heard them...  The Beatles were always a mad cap lot right from the get go (that was part of their early charm) and as the decade proceeded, their experiments with sound grew accordingly.  

The biggest joy for most Beatle fans listening to these holiday gems are the snippets of new music and songs tucked away within the messages.  While most are throwaway fun tid-bits made in the moment -- such as Sir Paul McCartney's extended riffing on the hooky line "This is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas" -- the larger sounding more fully produced pieces such as "Christmas Time Is Here Again" make this all worth the price of admission. Of course if you own the "Free As A Bird" single issued around the time of the Anthology set you already have a fuller version of that song (a three minute edit of the approximately six minute full take) but its still way cool hearing the original bits as delivered to Beatle people back in the day...

The biggest joy for most Beatle fans listening to these holiday gems are the snippets of new music and songs tucked away within the messages.  While most are throwaway fun tid-bits made in the moment -- such as Sir Paul McCartney's extended riffing on the hooky line "This is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas" -- the larger sounding more fully produced pieces such as "Christmas Time Is Here Again" make this all worth the price of admission. Of course if you own the "Free As A Bird" single issued around the time of the Anthology set you already have a fuller version of that song (a three minute edit of the approximately six minute full take) but its still way cool hearing the original bits as delivered to Beatle people back in the day... 

AR-BeatlesChristmasRecordsThird225.jpgMy favorite bit from The Beatles Christmas Records has always been the 1968 disc with its special appearance by none other than Tiny Tim, singing "Nowhere Man" on ukulele.  That is a moment which needs to be heard to be believed, simultaneously haunting, musically appalling and ultimately utterly charming.  

So, yeah, what more can I say?  Whatever way you celebrate the end of year holidays, The Beatles' Christmas Records are an essential for any Beatle fan. 

Garry Crimble and Merry Rudolph to you!

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