Sure, the Beatles set the standard by which all popular music is judged, but you’d be forgiven for wondering if they lacked a little in the holiday-spirit department. The Beach Boys, the Supremes, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder and scores of other rock icons have donned red velvet hats and crooned about Santa and Frosty in the name of all things merry. Yet the Fab Four never had a widely available holiday offering – until recently.
Between 1963 and 1969, the Beatles sent limited-edition Christmas singles to paid-up members of their fan club. Consisting of wordplay-laden spoken messages, surreal skits and snatches of original songs, these ultra-rare plastic “flexidisc” records existed in a hazy area between bootlegs and legitimate, if tough to find, releases. In 2017, they were reissued on vinyl as part of a limited-edition box set, The Christmas Records, making them available for general purchase for the first time.
The goofy tracks capture the band at their most playful, showcasing their warm camaraderie and wit punctuated by cheery cries of their invented Yuletide greeting: “Happy Crimble!” As their fame grew and the pressure became more immense, the Beatles welcomed the chance to blow off steam and follow their creativity into areas beyond their usual pop fare. These low-stakes sessions emboldened them to experiment, sometimes inspiring ideas that would later appear on their better-known work. Even when they’re not pushing the artistic envelope, their eccentric humor, heavily influenced by British radio comedy collective the Goons, remains as funny now as it was half a century earlier.
Here’s a comprehensive look at the Beatles’ seven Christmas records. [Available for purchase here.]
[Editor’s Note: A version of this story was originally published December 2017]