Beatles' Rare Fan-Club Christmas Records: A Complete Guide - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Beatles’ Rare Fan-Club Christmas Records: A Complete Guide

Band’s brief, whimsical holiday discs – released from 1963 through 1969 and newly reissued – offer a glimpse into their stunning evolution

the beatles christmas paul john george ringo

In honor of a new reissue, we take a detailed look at the Beatles' whimsical series of fan-club-only Christmas records.

Mirrorpix/Everett Collection

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 now.

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. Now they’re all being reissued on vinyl as part of a limited-edition box set, The Christmas Records, making them available for general purchase for the first time ever.

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.

To celebrate their grand unveiling, here’s a comprehensive look at the Beatles’ seven Christmas records. 

beatles holiday christmas albums george paul john ringo

“The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record: Happy Christmas 1969”

The Beatles existed in name only by the Christmas of 1969, after Lennon famously told his compatriots in September that he wanted “a divorce.” But for fear of disrupting upcoming business deals, as well as a genuine sense of confusion, the band decide to keep any talk of a breakup strictly among themselves. To maintain a sense of normalcy, they dutifully set about recording pieces for yet another Christmas record, once more to be assembled by Everett.

Most of the Beatles opted to tape their pieces in the comfort of their own homes. Ono, who had just contributed anonymous backing piano the previous year, introduces her now-husband as they stroll through the grounds of Tittenhurst Park, their Ascot estate where the final Beatles’ photo session had taken place on August 22nd. Together they stage a jokey interview, ranging from their favorite foods to their place in the decade to come. “I think it’ll be a quite a peaceful Seventies … [peace] and freedom,” Ono opines. As the autumn leaves crunch underfoot, Lennon can’t help but belt “deep and crisp and even” – the line from “Good King Wenceslas” he gleefully butchered on the band’s first Christmas record. Once a fresh 23-year-old having a laugh with his mates, he’s now an adult superstar, roaming his palatial estate with his wife, preaching peace to the globe. Even now, the monumental six-year leap remains difficult to comprehend.

McCartney performs another inviting acoustic original, this one titled “This Is to Wish You.” Music will remain his preferred method for bringing peace to those who endured the tumultuous decade he had helped to shape – as well soothe his own soul during the uncertain time. Starr sings a song of his own, a goofy ad-libbed tune, and manages to work in a plug for his new film, The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, whose radio work with The Goon Show can be felt in each of the Beatles’ Christmas discs. Harrison, however, remains unwilling to submit to this last vestige of mop-toppery. His contribution, a single line uttered at the London offices of Apple Records, runs six seconds long.

Among recordings of Christmas choirs and pipe organs pulled from the tape vault, Everett utilized another preexisting piece of music: “The End” from the Beatles’ swan song, Abbey Road. Perhaps even he had an inkling that this would be the last offering of its kind from the group. He ensures that the concluding sound heard on what would prove to be the final Beatles Christmas record is that of laughter, a fitting reminder of the inherent good humor that runs throughout the band’s works. Even to the bitter end, the Beatles could be counted on to raise a smile. 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.