I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking you don’t need to listen to any more Beatles Christmas music. But wait! Because I have saved the best for last in the shape of this incredible mashup by Tom Teeley, who has taken fragments of all the Christmas messages and mixed them with extracts from Beatles songs, in a way that sounds on paper like it shouldn’t work, but totally does, because he’s done it amazingly (thank you Paul for seeking this out and sending it to me).
For the dedicated Beatles fan, spotting where each sound is taken from is like a mini treasure hunt (and we get pretty esoteric – there’s an instrumental segment from You Know My Name, Look Up The Number which is a song I haven’t heard in actual years), and even for the regular listener it’s just brilliantly clever, AND comes with a video that I promise you will love. Happy Christmas Eve, and thank you for accompanying me along this odd and intermittently rewarding journey. I think Sweeney would have liked it (and you can listen to his own songs here, if you feel so inclined, and if you like them, or have enjoyed this year’s advent calendar, you can also donate to the hospice where he stayed).
This is the only actual Christmas song ever recorded and officially released by the Beatles, which is why we have saved it for near the end, although if you listened to the 1967 Christmas message (yeah, I know you didn’t) you will have heard a version of part of it. This eventually had a re-edit and a release in 1995, as the B-side to Free As A Bird. I can’t argue that it’s a lost classic, but it is an Actual Christmas Song by the Actual Beatles, and it also has an entirely peculiar Auld Lang Syne flourish at the end, which is kind of more fun than the actual song, although I’m not sure about John’s Burns impression. Enjoy!
This is, tragically, the last entry for this year from Ringo’s seminal 1999 album I Believe In Santa Claus, and if you thought the ones we’ve already heard had a lot of percussion, you’ve got a treat in store. There is a bit of guitar and some fun backing vocals on this, but what there mostly is is REALLY A LOT OF DRUMS, of about every type you can think of, although I don’t think there are any bongos in there, which seems like an oversight, Ringo.
I can’t believe I didn’t find this when I was scouring the internet for twenty-four different versions of White Christmas back in 2013. It is quite the oddest thing I’ve ever heard, and would have been given a novelty spot somewhere towards the beginning of the month. I am very happy now to be able to rectify the omission. Tomorrow: a Christmas single by the Beatles that is an actual song! I know!
If you search for “Paul McCartney Christmas Song” on YouTube, you don’t get this. You only get this by searching for “Paul McCartney Chestnuts Roasting”, which to be fair is probably what lots of people think this song is called, but you still wouldn’t know to search for it unless you knew it existed, which until recently I didn’t. This is Macca’s contribution to a 2012 complication album called Holidays Rule which apparently sank without trace. This, though, is lovely, which is why it gets a coveted twentysomething spot, although I think it’s also fine for you to listen to Nat do it instead.
The Beatles only released three singles in 1968, though since one of them was Hey Jude it probably still counts as a good year. Fortunately it was also a good year for another McCartney – Paul’s brother Mike, who with The Scaffold had a Christmas number one with Lily The Pink. There is nothing Christmassy about it, but it’s very jolly, so it’s an excellent way to perk up the first day of the busiest week of the year (though actually it looks as though I have a couple of hours to spare on Thursday, so let me know if you need anything).
I’ve also included a photo of Paul and Mike as toddlers, because why wouldn’t you?
No, I know it isn’t Christmas Eve today, but traditionally we celebrate Advent Sundays with a bit of crooning, and this is as close as Ringo gets to that. He even holds back on the drums, a bit. Not much. (But he makes up for his restraint in the first half of the song by coming in with an extended solo at about the two and a half minute mark.) This is a sweet song, though! I hope you enjoy it too.
And so on to the Beatles fan club Christmas message for 1967, which is notable for including the only Actual Christmas Song by the Actual Beatles, Christmas Time Is Here Again. Like 1966’s message (which we have conveniently skipped because despite listening really hard I can’t work out if it’s a bit racist) it is presented as a revue-style sketch which makes nearly no sense at all, but it does at least have some good songs. Speaking of which, here also is 1967 UK Christmas number one single Hello, Goodbye. Feel free to enjoy either, both or neither, although if you don’t watch Hello, Goodbye you are being foolish because the video is great. Make sure to watch out especially for the reveals at 01:14 and 02:45. I’m excited about tomorrow and so should you be.
This is only middlingly Christmassy, inasmuch as it isn’t Christmassy at all, but it sounds it because it’s a 1930s standard with a lush musical arrangement, and it was once recorded by Bing Crosby, who is of course the Christmassiest singer of all, and also by Nat King Cole, who is of course the second Christmassiest singer of all (and as it happens there’s more Nat to come in a few days’ time). With a song as lovely as this you don’t need to make excuses, anyway, it’s just a joyful thing to listen to, ideally whilst roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
And the reason it fits into the Beatles theme is that this version is from Tony Bennett’s 2006 album Duets: An American Classic, recorded in celebration of Bennett’s eightieth birthday – yes, he did just turn ninety – and it features Paul McCartney, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I just have (three times in a row).
Awww. Isn’t this twinkly? And it’s got jingle bells and everything. This was the b-side to 1971’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), although I think the version we’re listening to here is a later re-recording. Whatever, I love it, and I am going to learn the words and play it out loud and sing along ALL CHRISTMAS. Make sure to listen to the end for the wind/footsteps FX.
Today we were going to have the 1966 Beatles Christmas message, but I don’t think I can bear to listen to another one. Plus there is no timely single to accompany it, since the last single the Beatles released in 1966 was Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby in August of that year, and then there was nothing until the spring of 1967. I blame the drugs. (Although to be fair, when they did come back it was with the double whammy of Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane, so they obviously did something useful with all that spare time. Drugs, mostly, I think.)
But I really need to listen to a proper Christmas song. As you know, Paul didn’t play or sing on Do They Know It’s Christmas?, at least not the 1984 version which is the only one we’re interested in (he played bass on the 2014 version, but I’m not going to make you listen to that). He was asked to be part of the 1984 recording but wasn’t able to make it, so instead he sent in a spoken word message which made up part of the b-side of the original single. So with this most tenuous of Beatle connections, please enjoy an actual Christmas song that you know. Make the most of it, because tomorrow we’re going properly weird.