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.
I love the (appropriately) bluegrassy guitar on this, especially when it gets to do a solo, and I am sad that there is so little interest out there in the world in Ringo’s 1999 Christmas album that I can’t seem to find out who is playing it. The song is slightly compromised, for me, by the surprising BLART with which Ringo begins his singing. One thing I have been able to discover is that several of the tracks on this album were recorded within a single day, which is somehow unsurprising. Some of them seem to have been recorded in a single take (and not in the good way). Still, it’s worth it for the guitar, I promise.
We’ve featured this song before, back in 2010 when the theme was UK Christmas number one singles since 1976 – which, like this year’s, left me very little leeway in terms of the quality of tunes selected. That’s slightly unfair to the song, though, which isn’t as bad as I think it is, even if it’s no Always On My Mind. We had the official video last time, so – in order not to repeat myself six years later – today here’s a live version from the Mike Yarwood Christmas special of 1977, hence added stars, sparkle and general seasonal appeal, and don’t say I never treat you to anything, although I am a bit worried for everyone’s health given the quantity of dry ice being pumped out onto the stage at regular intervals. It can’t be good for the bagpipes either, can it? But then, I can’t think of anything that would necessarily be good for bagpipes, except a very strict set of rules about who is allowed to play them. I digress. Here’s Paul.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t anyone’s favourite Christmas song, is it? Or is it? If it isn’t your favourite Christmas song neither of these versions is likely to change your mind, but it’s the only Christmas classic that has been recorded by multiple Beatles and so it gets a starring Saturday spot here.
Version 1 is the 1979 b-side to Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime and is optimistically entitled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae, which makes it sound quite good, doesn’t it? It’s really not, although the very last note is quite nice. Version 2 is (of course) from Ringo’s Christmas album, and as well as being definitely better than Paul’s, features a voiceover, a mistake which they just left in, and (of course) a key change. And the backing vocals are really good! The lead vocals still sound like Ringo. Do keep listening to the end, which is everything you are hoping it will be.
The 1965 Beatles message is one of the best, being just the right side of incomprehensible, and having nearly some actual music on it. If you like the Goons you will enjoy it (I don’t like the Goons, but I enjoyed it anyway).
But if you just want to cut right to the actual tunes, we can skip forward to 1965’s Christmas number one, which was a double A-side of Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out, the latter of which is one of my favourites to sing along to at any time of day, but especially late at night. See you tomorrow for another festive double-bill, which I think you’ll be especially excited about.
Sorry this is late, I have been on the move for 72 hours, for various reasons, and I didn’t have the foresight to advance-schedule more than 48 hours’ worth of songs. It won’t happen again. We have a departure from our regular schedule today, because this isn’t a Beatles song, or a song by an ex-Beatle, or really anything to do with the Beatles at all, except that Greg Lake, whose death was announced today, was a big Beatles fan and cited them as an influence – one that I think you can hear in this song (though it is perhaps more McCartney-ish than it is Beatles-y, but there’s nothing wrong with that).
Anyway since the whole point of this year’s theme is a tribute to lost loved ones, and since this is an actually good, actually Christmas song, it would be rude not to play it today. Normal service resumes tomorrow.
So much drumming. I like this one, though, because it sounds ever so slightly like the best song from the second-best* Christmas film of all, Mud’s Lonely This Christmas. This, like last week’s Little Drummer Boy, is from Ringo’s 1999 album I Wanna Be Santa Claus – an album with which I fear we will all be better-acquainted by Christmas Eve.
*The second-best Christmas film of all is of course Bernard and the Genie, which is only slightly easier to find than the best Christmas film of all, Until The Lights Come Back, which you will only be able to watch by coming over to my house on Christmas Eve (or importing it at great expense from Hong Kong).
This one’s for Sweeney. (They’re all for Sweeney, but so is this one.)
I’m busking this whole affair, as you can no doubt tell, so my apologies for not having realised sooner that the solution to the Christmas message records not having much music on them is to make them share a spot with whatever Beatles song happened to be in the charts that Christmas. So here for your pleasure is the 1964 Christmas message (which is one of the better ones, in that it’s not (a) entirely baffling or (b) full of late-period rage), plus that year’s Christmas number one, I Feel Fine, which is enlivened here by the addition of jaunty Spanish subtitles. Feliz Adviento!