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!
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.
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.
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.
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!