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The Beatles - The Christmas Records album review

Baby you can drive my sleigh

Long before a Beatles Christmas meant divisive hissy fits over cover versions in department store TV ads, Fabs fan club members were treated to exclusive season’s greetings from their idols. This well-appointed box comprises the seven specially recorded seven-inch singles mailed to devotees each year between 1963 and ’69, reproduced in their original sleeves and pressed in a rainbow selection of coloured vinyl.

They have never before been available as one package (a few excerpts made it on to the late-90s anthology compilations), and it’s perhaps surprising that the band’s love of Goons-style humour survives throughout, although by ’69 they’re no longer huddled round one microphone delivering a joint message. Yoko Ono shoehorns her way onto the last disc, interviewing John about his favourite festive food (“corn flakes prepared by Parisienne hands, blessed by a Hare Krishna mantra”).

Hearing them muck about on a variety of instruments is great fun, although the kazoo/ harmonica version of Jingle Bells is unlikely to elicit too many repeat plays, and the missives are most charming when the boys’ wit is in full flight (Paul: “Thanks for buying our records. Don’t know where we’d be without you.” George: “In the army, perhaps.”).

Rarely longer than four or five minutes apiece, none of the discs feature complete songs, although the 40-second full-harmonies ditty Christmas Time Is Here Again from ’67 could feasibly have been expanded for a proper release and potential yuletide chart-topper. Mind you, they already had that particular accolade covered with Hello Goodbye.