The Beatles - The Christmas Records album review

Baby you can drive my sleigh

Cover art for The Beatles - The Christmas Records album

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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.

Terry Staunton was a senior editor at NME for ten years before joined the founding editorial team of Uncut. Now freelance, specialising in music, film and television, his work has appeared in Classic Rock, The Times, Vox, Jack, Record Collector, Creem, The Village Voice, Hot Press, Sour Mash, Get Rhythm, Uncut DVD, When Saturday Comes, DVD World, Radio Times and on the website Music365.