by Roger Cormier
Despite the fact that none of them were available on iTunes until a few weeks ago, it's a safe bet that most people on planet Earth have heard most of the 196 songs The Beatles wrote and recorded. (Somehow they heard them. Somehow.) What most people have never heard are the seven records that the Beatles recorded and sent out to fan club members exclusively every holiday season. Because The Beatles were The Beatles, they made a seemingly perfunctory exercise in appeasing a fan base and justifying a yearly fan club fee into entertaining clusterfucks that can at times be mistaken for true art.
In the beginning, they kept it simple, simply getting high on egg nog and reading copy. John is the loud drunk at the holiday party, shouting nonsense in lieu of singing the actual lyrics to holiday songs and dominating most of the conversation (sometimes in German for no apparent reason). He also leads the group in inventing the phrase "Merry Crimble", an interesting substitute for "Happy Holidays." Meanwhile Paul is his own diplomatic charming self, thanking all of the fans for making them about to be millionaires but letting them kindly know they're no longer into jelly beans (save those for Reagan). Ringo, as expected, gets the least airtime and barely gets one sentence out without being tickled or interrupted. George gives props to the fan club secretaries ("Good old Frita!"). He hopes they can go on "pleasing you" for a long time, a reference to their number one hit "Please Please Me", which is totally about oral sex (John Lennon was, of course, the writer of that song).
Drug of choice: Alcohol
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "Thank you Ringo. We'll phone you..."
Paul leads off after a little piano intro by unsuccessfully swallowing a smile in admitting he's now fucking rich. John does not even bother pretending that he isn't reading off of a script as he thanks fans for buying his Lewis Carroll wordplay inspired book "In His Own Write". Taking John's lead, George also doesn't bother with the pretense and even points out the typos while thanking the Beatle People for seeing their movie "A Hard Day's Night", sometimes "more than once." (cha chinggggg.) Ringo's attempts at playing it straight fail when the other three keep giggling and distract him.
Drug of choice: Pot, Alcohol
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "Don't know where we'd be without (the fans)." "In the army."
Eschewing the taking turns in their mocking script reading routine, the Fabs stumble their way through singing "Yesterday" and mash-ups of Christmas songs with contemporary music numbers (including a funny piss-take on Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" which many considered at the time to be a lame Dylan ripoff.) While the group bothered with rehearsing their lines, manager Brian Epstein probably wasn't a fan of Lennon's Goon Show inspired fake newscaster bit or of the Vietnam references on a holiday record.
Drug of choice: Pot, Alcohol
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "Copyright Johnny!"
Instead of parody, by 1966 the Beatles decided to reinvent the Holiday record: after the group goes through one verse and chorus of an original Christmas tune called "Everywhere It's Christmas", listeners are treated to vignettes involving two cheese eaters high in the Swiss Alps, a festive evening at the King's, a toast to her Highness on the H.M.S. Tremendous, Podgy and Jasper's trip to the supermarket and a Count Boulder leading a singalong about growing sick of banjos before returning back to "Everywhere It's Christmas". It's either genius or insanity. Or both. Or just British humor.
Drug of choice: LSD (John, George and Ringo), Pot (Paul)
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "Candles." "Matches." "Candles." "Matches."
This record is similar to the 1966 one, but better. Instead of simply bookending an original holiday song, the Beatles stop "Christmas Time Is Here Again" for sometimes minutes at a time to get their bits in. These involve the gang auditioning at BBC House by singing two lines of a song about trousers (which we hear once again for good measure), Ringo as a General poorly elaborating on the job him and his troops had done, the group topping their earlier trouser song with a song about jam jars, George receiving applause and a nomination for independent candidate of parliament by erroneously claiming he is 32 and Ringo failing to make a phone call with his life seemingly hanging in the balance, as we are lead to believe with ridiculously dramatic sound effects. The last minute of the record devolves into the group maniacally laughing, followed by their producer George Martin announcing that they thank you for a wonderful year, in an "I know they seem fucking insane but they really mean well" tone.
Drugs of choice: LSD
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "And with the recent heavy fighting near Blackpool Mrs. Gee Evans of Sully Hall is gradually injured. She wants for all the people in hospital: 'Plenty of Jam Jars' by the Ravelers."
The Beatles were a band that always evolved, and within a year, the band went from wildly inventive to incredibly depressing with their 1968 Christmas single. Because of all of their fighting, the band found their yearly fan club obligation of making a Christmas single to be a chore and literally mailed in their performances - all four of the Moptoppers recorded their greetings from their houses, with the exception of Ringo, who supposedly taped his from the back of his van in Surrey.
Radio 1 disc jockey Kenny Everett pieced together the snippets he received with clips from the just released White Album to make the record. Contents include a poem John wrote about Yoko and himself and George finally giving longtime roadie Mal Evans his due.
Who profited the most from the four Beatles not bothering to be in the same room with each other around the holidays? Tiny Tim, who George had perform his, uh, unique, cover of "Nowhere Man" while on vacation in America.
Goddamn Yoko ruined Christmas.
Drugs of choice: Heroin (John), Downers, Women
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "Well I think it's INSANE!!!!!!!!"
1969 had a man land on the moon, but it didn't include The Beatles getting all of their asses in the recording studio for Christmas.
The funniest segment of the 1969 Christmas record would have to be that George Harrison contributed only one entire sentence to the festivities, possibly for punishment over inviting Tiny Tim over to the party the previous year. The second funniest aspect would have to be Ringo taking the rare opportunity to sing and to shamelessly promote his critically panned movie The Magic Christian. John wishing to have his cornflakes blessed in a specific manner was also humorous, but was overshadowed by him and Yoko taking up most of the record with their newlywed bliss and wishing of peace in the seventies. There wouldn't be nearly as much peace as the power couple was hoping for in that decade, and perhaps not coincidentally, the decade would be one without The Beatles.
Drugs of choice: Cocaine, Alcohol, Women
Best Liverpoolian witticism: "I'd like some cornflakes prepared by a Peruvian hand and have it blessed by a Hare Krishna mantra."