One of the things we love about being Beatles fans is to introduce someone to something they have never heard before. Even though The Beatles are the most well-known rock band in history there are still unreleased and hidden gems there for the finding. This week’s Beatles SotW is one of them.
Beginning in 1963 when The Beatles spawned their official fan club, The Beatles recorded a short Christmas disc to be given out to fan club members with their newsletter. The early discs (1963-1965) are mostly scripted “thank yous” to the fans with a decent amount of ad libbing (mostly by John Lennon). The 1966 disc saw the inclusion of a short, but original song, “Everywhere It’s Christmas” bookending an incomprehensible story about Scotsmen, rare cheeses, Podgy the Bear & Jasper and all manner of confusing imagery.
We won’t mention it again.
That brings us to 1967. It is well-known that The Beatles were heavily influenced (as most British children of that era were) by The Goon Show. The Goons perfected the art of surreal comedy in the 1950s with the brilliant writing of Spike Milligan and the incomparable talents of Peter Sellers. The mantle of The Goons would eventually be picked up by Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. But in the meantime The Beatles 1967 Christmas Record was the closest thing to a Goon Show episode since The Goons broadcast their last show in 1960. (Bonus fact: the lyric in John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me” stating “There’s a little yellow idol to the north of Katmandu” is taken directly from a 1956 Goon Show episode, in which the phrase is repeated often)
Listen as The Beatles switch genres at lightning speed. There’s a mock interview program, a game show, a song, “Plenty of Jam Jars” by the fictitious “Ravellers,” tap dancing, and John Lennon reciting Christmas greetings in a thick Scottish brogue. Oh, and did we mention that it contains the lovely original song “Christmas Time Is Here Again?”
Take a listen for yourself. As an added bonus we are including the 1968 disc which tries to capture the brilliance of the 1967 disc but falls short. By the end of 1968 The Beatles were growing apart and they resorted to recording their own individual pieces for the Christmas records. The group feel of the previous records is lost (though John Lennon’s and Ringo Starr’s portions are quite entertaining).