'Twas the night before Christmas,
The Sgt Pepper
-esque sleeve of the 1967 fan club Christmas single
And all through the house
Not a Beatle was stirring,
Not one little scouse.
'Twas the Christmas of 1967 — the Christmas after the Summer of Love, the Christmas of the Mystery Tour
. "Hello Goodbye"
was snugly tucked in at number one, and a heady aroma mingled with the sound of sleigh bells in the frosty air.
In all likelihood, the band would've needed reminding that "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)", having spent the best part of the year completely o-u-t spells out of their heads, even by their
standards. Nevertheless, they duly presented themselves a few weeks beforehand (at 10am, Wednesday the first, in the fluffy rehearsal rooms) in order to record the annual fan club thingy. Each year since '63 they'd knocked together a festive flexi-disc, to say "Thank you for a wonderful year": sing-along carols, "Jingle Bell Rock", jokes and sketches; even a pantomime (oh yes there was!) This year, however, they'd gone one step further and actually written a 'song' for the occasion.
All of them together! Probably in the couple of minutes it took them to pass round the joint on the roof before they got started. Let's face it, Christmas time is here again, Ain't been round since you know when
can't really have taxed the combined creative genius of Lennon (bass drum, vocals)/McCartney (piano, vocals)/Harrison (acoustic guitar, vocals)/Starkey (drums, vocals) too much: though its irritatingly infectious seasonal jollity is guaranteed to have it firmly stuck in your head till way past Boxing Day, like it or not! As Paul said of "Flying"
, the only other song to bear the four compositional signatures, it's precisely 'how you would
credit a non-song'.
On the original record (it's a bouncy remix, take 444) the festive refrain was used to punctuate a sprawling series of skits, allegedly scripted a whole day earlier, and mainly aimed at sending up the BBC — possibly as revenge for their banning of several Pepper
tracks. Quiz shows and phone-ins, talent contests and current affairs all got Beatleated.
"Oh, let me put it this way: there was a job to be done".
George Martin, veteran comedy record producer that he was, was in his element coming up with the required sound effects, and even joined in for the increasingly raucous singalong each time he faded it back up. To my knowledge, this is the maestro's only vocal credit on any Beatles track. Ringo, meanwhile, presumably dusted down his Mother Should Know
suit for his tap-dancing duet with old pal Victor Spinetti: what a damn shame fan club Xmas videos hadn't been invented.
Get Wonderlust for your trousers,
Get Wonderlust for your h-a-a-a-a-i-i-i-r!
Big Mal was never shy of getting in on the act, of course — and at least he didn't have to shovel gravel this time, as he had on the recently recorded though then-unreleased "You Know My Name..."
. Aside from the gravel, the two tracks are actually pretty similar, and equally funny. Maybe they should've had him shoveling snow for the occasion, while Neil was busy skinning up. Ah no, it was Paul who professed to a liking for a bit of snow around that time, wasn't it? John concludes the proceedings wi' a wee receetal o' vairse, o'er the organ strains of "Auld Lang Syne". What was
that obsession with mock-Scots accents back then?!! Both "Strawberry Fields"
and "Two Of Us"
— in demo form — also got the treatment.
And Christmas time is all,
And your bonnie clay us through.
Happy breastling to you people
All out best from me to you.
It was to be the final occasion that Santa Claus's Greetings Cards Club Band or
The Ravellers (for all their jam-jars) would arrive at BBC House, or Abbey Road, or anywhere else for that matter, for a dose of seasonal merry-making. The following festivities, remember, fell during what George described as 'The Winter of Discontent': The post-White
Christmas, with Get Back
to begin the New Year... The remaining two fan club flexis comprised of individually recorded contributions.
In 1970, in the absence of Beatles, let alone any message, the fan club issued the entire collection on LP, as The Beatles' Christmas Album
in America and From Then To You
in the UK. Having been widely bootlegged over the years, as if to excuse its exclusion from Anthology
, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)", in edited form, accompanied "Free As A Bird" on the CD single when it first came
O-U-T spells 'out':
Chri-stmas time is he-re a-gain,
Chri-stmas time is he-re a-gain...