Listen to the Beatles’ Holiday Messages to Fans: Seven Vintage Recordings from 1963 to 1969


Every year from 1963 to 1969, the Bea­t­les record­ed a spe­cial Christ­mas greet­ing to their fans. It start­ed when “Beat­le­ma­nia” took off and the band found itself unable to answer all the fan mail.  “I’d love to reply per­son­al­ly to every­one,” says Lennon in the 1963 mes­sage, “but I just haven’t enough pens.” The first mes­sage was intend­ed to make their most loy­al fans feel appre­ci­at­ed. Like those that fol­lowed, the 1963 mes­sage was mailed as a paper-thin vinyl “flexi disc” to mem­bers of the Bea­t­les fan club. The record­ing fea­tures the Bea­t­les’ trade­mark wit and whim­sy, with a cho­rus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Ringo” and a ver­sion of “Good King Wences­las” that refers to Bet­ty Grable. It was made on Octo­ber 17, 1963 at Abbey Road Stu­dios, just after the band record­ed “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1963 Mes­sage


The band record­ed their next hol­i­day greet­ing, Anoth­er Bea­t­les Christ­mas Record, on Octo­ber 26, 1964, the same day they record­ed the song “Hon­ey Don’t.” Lennon’s rebel­lious nature begins to show, as he pokes fun at the pre­pared script: “It’s some­body’s bad hand wrot­er.”

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1964 Mes­sage


Record­ed on Novem­ber 8, 1965 dur­ing the Rub­ber Soul ses­sions at Abbey Road, the 1965 mes­sage fea­tures a re-work­ing of “Yes­ter­day,” with the refrain “Oh I believe on Christ­mas Day.” The band’s gift for free-asso­ci­a­tion­al role play­ing is becom­ing more appar­ent. One piece of dia­logue near the end was even­tu­al­ly re-used by pro­duc­er George Mar­tin and his son Giles at the end of the re-mixed ver­sion of “All You Need is Love” on the 2006 album Love: “All right put the lights off. This is John­ny Rhythm say­ing good night to you all and God Bless­es.”

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1965 Mes­sage


You can sense the band’s cre­ative pow­ers grow­ing in the 1966 mes­sage, Pan­tomime: Every­where It’s Christ­mas. The record­ing was made at Abbey Road on Novem­ber 25, 1966, dur­ing a break from work­ing on “Straw­ber­ry Fields For­ev­er.” The Bea­t­les were just begin­ning work on Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Heart’s Club Band. Instead of sim­ply thank­ing their fans and recount­ing the events of the year, the Bea­t­les use sound effects and dia­logue to cre­ate a vaude­ville play based around a song that goes, “Every­where it’s Christ­mas, at the end of every year.” Paul McCart­ney designed the cov­er.

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1966 Mes­sage


This was the last Christ­mas mes­sage record­ed by the Bea­t­les all togeth­er in one place. Titled Christ­mas Time (Is Here Again), it reveals the group’s con­tin­u­ing exper­i­men­ta­tion with sound effects and sto­ry­telling. The sce­nario, writ­ten by the band ear­li­er on the day it was record­ed (Novem­ber 28, 1967), is about a group of peo­ple audi­tion­ing for a BBC radio play. Lennon and Ringo Starr designed the cov­er.

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1967 Mes­sage


By the Christ­mas sea­son of 1968, rela­tions with­in the Bea­t­les were becom­ing strained. The hol­i­day mes­sage was pro­duced around the time the “White Album” was released, in Novem­ber of 1968. The four mem­bers’ voic­es were record­ed sep­a­rate­ly, in var­i­ous loca­tions. There’s plen­ty of self-mock­ery. Per­haps the most strik­ing moment comes when the Amer­i­can singer Tiny Tim (invit­ed by George Har­ri­son) strums a ukulele and sings “Nowhere Man” in a high falset­to.

 Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1968 Mes­sage


The Bea­t­les were in the process of break­ing up when they record­ed (sep­a­rate­ly) their final Christ­mas mes­sage in Novem­ber and Decem­ber of 1969. A cou­ple of months ear­li­er, just before the release of Abbey Road, Lennon had announced to the oth­ers that he was leav­ing the group. Yoko Ono appears promi­nent­ly on the record­ing, singing and talk­ing with Lennon about peace. Fit­ting­ly, the 1969 mes­sage incor­po­rates a snip­pet from the Abbey Road record­ing of “The End.”

Lis­ten to the Bea­t­les’ 1969 Mes­sage

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  • Read says:

    This is what you hear at the end of the 1965 record,: “ok, put the red light off…This is John­ny Rhythm just sayin’ good night to yuz all and God bless yuz!” “Yuz” is the 2nd per­son plur­al of “you” in British dialect , the equiv­a­lent of “y’all” in Amer­i­can South­ern dialect, or “youse” in New York/New Jer­sey.

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