The Beatles' Christmas Album (released as From Then to You in the UK), was a 1970 compilation album of the Christmas records issued via the Beatles' Fan Club—and made available solely to members of their official fan clubs in the UK and the US.
Each year from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles had recorded a short Christmas message for their fans, composed of carols, skits, jokes, and thanks to the loyal "Beatle People". Each recording was pressed onto a 7" flexi disc and mailed free to the British members of the Fan Club. In 1970, in the wake of the band's break-up, Apple released the compilation of all seven.
"The Beatles' Christmas Record" – 5:08
"Another Beatles Christmas Record" – 4:02
"The Beatles' Third Christmas Record" – 6:27
"The Beatles' Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas" – 6:43
"Christmas Time is Here Again!" – 6:11
"The Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record" – 7:53
"The Beatles' Seventh Christmas Record" – 7:39
The original flexi discs
1963: The Beatles Christmas Record
Recorded: 17 October 1963
Released: 6 December 1963
Total time: 5:08
The first Christmas recording from the Beatles featured several renditions of the traditional carol "Good King Wenceslas" and individual messages from the four, ending with a closing chorus of "Ricky the Red-Nosed Ringo". This offering, as well as 1964's, appears to be largely scripted. An edited version of this recording was sent to members of the Beatles' American fan club in December 1964. The recording was also included as an unlockable bonus in the video game The Beatles: Rock Band and was made available as a free download from the iTunes Music Store between 23 December 2010, and 9 January 2011.
1964: Another Beatles Christmas Record
Recorded: 26 October 1964
Released: 18 December 1964
Total time: 4:02
The song "Jingle Bells" is sung, followed by individual messages to the fans. John mocks the prepared statement doing an imitation of Paul Harvey and includes his own pseudo-words and ad-libbing. When Paul asks him if he wrote this himself, he says, "No it's somebody bad hand-wroter. It's been a busy year Beople peadles one way and another but it's been a great year too. You fans have seen to that. Page two... Thanks a lot folks and a happy-er Christmas and a Merry Grew Year. Crimble maybe." (The statement is apparently handwritten as at various points in the recording, Paul reads "making them" as "melting them" before correcting himself and George reads "quite a time" as "quiet time" before correcting himself with "great time" as well.) Finishing up the record is a brief rendition of the traditional song "Oh Can You Wash Your Father's Shirt?"
Another Beatles' Christmas Record was not sent to American fans. Rather, at Christmastime 1964, US fans received an edited version of The Beatles' Christmas Record, which was sent to British fan club members in 1963. Also, as opposed to using flexi-discs, the US fan club sent the message in a tri-fold cardboard mailer, with the "record" embedded in one of the flaps of cardboard.
1965: The Beatles' Third Christmas Record
Recorded: 8 November 1965
Released: 17 December 1965
Total time: 6:27
Several off-key, a cappella versions of "Yesterday" are dispersed throughout the record, alongside Lennon's "Happy Christmas to Ya List'nas", "Auld Lang Syne", a one-and-a-half-line version of the Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song", which they quickly stop before they violate the copyright, and an original poem titled "Christmas Comes But Once a Year".
Members of the Beatles' US fan club did not receive this (or any) Christmas flexi-disc in 1965. Rather, they received a black and white postcard, with a photo of the Fab Four and the message "Season's Greetings – Paul, Ringo, George, John." The Beatle Bulletin, the publication of the US fan club, explained in its April 1966 edition that the tape arrived too late to prepare the record in time for Christmas.
1966: The Beatles' Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas
Recorded: 25 November 1966
Released: 16 December 1966
Total time: 6:43
A disjointed collection of original songs and dramatic skits are featured in the 1966 offering. The songs include "Everywhere It's Christmas", "Orowainya", and "Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back." The sketches performed include "Podgy the Bear and Jasper" and "Felpin Mansions."
Once again, the US fan club members did not get a flexi-disc. Instead, they received a postcard with the message on one side and a short version of The Beatle Bulletin on the other, with enough room for a mailing label and postage.
1967: Christmas Time is Here Again!
Recorded: 28 November 1967
Released: 15 December 1967
Total time: 6:11
An elaborate production, Christmas Time is Here Again! was developed around the concept of several groups auditioning for a BBC radio show. The title song serves as a refrain throughout the record. The Beatles portray a multitude of characters, including game show contestants, aspiring musicians ("Plenty of Jam Jars", by the Ravellers), and actors in a radio drama ("Theatre Hour"). At the end John reads a poem, "When Christmas Time Is Over." This offering was likely a deliberate homage to/continuation of the broadly similar "Craig Torso" specials produced for BBC Radio 1 that same year by the Beatles' friends and collaborators the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and also shares much in common with their then-unreleased track "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", recorded six months previously.
While British fans received a flexi-disc in an elaborate sleeve, American fans received a postcard similar to that of 1966.
1968: The Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record
Recorded: Separately, November–December 1968
Released: 20 December 1968
Total time: 7:53
The first Beatles Christmas fan club disc to be recorded separately, the 1968 offering is a collage of odd noises, musical snippets, and individual messages. McCartney's song "Happy Christmas, Happy New Year" is featured, along with John's poems "Jock and Yono" and "Once Upon a Pool Table." Also notable is a rendition of "Nowhere Man" by the ukulele-playing Tiny Tim. Also included is a sped-up snippet of the Beatles' own "Helter Skelter" and a brief snippet of Perrey & Kingsley's "Baroque Hoedown" which was used three years later in Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "Birthday" are also heard in the background for part of the message.The dialogue and songs for the flexi-disc were organised and edited together by Kenny Everett.
Finally, the US fans got a flexi-disc for Christmas in 1968, but it came in a modified version of the 1967 UK sleeve.
1969: The Beatles' Seventh Christmas Record
Recorded: Separately, November–December 1969
Released: 19 December 1969
Total time: 7:39
The final Beatles Christmas offering was also recorded separately, as the band were crumbling at this point. It features an extensive visit with John and Yoko at their Tittenhurst Park estate, where they play "what will Santa bring me?" games. Harrison only appears briefly, and Starr only shows up to plug his recent film, The Magic Christian. Paul sings his original ad-lib, "This is to Wish You a Merry, Merry Christmas." Starting at 1:30, at the tail-end of Ringo's song, the guitar solos from "The End" are heard, followed by Yoko interviewing John.
For the only time, the American and British jackets were identical. The US version of the flexi-disc had an elaborate drawing of the Beatles' faces on it.
1970 album and aftermath
The Beatles' Christmas Album was most likely sent to US fan club members in the spring of 1971. Though it served to remind fan-club members that the Beatles were no more, it had the advantage of much better sound quality than the old flexi-discs, though both the UK and US copies of the album were mastered from copies of the original flexi-discs, not original tapes. it was the first time the 1964 and 1965 messages were available in America. Not long after the album was issued, numerous counterfeits and bootlegs appeared on the market, which continue to circulate to this day.
In December 1982, two albums claiming to comprise a legitimate release of the Beatles' Christmas messages appeared on the US market. One of them, which contained the 1963 through 1966 holiday records, was called Christmas Reflections, on a label called Desert Vibrations Heritage Series (HSRD-SP1). The other, with the 1967 through 1969 messages, was called Happy Michaelmas and was on a label called The Adirondack Group (AG-8146). Less than a year later, on 29 September 1983, an entrepreneur announced that he was going to issue all seven messages on one record, which he planned to call John, Paul, George and Ringo. The Beatles' representatives quickly sued, claiming copyright and trademark violations, and won in court. As a result, the 1983 album was never released, and the two 1982 LPs were withdrawn.
Very little of the Beatles' Christmas messages were released to the general public outside the fan club. An edited and abridged version of the 1963 single appeared as unlockable bonus content in The Beatles: Rock Band video game. Dialogue from the 1965 and 1966 recordings were featured as the tail-end of the 2006 compilation, Love. After the final number, "All You Need Is Love", has ended, the listener is then treated to the non-sensical ad-libs from the group that appeared at the end of the 1966 flexi-disc. Mere seconds later, this is merged into the final moments from the 1967 flexi-disc, complete with Paul's ad-lib line, "Jolly Good". The first three minutes of the music bed of the 1967 single, with greetings recorded for the 1966 single superimposed during the final minute, under the name "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)". It was issued as one of the B-sides of the "Free as a Bird" single in December 1995.
Ringo Starr recorded his own cover of "Christmas Time Is Here Again" on his 1999 Christmas album, I Wanna Be Santa Claus.