Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Christmas 1969

The final Christmas flexi recorded by The Beatles for the their Fan Club was released in the UK on December 19 1969. The official title of the flexi is: "The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record" and the sub-title being "Happy Christmas 1969". The catalogue number for this particular release is LYN 1970/71.

The flexi was released once again in a cardboard sleeve (no newsletter once again) with a front cover design photograph credited to Ringo Starr under his proper name Richard Starkey and shows a blurry, psychedelic style photo with yellow, orange and green. The back cover of the release is credted to Ringo's son Zak under hi s propr name Zak Starkey and is a hand drawing of various people of various sizes along with a tree and leaves. A little kid's drawing, if you wish. Also on the back of the cover is the Beatles Fan Club logo, the sub-title "Happy Christmas 1969" in a pinkish colour, the "not for public sale" disclaimer underneath in a box, the Beatles Fan Club address and finally the record speed "33 and 1/3". The cover was manufacted by West Brothers Printers of London.

Like the previous flexi, the label writings are etched directly onto the flexi with the Fan Club logo at the top and above the playhole, the record speed and "Play first this side, then turn over for part 2" below it. On the right hand side of the playhole is the "not for sale" disclaimer. Underneath the playhole is the title: "The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record", under that the fact that The Beatles record exclusively for the Apple label distributed by EMI Records and Lyntone Recordings, side numbers followed by the catalogue number. This is a two sided flexi due to the length of the message(s).

For the second time, this flexi was recorded in various locations by the individual members of the group. By late 1969, the Beatles were basically a non-working group. John and Yoko recorded their message in Ascot, Paul recorded his at his home in St. John Wood on Cavendish Ave., George recorded his message at Apple in London on Savile Row and Ringo recorded his message in Weybridge, Surrey. The entire project was edited and "produced" and credited to Maurice Cole (which is Kenny Everett's real name) who also did the same for the previous year's recording. The recording dates and editing dates are unknown to me.

In the USA, the Beatles' Fan Club used the same cardboard cover as their UK counterparts. In fact, the covers were imported from the UK to use for the American versions. The flexi's, however are quite different.

The flexi's have the label etched directly onto the flexi like the UK version. The label features a drawing of the Beatles' faces (as they looked in 1969) for the top half of the label. The bottom half of the label has the following text: "H-2455", "1969 Side One 33 1/3". The disclaimer is underneath and finally the bottom perimeter print reads: "Product of Americom Corp. NYC. Made in USA".

The tracklisting for this recording is as follows: Side one contains "Happy Christmas (Ringo)", "John and Yoko Talking", "Wonderful Christmas (George)", "Ringo Talking", "Link: The End", "John and Yoo Talking some more", "This is to Wish You All a Merry, Merry Christmas (Paul)", "Paul Talking", "This is to Wish You All a Merry, Merry Christmas (Reprise - Paul)". Side two contains: "John and Yoko Talking even more", "Happy Christmas (John/Yoko)", "Happy Christmas/Magic Christian (Ringo)", "Ringo Talking", "John and Yoko Talking".

It's interesting to note that the entire flexi recording lasts over seven minutes and a half with most of the messages by John and Yoko. In fact, this flexi is basically a John and Yoko recording as Paul's message is less than a minute and a half, Ringo contributes less than a minute of chat and George graces us with his voice for only twenty seconds.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Christmas 1968 - The Beatles Sixth Christmas Record

The Beatles Sixth Christmas record sub-titled "Christmas 1968" was released in the UK on or about December 20 1968. The catalogue number for this Fan Club flexi is LYN 1743/1744. Once again the flexi was manufactured by Lyntone.

The cardboard front cover of this release features the head and body of a woman in white, blue and red psychedelic colours. There is a white sideboard and the title of the flexi is in capital letters in blue at the bottom right of the front cover. The back cover also has a white, blue and red design and is in a more paisley design. The Fan Club logo is to the right and also includes the title as "The Beatles Sixth Christmas Record" with the sub-title "Christmas 1968" highlighted in red underneath. The record speed is present "33 1/3" with the liner notes appearing underneath. The notes give credit to the locations of the recordings for the individual members of the band (this being the first time that the flexi was not specifically recorded by all band members in the same location at the same time). John and Paul had recorded on their own at their homes, George Harrison recording from Los Angeles in the United States where he was also producing some music for Jackie Lomax of Apple Records. Ringo contributed his recording from his home in Surrey. All of the tapes were given to Kenny Everett who ended up editing and producing the flexi. It was the first year that George Martin did not get the production credit.

In the United States, the Fan Club Beatles (USA) Ltd. issued the flexi in a cardboard cover featuring the front cover and back cover to the Beatles earlier 1967 Christmas flexi with modification to the back cover changing the year 1967 to 1968 and eliminating some of the text. The cover was imported to the USA from the UK.

The flexis for this year were double sided due to the time of the recordings and this is why the UK catalogue number has double numbering. Side on and side two if you like. For the year 1968, the silver lettering was printed directly onto the flexi. The Fan Club logo at the top, the speed of the record at the left (33 1/3) with "Play first this side, then turn over for part 2". The "not for sale" disclaimer is on the right of the playhole. The title and the statement: "The Beatles record exclusively for the Apple label distributed by EMI Records" are underneath the playhole along with the catalogue number. In the USA, the double sided flexi has a drawing of the Fabs as they appeared during the year 1968 along with "side 1" and the record speed "33 1/3" to the right under the playhole. The disclaimer and "Side 2 on other side" appear together. Perimeter print state "Product of Americom Corp. NYC. Made in USA".

The tracklisting for this flexi is as follows: Side 1: "Ringo/Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", "Happy Christmas, Happy New Year (Paul)", Link Helter Skelter", "Jock and Yono (John/Yoko)", "Link", "George from America (George and Mal Evans)". Side two: "Ringo Starr", "Introduction/Ringo", "Happy Christmas, Happy New Year (reprise - Paul)", "Once Upon a Pool Table (John and Yoko)", "George and Tiny Tim", "Nowhere Man (Tiny Tim)", "Ending".

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Christmas Time (Is Here Again) - The Beatles Fifth Christmas Record

The Beatles Fifth (in the UK) Christmas flexi was released by the Official Fan Club on or about December 15 1967. This was once again manufactured by Lyntone and the catalogue number for this release is LYN 1360. Once again this flexi contained skits and pantomimes rather than the earlier vocal "messages" from previous years.

The UK release came once again with a cardboard cover and included a paper National Newsletter. The cardboard cover had the front designed by John Lennon and Ringo Starr and it features a collage of sorts with sunflowers and various antique type portraits of people. There is no writings on the front cardboard cover. The back of the cover is designed by Julian Lennon and features one of his drawings on the left side of the cover and the text information is to the right side. The text features the Fan Club logo, the title of the recording, the record speed (33 1/3) and "starring The Original Beatles". Credits are given to Victor Spinetti (who sang on the title song) and Mal Evans. A credit is also given to producer George Martin. The cover design credit is given, the disclaimer and finally the Fan Club address is at the bottom of the back cover.

The National Newsletter somewhat describes the contents of the recordings as well as the voices used for it. It also describes the tone-arm pressure of your turntable (haha) and it promotes "The Beatles Monthly" book. It is signed by Freda Kelly - Fan Club Secratary. The back of the newsletter features a caricature of the Beatles by Bob Gibson (the same guy who did the "Magical Mystery" drawings). It shows Paul as Santa, George as a Jack-In-A-Box, Ringo as a little drummer boy and John as a Teddy Bear. Mr. Gibson also added a Walrus at the bottom right hand corner.

The label for the flexi features a white background with red lettering. The Beatles Fan Club logo is at the top, the record speed (33 1/3) is at the left hand side of the playhole, the "not for sale" print is at the right hand side and below is the title, the blurb "The Beatles record exclusively for the Parlophone label" and finally the catalogue number is at the bottom.

This particular flexi was released as one sided. The whole recording lasting slightly a few seconds over six minutes. The tracklisting is as follows: "Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (Intro John, all singing)", The Boys arrive At BBC House (BBC Wise One/ Victor Spinetti)", "An Audition (John)", "Tap Dancing (Ringo/Victor Spinetti)", "Are You 13 Amp (Mal Evans)", "Get One of Those For Your Trousers (John)", "Sir Gerald" (Paul/John)", "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)", "Onto The Next Round and Intro (George)", "Plenty of Jam Jars", "Quiz Show (John/ George)", "Get One of Those For Your Trousers", "Theatre Hour (Ringo)", "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)", "They'd Like To Thank You (George Martin/All)", "When Christmas Time is O'er (George Martin/ Paul/ John)".

In the United States, the recording was also released to the Fan Club. Beatles (USA) Ltd. sent a large square postcard to it's members with one side vinyl coated ( as is the case with the previous year ) (see previous post). On one side of the postcard is the "Beatles Bulletin" which discusses the Christmas recording (mentioning the special guests) as well as discussing the newest Beatles project: "Magical Mystery Tour" and the Beatles appearence on "Our World". The bulletin is signed by Francis Firius and Sue Clark. The right side of the postcard features the blurb "Third Class Mail" and room for the postage and member's address.

The other side of the postcard carries the recording and has a large center type "Label" which is similar to the previous year's design with "Season's Greetings" in script and "From The Beatles" in upper case underneath the script. The year of issue is not on the label in contrast with the previous year's release. The record speed (33 1/3 rpm) and disclaimer are below the playhole.

The recording of the 1967 Christmas flexi was conducted on Tuesday November 28 1967 at EMI studio Three between 6 PM and 2:45 AM. It was produced by George Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick and Richard Lush. The title song was recorded first in one take with Paul on Piano, George on acoustic, Ringo on drums and John on tympani. The vocals are credited to all four Beatles, Victor Spinetti and George Martin. The song is written by all four Beatles. After this take, the skit performances were recording between one to ten takes. The whole project was also mixed for mono at this same evening session.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas - The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record

The Beatles' Fourth Fan Club flexi was released in the UK on or about December 16 1966. Once again, the flexi was made by the Lyntone company in the UK. The catalogue number for this release is LYN 1145. This particular release contained a different idea format from the Beatles as they were entering their most creative and psychedelic phase.

As with the previous couple of flexis, this Fan Club release came with a cardboard cover/sleeve and included the Beatles Fan Club National Newsletter explaining the details of the Christmas recording.

The front of the colorful cardboard cover has a design by Paul McCartney with the word "Pantomime" in big red letters and yellow-gold bubbles surrounding the title. The sub-title is: "Everywhere It's Christmas" and this is written underneath the title contains in a drawed balloon surrounded by blue and red and black lines. The back of the cover has the official Beatles Fan Club logo and name and "The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record" in red underneath. The record speed (33 1/3) and the title logo follow; the sub-title and track listing underneath. The "not for sale" blurb is in red. This is followed by the George Martin credit and the fact that the Beatles record exclusiely for the Parlophone label. Lastly, the Fan club address is written at the bottom of the cover in black.

The newsletter folds open with the logo of the Fan club on the left, the Fan Club address underneath, followed by "National Newsletter" and "Christmas 1966". The text follows describing the session for this flexi and continues on the right with the signatures of the two fan club secretaries: Anne Collingham and Freda Kelly. At the bottom of the newsletter are the lyrics for the tracks "Please Don't Bring Your Bango Back" and "Everywhere It's Christmas".

The label for this flexi has the Fan Club logo at the top; the speed of the flexi on the left of the playhole (33 1/3); the "not for sale" blurb to the right of the playhole. The large title and sub-title is underneath along with "The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record" in smaller lettering. Thisis followed by the words: "The Beatles record exclusively for the Parlophone Label" and "Lyntone Recordings" and the catalogue number. The label is gold with a white background. The perimeter print has the "all rights reserved" statement.

This flexi contained two sides rather than the previous one-sided disc. Side A tracklisting is as follows: "Everywhere It's Christmas (all)", "Orowayna (Corsican Choir and Small Choir) (Intro/Paul/ All singing)", "A Rare Cheese (Two Elderly Scotsmen) (Intro/Ringo, George and John)", "The Feast (all)", "The Loyal Toast (Intro/George/ Toast/Ringo)". Side B tracklisting is as follows: "Podgy The Bear And Jasper (Intro/Paul, Podgy/John, Jasper/George)", "Felpin Mansions- Part One (Count Balder and Butler) (The Count-John, Butler-Ringo)", "Felpin Mansions - Part Two (The Count and the Pianist)", "Song: Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back (Paul, all)", "Mal: Everywhere It's Christmas" and "Reprise: Everywhere It's Christmas (all)".

In the US, the American Fan club also released a flexi containing the same material. The Beatles (USA) Ltd. sent the Fan Club members a seven by eight and a half postcard with the vinyl section of the message coated on one side and the text and address on the other side. The text side has the "Beatles Bulletin" on the left side of the postcard and also contains the lyrics for both "Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back" and "Everywhere It's Christmas". The right side of the postcard leaves space for the member's address and postage as well as having the words "Phonograph Record" in script and underneath having the words "Handle with care" in upper letters. The other side of the postcard is the actual recording with a middle section (label) that has the year, "Season's Greetings" in script and "from The Beatles" written just above the playhole. The record speed is 33 1/3 and is written just underneath the playhole. The "all right" information and "Made in USA" appear in smaller type at the bottom of the label. The label is black and silver.

The recording of this Christmas record was conducted on Friday November 25 1966 at a studio in a basement below the London location of the Dick James Music office at Dick James House located on New Oxford Street. The times of completion and number of takes have not been recorded, but it is known that George Martin produced the record. It is also stated in the Fan Club newsletter that Brian Epstein was present as well as Neil Aspinall and the Fan Club secretaries. There was a closed circuit television that went from the studio into the control room at the other end of the corridor, according to the newsletter.

Everywhere It's Christmas - Come and join the FUN !!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Beatles Third Christmas Record

The Beatles released the third Christmas message for their Fan club in the UK on or about December 17 1965. Once again the manufactured flexi was by Lyntone. This 1965 Christmas message was only released in the UK but not in the United States as it was explained that the "tape had arrived too late" for inclusion. The catalogue number for this flexi is LYN 948.

The flexi is housed in a cardboard cover with the Fan Club newsletter folded and housed within the sleeve. The front of the cardboard cover has a photo of the Beatles (black and white) from the Granada Television Special "The Music of Lennon and McCartney". It features a shot of the group from above looking down with the Beatles holding their instruments getting ready to mime to their latest single "Day Tripper". This photo was taken during the first days of November 1965. The Fan Club logo and the record speed (33 RPM) are indicated at the top of the front cover. The flexi title is featured in blue along the bottom of the photo. The back cover has the title at the top once again in blue and includes liner notes by Tony Barrow. A disclaimer of promotion is in a box at the top as well. In a box written in blue near the bottom of the back cover, the Fan Club (Anne Collingham) thanks EMI and George Martin for the production of the disc. It also states that the Beatles record exclusively for the Parlophone label. At the bottom of the back cover is the issue date, the photo credit going to Robert Whitaker, the Fan club address and the printer's credit going to MacNeill Press, Ltd. London.

The front of the newsletter has the Fan club logo at the top of the page along with the Fan Club address once again. The text contiains Christmas greetings from the Fan Club secretaries, a "year in review" and praise for the new LP "Rubber Soul". It is signed by Anne Collingham. The back features a black and white photo of the Fabs with Ringo and Paul sitting in a stoll, John above them and George sitting at their feet. The inside fold features the script "Happy Christmas Beatle People!" with four individual face photos of the group and seasonal hats drawn on with first name signatures and snowflakes etc.

The label this time is white with gold print. The label features are the same as previous years (see previous postings) with the exception of the record speed being 33 RPM and the title in gold below the playhole. This is a one sided flexi.

The tracklisting for this flexi is as follows: "Yesterday (out of tune)", "All Talking", "Happy Christmas (John)", "Auld Lang Syne (All)", "All Talking", "Same old Song (John)", "All Talking", "Auld Lang Syne (John)", "All Talking".

The recording of the 1965 Christmas message occurred at EMI studio two on Monday November 08 1965 between 09:00 PM and 03:00 AM. Various speech was recorded throughout the session with a proper three takes completed early in the morning. Editing consisted of three attempts the next day on November 09 1965 at Room 65 of EMI Studios and the mono mix was also completed at this session. The production credit goes to George Martin.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Beatles Christmas Record

The second Beatles Christmas flexi was released in the UK on December 18 1964. The flexi was manufactured by Lyntone and issued within a cardboard cover with the Fan Club newsletter included (National newsletter No. 4 Christmas 1964). The paper material was supplied by MacNeill Press Ltd, London. The catalogue number for this issue is LYN 757.

The front cover of the flexi shows a photo of the Beatles with the fan club logo above them, the record speed (45 rpm as opposed to the previous year's 33 rpm) and the title in red. The back cover has the title in red once again and liner notes written by Tony Barrow.

The folded paper newsletter consists of a photo of the Beatles with Ringo sitting on a stool with their first names on the left and the message "Merry Christmas" coming out of John's mouth in cartoon balloon type print. The back has a photo from the same session. The inside of the newsletter contains the text of the letter with the Beatles Fan Club logo above it. Lastly, the opposing page has four individual photos of the Beatles from a recording session (unknown which session). These photos seem to be from the same session as the ones on the back of the US "Beatles VI" LP. I'm assuming they were taken during the "Beatles For Sale" sessions.

The flexi has the same label as the previous year with the exception of the print being in red rather than blue and the record speed changing from 33 to 45 rpm. (See previous post for label details).

The flexi is one sided and the tracklisting is as follows: "Jingle Bells", "Paul Talking", "John Talking", "George Talking", "Ringo Talking", "Can you Wash Your Father's Shirts", "Happy Christmas". The entire message was recorded on Monday October 26 1964 at EMI studio two. It took five takes to record and the editing was also done at this session. Also recorded on this day were the songs "Honey Don't" and "What You're Doing"(remake). Some mono and stereo mixing for the "Beatles For Sale" material was also completed at this session (see details for the individual songs in my previous posts).

In the USA, 1964 was definitely the year of the Beatles conquest in that country. The USA also had a Fan Club entitled "Beatles (USA) Ltd." This Fan Club issued a flexi to it's members in December 1964 (detailed date unknown). The flexi package was constructed by Allied Creative Service, Inc. from New York. The package contained a tri-folded mail out which included "The Beatle Bulletin". The mailer has the title "The Beatles Bulletin" as the title with a large blurb screaming: "Christmas Issue" and the date December 1964. The bottom has a place for the Fan Club member's address to be attached. There is also the photo of the Beatles with Ringo sitting on the stool similar to the UK issue (although it's cropped). The text of the "Bulletin is written by Lynn Hargrave and Bernice Young and also promotes the Brian Epstein Fan club within the text. Another section promotes the Fan club Fact Sheet as well as a blurb for Pen Pals. The next section features the words: "Seasons' greetings from the Beatles" with four individual photos taken from the same session as the back cover of "Beatles VI" and during recording for "Beatles For Sale" at EMI studio two. Finally, the flexi itself has the year 1964 at the top and "Seasons' Greetings from the Beatles" once again. The record speed is also on the label as 33 rpm. A banner states "The Official Beatles Fan Club" and the printer's address at the bottom right.

The material on the USA flexi is actually the UK 1963 message !!! (See previous post for tracklisting). All recorded Christmas messages for 1963 and 1964 were produced by George Martin.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Beatles Christmas Record

Between the years 1963 and 1969, The Beatles started a Christmas tradition of sending the members of their Fan Club a special recording of Christmas messages as a gift (as long as you were paid up with your Fan Club subscription !). The recordings were usually voice messages at first, but as the years progressed more and more music was used in the recordings. The Christmas messages were the brain child of Tony Barrow (the Beatles' publicist at the time) who thought that these messages would appease the Fan Club members as a "thank you" to their loyalty.

The first Christmas message recording was mailed out in the UK only to Fan Club members on either December 06 or December 09 1963. The title of the disc was "The Beatles Christmas Record". This issue was released as a flexi disc and manufactured by Lyntone recordings. The catalogue number is LYN 492. It is a one-sided flexi.

The flexi was housed in a yellow paper sleeve which folded out and included the "National Newsletter". The front of the sleeve has the four Beatle faces in each corner along with the words: "Sincere Good Wishes for Christmas and the New Year from (in script) John, Paul, George, Ringo". The UK Fan Club logo is at the bottom. The "National Newsletter" is enclosed within the gatefold along with the logo at the top and an insert that reads "Here's your free copy of The Beatles Christmas Record" - as well as the 33 1/3 instructional speed for your turntable. The back cover features two photos: the top photo features the Beatles with the Fan Club secretaries Bettina Rose and Anne Collingham while the bottom photo shows the Beatles meeting the Queen Mother at the Royal Variety Show on November 04 1963.

The flexi is black with a white and blue label that shows the Fan club logo at the top, the flexi speed, the disclaimer "Not for sale. Issued free of charge to Fan Club members in December 1963". Another disclaimer: "The Beatles record exclusively for the Parlophone label". At the bottom is the words "Lyntone Recordings" and the catalogue number. Lastly there is perimeter print around the label which reads: "Unauthorized Public performance, broadcasting and copying of this record prohibited. Made in Great Britain. All rights of the manufacturer and of the owner of the recorded work reserved.

The Christmas message was recorded at EMI studio two on October 17 1963 between 07:00 and 10:00 PM (number of takes unknown). Although they were provided a script, some improvisation was also conducted during the message. The tracklisting breaks down as follows: "Good King Wenceslas/ John Talking/ Paul Talking/ Good King Wenceslas (John)/ Ringo Talking/ Good King Wenceslas (Ringo)/ George Talking/ Good King Wenceslas (George)/ Rudloph the Red Nosed Ringo." All flexi discs are mono.