Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Beatles Christmas Album/The Complete Christmas Collection 1963 to 1969 - The Beatles
The Beatles Christmas Album
Apple SBC 100
The Complete Christmas Collection 1963 to 1969
Trade Mark of Quality BCC 104
I was record shopping up in Portland over the holidays and I noticed a new bootleg of the Beatles Christmas album in the bins. It looks like the original except that it is tinted green instead of blue and it is pressed on green vinyl. I was tempted to buy it, but I wasn’t all that happy about the green tint and besides I already have two bootlegs of it. I wish the Beatles would just do a legitimate reissue of it. It has been so extensively bootlegged I don’t see why they don’t reissue it. Admittedly it is not great, but there is more embarrassing stuff on the “Anthology” comps. When I first got into record collecting I used to see the counterfeit copies of it in Berkeley record stores although they looked so convincing that I thought they were legitimate ones. They had hefty price tags and I was poor so I didn’t buy them and eventually they disappeared and were replaced by obvious bootlegs like the one above. That was my first one, it has typically crappy artwork and is an inferior pressing although not bad by bootleg standards. I think mine is actually a bootleg of the TMOQ bootleg since the insert is missing the TMOQ logo that was on the original otherwise identical insert, but it does have the same matrix number. I bought the counterfeit one at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo (well worth checking out if you find yourself in the area.) At first I thought it was real since the cover is pretty nice, it just has slightly more contrast than originals. Looking at the vinyl though, I knew it was a fake. The labels were off-center and slightly blurry, the vinyl was dimpled and the run-off groove lacked the pressing information. It was a little worn, but I bought it anyway because it was cheap and I’ve always regretted not buying it back in Berkeley when I had the chance. I’m never going to pay what an original costs, so it will do. The album basically mirrors the history of the Beatles as a band. It starts out with the zany Fabs, talking Liverpudlian slang and trying to be funny and charming, then it gets psychedelic and obscure, then after the “White Album” the Beatles do their bits separately no longer interacting as a group and John brings in Yoko, ouch. The 1963 segment is my favorite one. The Beatles butcher "Good King Wenceslas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", John indulges in funny word play and the band seems greatly pleased ("dead chuffed") with all their success and express affection towards their fans. It is endearing and charming. 1964's entry is fairly similar. The group again expresses affection towards the fans and there is a lot of humor. The 1965 segment is zanier, less heartfelt but still very appealing. John does a lot of weird voices and shows off his Scottish accent. The segment has a "Goon Show" and "Monty Python" flavor. The Beatles impersonate Barry McGuire singing "Eve of Destruction" and there are some other silly songs, including a sloppy version of "Yesterday" where "yesterday" is replaced with "Christmas day." The segment is lots of fun. 1966 begins with the music hall style song "Everywhere It's Christmas" leading into more funny skits. They are more funny-weird than funny ha-ha. There is no longer any direct address to the fans, it is all performance. It is fascinating to hear the Beatles openly acting, their performances are more elaborate here than in any of their films. 1967 opens with "Christmas Time Is Here Again" which is in the vein of the psychedelic music they recorded for "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour." The skits are even weirder than the ones from the previous year, they border on surrealism and again remind me of "Monty Python" although not as funny. John's Scottish accent makes a welcome reappearance as well. 1968 is fragmented. The Beatles contribute separate segments for the first time. Paul does a Christmas song that sounds like an outtake from the "White Album." John does a dialogue about his relationship with Yoko. George makes a speech thanking the fans, but it is so exaggerated that I suspect sarcasm. He brings out the Beatles long time employee Mal Evans to wish "Merry Christmas children everywhere." Ringo does a dialogue with himself that shows off his acting skills. Then John rattles off some nonsensical wordplay which is followed by George returning to introduce Tiny Tim who performs "Nowhere Man" in his inimitable manner, ugh! 1969 is even worse though, it depresses me. Perceptive fans who listened to this record must have realized the end was near. John chats with Yoko about food and walls. George greets the fans briefly to wish them a merry Christmas. Like the previous year, Paul improvises a little Christmas song and briefly wishes the fans a happy Christmas. It is then the return of the John and Yoko show as they discuss the upcoming new decade and improvise some Christmas music interrupted by a segment of Ringo plugging "The Magic Christian" movie and then they return to discuss John's Christmas list. The segment ends with Ringo laughing and I imagine the fans scratching their heads wondering what's so funny. If you are a Beatles fan this is a fascinating album, but I imagine non-fans would find it tedious. I like to pull it out at Christmas and give it a spin, but otherwise I rarely play it. Recommended to fans of the Beatles' movies.