1964 was horrendous. The Beatles made a major motion picture, starred on numerous television specials, gave countless interviews, recorded two phenomenal LP’s, toured Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, returned to Liverpool for a glorious movie fête, completed a 34-day North American Tour, touched each corner of the UK in their Autumn Tour, and appeared on tons of radio shows. And as for John – well, he’d also published and promoted his first book, In His Own Write. Truly, it was a schedule that no one would have believed possible, had The Beatles not actually accomplished it!
However, when October rolled around and the question arose of whether or not they should record their second annual Christmas record for the Fan Club, The Beatles were solidly on board. In fact, during the recording sessions for Beatles for Sale, they enthusiastically began work on the rare, collectible holiday flexi-disc that would be shipped to British Fan Club members only. (The American Fan Club would receive a less durable cardboard version.)
The boys realized that Brian had never approved of this project. In 1963, he’d fervidly protested to Tony Barrow that The Beatles had far too much to do to add a frivolous Christmas disc to their diaries. He’d felt the record a distraction from “business as usual” and tried to halt to it. But John, Paul, George, and Ringo had been adamant. They wanted to share Christmas with those who loved them.
Well, of course, all of the boys had been reared in the church. John, at one point, had been an altar server, and Paul had sung in the choir. However, throughout the 1964 North American Tour, the boys had been boldly professing that they were agnostic. Of course, there was as much “Maybe so…” as there was “Maybe not…” in the agnostic belief system, and perhaps that slim glimmer of faith inspired a certain devotion to the holiday. Or…perhaps the boys simply found this happy, celebration-filled season an apt occasion for wishing “good will toward men (and women).”
Whatever their motivation, The Beatles – despite an unbearable work schedule – found time to do something special for others during the holidays. They found a way.
To listen to what they had to say on the 1964 disc, tune in here:
Without shirking, each Beatle speaks. You hear (despite the script – John makes it clear that he’s reading prepared notes) their individual personalities and their unique takes on humor. Without skimping, the boys give the rarest gift of all: their time.
About a month ago, I pronounced that with Volume 4 in The John Lennon Series pressing down upon me and with a ton of research left to complete, I just couldn’t send out Christmas cards this year. I told my daughter-in-law that this one time, I simply couldn’t shop and wrap presents; I suggested that we’d hit the stores after Christmas and call it a day! I delayed hosting my husband’s office Christmas party until the book was complete. I pushed everything aside to do my work.
Then, my Lennon research led me to 26 October, 1964…the day The Beatles devoted precious EMI studio time to creating their treasured holiday record. And, the scene of those four boys standing together – laughing, singing, and finding joy in “the frivolous distraction” of Christmas cheer – stopped me dead in my tracks. I had become a Scrooge! Maybe you have, too.
Are we grumbling about the “responsibilities” of Christmas instead of reveling in making others smile? Are we irritated about the interruption of our work to spread the joy of the season? Are we “Bah Humbugging” our way through December instead of reaching out in love to those around us?
My schedule, I now realize, isn’t half as hectic as the 1964 schedule The Beatles endured. And yet, they found a way to sing silly carols, shout “Merry Crimble” and “Happy New Year” and foreshadow their belief in “love, love, love.” Once again, John, Paul, George, and Ringo have taught me how I should behave. We all need time for Christmas. Every one.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com