Why there’s no ‘official’ Beatles Christmas song
Edgar Cruz (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Beatles songs are not beyond dealing with ordinary themes.

Out of the 213 songs officially released in the United Kingdom during the Beatles’ lifespan, 163 — or about three-fourths of the band’s total song output — are about love: Romantic love, illicit love, gay love, kindred love, materialistic love, universal love, love for music and love for animals, practically all permutations of normal and sometimes aberrant love.

What’s more humdrum than love? So it becomes baffling how the moptops turned acidheads did not officially release a Christmas song. Moreso because their main influences Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys released not just a Christmas song but a Christmas album each loaded with original songs and traditional carols.

Even Bob Dylan, who influenced them to put message in their songs, released a Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. However, the Dylan Yuletide collection was issued decades outside Beatlemania, specifically in 2009 as a charity album.

Actually, it was not out of character for the Beatles to sing about tradition. McCartney composed and released Birthday. Why the selectivity? How did the crew miss out on the Christmas song’s economic potential or were they not up to the challenge?

It appears like both. Lennon enrolled at an Anglican church as a boy and received the sacrament of confirmation as a teen before he got high into the sonic pleasure of rock ‘n roll. McCartney was baptized as a Catholic but reportedly lost faith when his mother passed on. George Harrison was a non-practicing Catholic. Ringo Starr was the group’s original agnostic, not bothering to engage in religion at all.

As the Beatles, the hipsters threw out religion from their lives altogether. They condemned organized religion in the 1965 Playboy interview, announcing themselves as atheists. Members did not track faith but tried alternative spirituality for the rest of their time. Harrison first tested it by embracing Hinduism. There was also the well-publicized Transcendental Meditation trip by the entire quartet.

More concerned with mind expansion, they took to recreational drug use like religion. With concern for living in a Yellow Submarine and “walls of illusion,” who would care about sleigh bells and red-nosed reindeers?

For a band that did not have a full Christmas song, religion brought the Beatles, Lennon specifically, so much trouble. As it turned out, the fear of Christianity with Jesus Christ as figurehead must have been the cause why they did not get into releasing a Christmas song.

On March 4, 1966, London Evening Standard reporter Maureen Cleave interviewed Lennon who frankly talked about a subject banned by Epstein for the group to talk about publicly — religion. The irrepressible Lennon broke sacred ground. He told Cleave: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I do not know what will go first, rock ‘n roll or Christianity… We’re more popular than Jesus now.”

Nobody paid attention to the thought-provoking claim when it appeared in staid Britain as it seemed an insignificant sentence in a long-winding article. It was hardly noticed as Lennon was being true and glib as possible. When American teen magazine Datebook reprinted the inaccurate quote as “We’re more popular than Jesus” on its July 29 issue front cover...the backlash on Lennon and the Beatles started to happen.

The article singled out the sentence and deleted the word “now,” giving it an entirely a controversial color, if malicious tone. The statement was perceived as anti-Christianity and angered fundamentalists in the American Bible Belt. Boys and girls held spur-of-the moment rallies, stomping on Beatles records and Beatlemania memorabilia in some kind of late-occurring remorse, before burning them.

Radio stations banned Beatles songs and concert venues cancelled scheduled performances. Lennon received death threats, and the KKK protested a Beatle concert in Alabama. Even the conservative Vatican dipped its fingers into the unholy statement by denouncing Lennon publicly.

Epstein quickly flew to the US to try to quell the public relations debacle. On Aug. 11, Lennon told a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, he still thought the statement as true, wryly adding, “I apologize if that will make you happy,” summed up the eternally opportunistic Lennon.

When Lennon and McCartney recorded The Ballad of John And Yoko four years after, McCartney swayed him to delete its original sub-title They’re Gonna Crucify Me as it might agitate fundamentalists all over again. Uncharacteristically, Lennon settled without argument. He knew the issue too well.

Disbanding in 1969, the touchiness of Christianity must be the real reason the Beatles did not mishmash a Christmas song. Lennon did so only when Epstein had passed on. But then Revolution even stated his pacifist intention with its “count me in/out” solution.

Although Lennon wrote Happy Xmas (War is Over), he released it in 1971 two years after the Beatles disbanded as John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir. And it’s not even a traditional Christmas song. It is a peace campaign type as blasted in the Beatles song, All You Need is Love, and Plastic Ono Band’s Give Peace A Chance. B-side is Yoko Ono’s Christmas evocative song, Listen, The Snow Is Falling.

The quartet did issue seven single-sided flexi disc Christmas albums of greetings and carols but exclusively for Beatles fans in Great Britain and USA from 1963 to 1969 for each year of their official life.

The 1967 recording contains the original composition Christmas Time (Is Here Again) (Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr) with the group collectively singing repeatedly: “Christmas time is here again / Christmas time is here again / Christmas time is here again // Christmas time is here again / Ain’t been round since you know when / Christmas time is here again / O-U-T spells ‘out’.”

Clearly, these Christmas recordings were released only to keep fans happy, but definitely not out of conviction for the cherished yearly celebration.

All seven Christmas records were issued as a 12” compilation LP titled From Then to You in the UK and The Beatles’ Christmas Album in the US as a final farewell album to members in 1970. Yellow Dog Records released a bootleg titled Complete Christmas Album 1963-1969 in 1974.

McCartney released the single Wonderful Christmastime in 1979. The Beatles Anthology project released clipped version of Christmas Time (Is Here Again) in 1995.

The Beatles thus missed out big time heavy replay in this season of peace and love which, after all, is their ultimate message to mankind.

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