by Jude Southerland Kessler
For The Beatles, 1964 was horrendous. The boys made a major motion picture (“A Hard Day’s Night”), 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 U.K. in their Autumn Tour, and appeared on tons of radio shows! And as for John Lennon – well, he’d also published and promoted his first book, In His Own Write, while purchasing, remodeling, and moving into a new home, Kenwood. Truly, 1964’s schedule was a feat that no one would have believed possible, had The Beatles not actually accomplished it!
It’s rather a shock, then, when I tell you that once October ’64 rolled around and the question arose of whether or not the lads should record their second annual Christmas record for the Fan Club, The Beatles were solidly on board! In fact, during the recording sessions for their album, 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 Beatles, of course, realized that their manager, Brian Epstein, had never approved of this holiday project. In 1963, he’d fervidly protested 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 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 all been raised in the Christian 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. Did perhaps a bit of that childhood faith still cling to them? Or … were the boys simply fond of this happy, celebration-filled season as 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 from prepared notes) their individual personalities and their unique humor. Without skimping, the boys give the rarest gift of all: their time.
Last year at the end of November, I was frantic. With a mountain of work on Volume 4 in The John Lennon Series still pressing down on me and with a ton of research left to complete, I panicked! I told my family that I simply could not send out Christmas cards! I couldn’t host my husband’s annual office Christmas party! I couldn’t spare the time to watch those old, familiar, traditional Christmas specials on TV … and I informed my daughter-in-law that this one time, I simply couldn’t shop for and wrap presents! Instead, I suggested that we’d hit the stores after Christmas and call it a day!
I pushed everything aside to do my work.
Then, my research led me to 26 October, 1964 … the day The Beatles devoted precious studio time to creating their treasured, yearly 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” when we’re called 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 realized, wasn’t half as hectic as the 1964 schedule that The Beatles endured. And yet, they found a way to sing silly carols, shout “Merry Crimble!!” and foreshadow their later chant of “love, love, love…love is all you need.” Once again, John, Paul, George, and Ringo taught me how I should behave. Once again, they set the bar.
We all need time for Christmas. We all have time for Christmas. All of us. Every one.