Several off-key, a cappella versions of Yesterday are dispersed throughout the record, alongside Lennon’s Happy Christmas to Ya List’nas, Auld Lang Syne, a one-and-a-half-line version of the Four Tops’ It’s the Same Old Song, which they quickly stop before they violate the copyright, and an original poem titled Christmas Comes But Once a Year. A second version of Auld Lang Syne segues messily into a cover of Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction. I find this both funny and interesting and my favorite among the Christmas records.
Recorded between sessions for Strawberry Fields Forever, for the 1966 offering, the usual greetings and thanks gave way to a ‘Pantomime’-themed collection of original songs and dramatic skits. The songs include Everywhere It’s Christmas, Orowainya, and Please Don’t Bring Your Banjo Back. Paul McCartney plays the piano. The sketches performed include Podgy the Bear and Jasper and Felpin Mansions.
An elaborate production, Christmas Time is Here Again! was developed around the concept of several groups auditioning for a BBC radio show. The title song serves as a refrain throughout the record. The Beatles portray a multitude of characters, including game show contestants, aspiring musicians (“Plenty of Jam Jars,” by the Ravellers), and actors in a radio drama (“Theatre Hour”). At the end John reads a poem, “When Christmas Time Is Over.” This offering was likely a deliberate homage to/continuation of the broadly similar “Craig Torso” specials produced for BBC Radio 1 that same year by the Beatles’ friends and collaborators the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and also shares much in common with their then-unreleased track “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”, recorded six months previously.
… Lennon presents everything on the surface, and the song titles — “Mother,” “I Found Out,” “Working Class Hero,” “Isolation,” “God,” “My Mummy’s Dead” — illustrate what each song is about, and charts his loss of faith in his parents, country, friends, fans, and idols. It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
~Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com)
From 1963 to 1969, the Beatles recorded and released seven special Christmas singles through their fan club. These were closer to “Monty Pythonesque”-comedy than their normal releases. The first ones are whimsical, cheery and thankful for their success, but later records are more esoteric. They reflect their development as a unit, the 1969 recording is four separate pieces.
Each recording was pressed onto a 7″ flexi disc and mailed free to the British members of the Fan Club.
The results are interesting curiosities for all Beatles fans. A compilation album (with all the 7 singles) was released in 1971 and available from the fan club between 1970 and 1972. It was never released commercially, and most copies are bootlegs.