Quick quiz: When the Beatles convened Jan. 2, 1969, at Twickenham for the Get Back/Let it Be sessions, what was their most recent record release?
It wasn’t the “Hey Jude” single, which was still on the charts , but came out the end of August 1968. It’s not the White Album either — that came out at the end of November. The soundtrack to the Yellow Submarine film was released nearly two weeks into the January 1969 sessions, with songs that had long been recorded.
Check the solo discographies, even, and you come close — but not close enough. Two Virgins — cut in May — came out a week after the White Album. John also participated in the Rock & Roll Circus on Dec. 11, 1968, but that recording wasn’t released until 1996. George’s Wonderwall Music was close, too, released Nov.1, 1968 in the U.K. and Dec. 1 in the U.S.
The answer, a giveaway by now thanks to the post title and above image, is the Beatles’ Sixth Christmas Record, recorded post-White Album sessions in November 1968 and released Dec. 20, 1968, less than two weeks before the band assembled at Twickenham in Jan. 1969, and while the band was in active discussions planning out the film and potential shows.
There’s no need for a play-by-play breakdown of the recording, since if you’re at this blog, you either already have heard it or, if not, you really should just click and listen — it’s less than eight minutes long.
Does it portend anything musically for the band? Well, no, not at all.
It’s odd and experimental in (most) places. But perhaps more relevant, this is the first of the fan-club-only Christmas releases, which date back to 1963, in which the group wasn’t actually a group, with each of the four members submitted their own message for inclusion. How separate were they? It was an international affair with George literally phoning it in from L.A., while the rest of the band put their respective pieces together from their homes.
Alas, they were forced back together again days later at Twickenham, but by the time their following (and last) Christmas album came out in Dec. 1969, they’d be done recording as The Beatles, separately or together, altogether (one exception aside).