The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album is the seventh studio album by the American rock band The Beach Boys, released November 9, 1964 on Capitol Records.[1][2] It contains five original songs and seven standards on a Christmas theme. The album proved to be a long-running success during subsequent Christmas seasons, initially reaching No. 6 on Billboard’s Christmas LP’s chart in its initial release and eventually going gold.[3] Music historian James Perone wrote that it is “regarded as one of the finest holiday albums of the rock era”.[4]

While leader Brian Wilson produced and arranged the rock songs, he left it to Dick Reynolds (an arranger for the Four Freshmen, a group Wilson idolized) to arrange the 41-piece orchestral backings on the traditional songs to which The Beach Boys would apply their vocals.[5] One single was released from the album, the original song “The Man with All the Toys” backed with the group’s rendition of “Blue Christmas”. “Little Saint Nick”, a single which had already been released the previous year, was included on the album.[6]

In 1977, The Beach Boys attempted to follow the album with Merry Christmas from The Beach Boys, but it was rejected by their label. The entire Christmas Album plus selections from the Merry Christmas sessions were later assembled for the 1998 compilation Ultimate Christmas.

Background

The album was devised as a response to Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (1963), an album Brian had attended recording sessions for.[7] He played piano on the song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” but was dismissed by Spector due to his substandard piano playing.[8] Original album cover photo by George Jerman for Capitol Photo Studio.[citation needed] The a-side consists mostly of original Christmas-themed rock songs penned by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, while the b-side features both secular and religious Christmas standards with orchestral accompaniment directed by Dick Reynolds.

Recording

With the exception of “Little Saint Nick”, sessions for the album spanned June 18–30, 1964, one month after the All Summer Long album was completed.[1] “Christmas Day” is the first Beach Boys song to feature a lead vocal from Al Jardine.[9]

The album was released in mono and stereo; the stereo mix, prepared by engineer Chuck Britz, would be the last true stereo mix for a Beach Boys album until 1968’s Friends.[original research?]

In addition to orchestral renditions of “Jingle Bells” and the original Wilson composition “Christmas Eve” which never received vocal overdubs,[10] outtakes of the All Summer Long track “Little Honda”[10] and The Beach Boys Today! single “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” were recorded in between June sessions.[1]

Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[12]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic’s Jason Ankeny stated: “Brian Wilson’s pop genius is well suited to classic Yuletide fare, and the group delivers lush performances of standards ranging from ‘Frosty the Snowman’ to ‘White Christmas’ as well as more contemporary material like ‘The Man With All the Toys’ and ‘Blue Christmas.'”[6]

While interviewing Wilson for a promotional radio special in 1964, Jack Wagner remarked that Wilson’s decision to sing solo on a version of “Blue Christmas” could be “the start of a whole new career,” to which Wilson responded “I don’t know. It could and it couldn’t. I really don’t know.”[5] Referring to the standards which he believed “proved that The Beach Boys’ vocal power was bigger and more agile than the surf and hot rod records [and] staking a claim for wider musical terrain,” author Luis Sanchez reflected: “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album music shows a quality of aesthetic selectivity that none of the group’s records that came before it do, aspiring not just to assimilate one of pop’s stock ideas, but also enabling Brian to make one of his biggest artistic advances.”[5]

On April 6, 1982, the album was certified gold by the RIAA, selling more than 500,000 units.[3]

Ultimate Christmas

Released in 1998, Ultimate Christmas is a compilation containing all of the twelve tracks from the original Christmas LP in stereo. Many bonus tracks were added, including the 1974 single “Child of Winter” and several previously unreleased tracks from the aborted 1977 album Merry Christmas from The Beach Boys.[9]

Track listing

Mike Love’s writing credits on the tracks marked with a (*) were only awarded after a 1994 court case.[13]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1.“Little Saint Nick” (*)
  • Brian Wilson
  • Mike Love
Love1:59
2.“The Man with All the Toys” (*)
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
  • Love
  • B. Wilson
1:32
3.“Santa’s Beard” (*)
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
Love1:59
4.“Merry Christmas, Baby” (*)
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
Love2:22
5.“Christmas Day”B. WilsonAl Jardine1:35
6.“Frosty the Snowman”
  • Walter Rollins
  • Steve Nelson
B. Wilson1:54
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1.“We Three Kings of Orient Are”John Henry Hopkins Jr.4:03
2.“Blue Christmas”
  • Billy Hayes
  • Jay W. Johnson
B. Wilson3:09
3.“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
  • John Frederick Coots
  • Haven Gillespie
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
2:20
4.“White Christmas”Irving BerlinB. Wilson2:29
5.“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
  • Kim Gannon
  • Walter Kent
  • Buck Ram
B. Wilson2:44
6.“Auld Lang Syne”Traditional, arranged by B. Wilson
1:19
Total length:27:37
1991 CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead VocalsLength
13.“Little Saint Nick” (single version) (*)
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
Love2:01
14.“The Lord’s Prayer”Traditional, arranged by B. WilsonThe Beach Boys2:34
15.“Little Saint Nick” (alternate take) (*)
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
Love1:56
16.“Auld Lang Syne” (alternate take)Traditional, arranged by B. WilsonThe Beach Boys1:19
Total length:35:27

Personnel

Partial credits courtesy of session archivist Craig Slowinski.[10]

The Beach Boys

  • Al Jardine
  • Mike Love
  • Brian Wilson
  • Carl Wilson
  • Dennis Wilson

Additional musicians and technical staff

  • Al Viola – guitar
  • Cliff Hils – double bass
  • Jimmy Rowles – grand piano
  • Jack Sperling – drums
  • Eddie Rosa – flute and/or saxophone
  • Chuck Gentry – bass clarinet and/or baritone saxophone
  • William Hinshaw, Richard Perissi, Arthur Briegleb – French horns
  • Henry Laubach, John Audino, Conrad Gozzo, Raymond Triscari – trumpets
  • Harry Betts, Francis Howard, George Roberts – trombones
  • George “Red” Callender – tuba
  • Edgar Lustgarten, Jesse Ehrlich, Nathan Gershman, Alfred Wohl, Margaret Aue – cellos
  • Benjamin Barrett – orchestra master
  • Dick Reynolds – orchestra conductor
  • Mainerd Baker, George Yocum – copyists
  • Bill Putnam – engineer

Charts

Chart performance for
The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album
Chart (1964)Peak
position
US Christmas LP’s (Billboard)[14]6
Chart (2019)Peak
position
US Billboard 200[15]107
Chart (2022)Peak
position
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[16]65


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