You’re a Beatles fan, yet you also like holiday music. How can you enjoy both at the same time? Sure, you can find an underground copy of the Beatles’ annual fan club Christmas records, but they performed only fragments of certain songs. These records entertain, but do not provide nonstop music. As solo artists, the four released their own Christmas-themed songs: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae,” Ringo Starr’s fun album I Wanna Be Santa Claus, and George Harrison’s New Year’s anthem “Ding Dong, Ding Dong.” The closest approximation to a holiday album the Beatles might have recorded is Xmas!, a 1994 tribute album by Scandinavia’s Rubber Band. The album may be difficult to find, but is well worth the hunt for a fun listening experience.
According to Rubber Band’s website, the group formed in 1979, when it was “considered blasphemous to copy the Beatles or their music.” While they have undergone various personnel changes, the Danish band still performs at many public and private events. However, they achieved modest success with Xmas!; according to their site, Xmas! has sold over 100,000 copies in Japan, Canada, and Scandinavia. Confusingly, the band bills itself as “The Beatmas” on later editions of the album, but it is indeed the Rubber Band.
Members of the band were meticulous in rearranging familiar holiday carols to match the Beatles’ style—so much, in fact, that some listeners have mistakenly believed that this is a legitimate Beatles album. The Rubber Band gives a “Taxman”-style makeover to the chestnut “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” sounds suspiciously like “All My Loving.” Rock out even more to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when it is performed just like “I Saw Her Standing There.”
Endlessly clever, The Rubber Band devise some unusual combinations. Who would think of blending “Mary’s Boy Child” with “Nowhere Man”? They lend an unusual twist to “Feliz Navidad” by giving it the Beatles treatment with “No Reply.” Think Wham! and the Beatles could never coexist? Think again with the Rubber Band’s charming mashup of “Last Christmas” with “Please Mr. Postman.” “Silent Night” works well with the otherworldly sounds of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “Jingle Bell Rock” gets an extra musical kick with “Please Please Me.”
Every detail on Xmas! works, from the instrumentation to the voices. Starr’s thundering drums are perfectly replicated, and the guitar solos (particularly on “Rudolph/Taxman”) seamlessly mix the original riffs with the carol’s chord changes. The band’s vocals do not simply copy the Beatles'; they subtly emulate McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison’s vocal tics. Listening to the tracks, one finds it hard to believe that the group hails from Denmark, as their English is flawless.
While the Rubber Band’s website mentions that a sequel to Xmas! is in the works, nothing has yet surfaced. The band should consider releasing another holiday album, as even more carols are ripe for a Beatles treatment. Search out Xmas! for the Beatles fans on your list, and pick up a copy for yourself. The Rubber Band will become a valued part of your holiday celebrations for years to come.
The Cutout Bin is going on vacation for the holidays, but will return in 2012 with more buried musical treasures.
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