Eggs Up! – A “Back to the Egg”-stravaganza!!! (Part One – Sunny Side Up)

 

Welcome to my “Back to the Egg”-stravaganza!!!

Today I’m going to highlight one of my favorite albums by Paul McCartney and Wings – 1979’s “Back to the Egg”.

First, let me cast you back a few years, oh say thirty-nine years or so, give or take a few.

Back in 1979, when I was just the tender age of 13 (yikes!), things weren’t quite the same in my record buying life.

First off there was no Internet. That means no Facebook, no chat rooms that endlessly chattered on about upcoming new releases and certainly no pre-ordering of a new title from Amazon.

In these creaky old fuddy duddy days of physical music media there were precious few outlets that I was aware of when it came to new releases by my favorite artists.

My first taste of anything from the “Back to the Egg” album was of course hearing the first single released from the album on the radio. That single was called “Getting Closer” and it was a fine rocking number with slightly goofy lyrics – my salamander (cough, cough).

I knew that a new Wings album was imminent but since I didn’t drive I had to rely on happenstance for the just the right occasion to be with my mother or brothers who could take me to a mall that had a record store.

In June of 1979 I found myself on a family trip to Chicago and of course since my mother was going to a mall with the friends we were visiting it was the perfect chance for me to investigate the racks.

I remember clearly walking to a local Chicago mall and stumbling on the “Getting Closer” 45 in a small blue sleeve with the songs title written in pink as well as the new Wings album it was from – “Back to the Egg”.

Little did I know this was a rare release of this 45 as this particular sleeve I guess wasn’t that common but it was the only copy I saw of the record and I grabbed it and the album and took it home and then proceeded to torture my family by playing the album to death for the rest of the vacation!

Anyway, I’ve always loved this particular record and in fact I’d say the period from 1978 to 1984 holds some of my fondest memories of Paul McCartney’s solo music and I come back to this period frequently as it’s the most sentimental time in my musical life.

While the “Back to the Egg” album may not hold a high place in the critical overview of Paul McCartney’s solo work it has always been one of my favorite McCartney albums. I love almost every song on it.

From the strangeness of the mostly spoken word “The Broadcast” to the punk rock feel of “Spin it On” and “Old Siam, Sir” to the starkness of “Winter Rose/ Love Awake” to the forties feel of “Baby’s Request”, this album still packs a punch and takes me back to a much simpler time and place.

So in celebration of this fine McCartney collection of late seventies goodness, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite “Back to the Egg” CD pressings with photos (see gallery). I’ve also thrown in a couple photos of the rare “Getting Closer” picture sleeve just for grins.

The one “Egg” collectible that I’ve never seen or read much about is a UK promotional CD box set that supposedly mimics a promotional box set that was released for the original vinyl version of the album.

The one I own is a bit water damaged but still looks nice, the cover is worn, and has a groovy t-shirt that I love and it’s in my size! (Note: of course I’ve never worn it but maybe someday!)

I’ve never seen another one and thought it might be nice to show some photos of it here for those rabid Macca collectors out there like me!

The other really nice collectible I own is the first US CD pressing of “Egg” with its longbox – the rare issue with the inner booklet without any content, just the cover photo and blank pages inside.

I also own another later US “Egg” CD which reverts to the UK cover (no mention of 3 bonus tracks) and UK blue label. I swear that this later US pressing also sounds like the UK version as well.

My first US CD pressing has some noise reduction as I recall (I’ll have to play it again to make sure) and I just played the later US pressing and it sounds really nice, much like the UK first CD issue.

(Note: my personal favorite CD pressing of this album is the first Japanese CD pressing (see photos) that just sounds a tad bit better than even the first UK CD pressing.)

In future posts I’ll examine some other US solo McCartney CD pressings that have differences between first and later pressings.

So as McCartney says in concert these days, this post is for the Wings fans!!! In a coming soon Part 2 to this post I’ll take a look at some of my “Back to the Egg” vinyl pressings.

Enjoy and until next time keep spinning on!

 

 

 

 

Bees Around the World … Monkees Birds Recordings in Mono/Stereo

“Fine man, crazy man, he can’t see
Sound of the sunset, sound of the sea
Why do the people always look at me?
Nobody here can see that we are you
We are you
She’s him, too
She’s him, too
Fine man, crazy man, he can’t see
Sound of the sunset, sound of the sea
Mmmmmmmmm
Mmmmmmmmm
” – from “Auntie’s Municipal Court” written by Mike Nesmith and Keith Allison, recorded by The Monkees

Ahhh, the guitar licks from that song buzz through my mind like a shot of electricity every time I read the lyrics above.

Even though the words don’t make complete sense literally; they somehow fit together in a way that makes perfect sense figuratively. Like some crazy quilt poem that floats in the air creating a psychedelic and impressionistic sound painting.

See, that’s what I love about recordings from the late 1960s. They are so different and much more interesting, to me anyway, than any other decade. The best of them take me to a place far away and out of time and remain eternally odd yet endearing.

Several songs on “The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees” album take me to places far away and seem so out of time that they are from the distant past and the present at the same time.

Mike Nesmith’s other epic song from that album, “Writing Wrongs”, is another wild and somewhat psychedelic journey through the mind poetically. Eerie yet interesting – compelling.

You can skip from the roaring twenties with “Magnolia Simms”, leap to the smooth as silk “Daydream Believer”, one of the best pop confections ever put to vinyl, and then land on the unfortunately ever relevant war protest rant “Zor and Zam”.

Seriously, could any other decade have produced a song called “Zor and Zam”!

Of course there’s plenty of other sublime pop moments sprinkled throughout the album as well and while this album is not the height of The Monkees recorded output it has over time become one of my favorite recordings by the group.

Note: Anyone interested in this album needs to check out, if you can, the 3 CD Super Deluxe box set that includes a plethora of unreleased songs, mixes and alternate takes that raise this album to one of the most interesting periods in The Monkees’ recording career.

As it stands though the album is a fine slab of late 1960’s pop/rock psychedelia that sure does have its moments! And those moments sound even more in your face and psychedelic when listening to the rare mono mix.

Anyway, long story short, for this post I’m starting 2018 with a few photos of some rare copies of vinyl I own of “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” recordings (pictured above and below).

My favorite is the E.P. (extended play) 45 I own from Mexico that features the true mono mixes of “Valleri”, “Auntie’s Municipal Court”, “Tapioca Tundra” and “P.O. Box 9847”.

I know the mono mixes have been included in the Super Deluxe box set I mentioned above but there’s something much more powerful when listening to the mixes off a clean vinyl pressing.

The Mexican E.P. I own is in great shape and sounds superb – the songs just jump out of the speakers with a vitality that’s missing from the CD transfer. And since it includes two of my favorite songs on the album, “Auntie’s Municipal Court” and “P.O. Box 9847”, it’s probably my favorite vinyl issue I own of “Birds and Bees” recordings.

Unfortunately I don’t own a true mono vinyl pressing of the whole album but I’m ever hopeful to stumble across one without taking out a mortgage!

The other two pressings shown are a mono copy of the album that was pressed in Brazil (not the true mono mix unfortunately but a fold down) and a really nice stereo copy of the album from France.

All of these pressings come from my early days on ebay and were obtained fairly cheaply I might add. I got quite a lot of rare material about fifteen or twenty years ago when ebay first burst on the scene.

So, enjoy these photos and throughout the year I’ll add more cool variations of this and The Monkees “HEAD” and The Beatles “White Album” in celebration of their big 5-0!

Mmmmmmm!

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It Was 50 Years Ago (Plus Two!) … Monkees 50th Anniversary in review

And now for something completely different …

I know the 50th Anniversary posts a keep a comin’ but since there are so many fun anniversary releases that have come out in the past few years I just can’t resist posting photos and stories of  them.

Since I didn’t have this blog two years ago, I thought it might be fun to do a quick overview of some of the special items that came out in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of The Monkees TV show and recordings!

And of course I, as usual, happened to snag quite a few of the record and memorabilia that came out that year and above and below you can take a gander a some of my favorite releases from that year-long Monkee fest (has it really been two years already?!!)

As you can see, record releases were full of color that year! One of my favorite releases was the box set of all colored vinyl called the Classic Album Collection. It came out as part of Record Store Day that year and was also released in a cool CD version that was available at independent record stores.

There was also a special blue vinyl copy of The Monkees first album available at FYE record stores as well as a special red vinyl copy of “Live 1967” that was sold through the Collector’s Choice Website (see photos of each).

Note: FYE also issued an exclusive version of the Monkees “Good Times!” CD which included Peter Tork’s song “A Better World” as a bonus track. You can see the rear of that CD in the photo of the FYE blue vinyl copy of “The Monkees.” lp.

There were some questionable releases like the cereal box reissues and dolls which were both fun but not necessary. As you see I did buy them  – a sickness I know.

I guess you can also include the reproduction of Micky Dolenz’s, as he calls it table cloth, poncho that was sold with merchandise tables at tour stops on the Monkees 50th Anniversary Tour which hit my town earlier that summer.

I did also manage to interview  Peter Tork for the second time and write a couple of articles about the “Good Times!” reunion album.

Click below if you want to read any of those articles or listen to my interviews with Peter Tork: 

http://www.mulberrygrovebooks.com/id1.html

All in all it was a fantastic year and one of the best celebrations of The Monkees and truth be told maybe one of my favorite reunion years because the “Good Times!” album was so good and I got to help promote it through my work as a journalist.

Oh, and the mother of all Monkees releases (IMHO) also came out that year – the Blu-Ray box set of all the Monkees TV episodes which included their movie HEAD and 1968 TV special 33 and 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee! I just included a small photo of the discs as I plan to do a later post highlighting the box by itself.

So feast your eyes on some groovy 2016 Monkees items!

Items include

50th Anniversary Classic Album Collection – vinyl and CD box sets

Four cereal box records

Monkees Logo shaped picture disc of “Saturday’s Child” / “You Just May Be the One” – TV versions

Instant Replay – Friday Music re-release CD

Live 1967 – red vinyl release

Two Monkees dolls 

Reproduction of Micky Dolenz 1967 poncho worn on the TV show several times.

Discs covers from the Monkees Blu-Ray TV show collection

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You Say It’s Your Birthday … 50 Years of White, Bees and HEAD

Welcome to 2018!

This is my first blog post of the new year and as I get older these years do seem to pile up faster and faster just like my mother and grandmother once warned they would.

Seeing as my own birthday is just around the corner, I’m a January baby, I thought I’d start the new year off by celebrating another set of birthdays – the 50th birthdays of three of my favorite recordings:

The Beatles self-titled 2 Lp set (nicknamed the “White Album”) and The Monkees two 1968 albums “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” and “HEAD”.

Though I was only two years old at the time these albums were released, these three records have nevertheless through the years seemed like a turning point in my appreciation for both The Beatles and The Monkees music.

You see even in 1968 at the tender age of two I was listening to Monkees records, courtesy of my oldest brothers now worn discs, and was somewhat familiar with “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” when it was first issued.

I didn’t discover the White Album and HEAD until the mid-1970s but I distinctly remember that as a young pop music fan and a fan of Top Forty radio all three of these albums elicited the same mixed reaction on my first few listens: pleasure and fear.

You see all three of these albums while containing some lovely pop classics also contained some rather somber and disturbing numbers as well.

Starting off with “The Birds and The Bees & The Monkees” which, while containing two of the groups most lovely pop songs “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri”, also contained such head scratchers as the over five minute long Mike Nesmith sung and composed “Writing Wrongs” as well as his 1920’s 78 r.p.m tribute “Magnolia Simms” and the psychedelic “Auntie’s Municipal Court”.

I remember at a young age reveling in the pop numbers on this album but skipping the needle over some of the rest which distanced me from truly loving this record until I was much older.

After all where were the fun loving Monkees who were too busy putting people down!

Of course in retrospect this album is the point where a good number of the general public began to lose their affection for the group as well but thank goodness for the weirdness!!!

I think if The Monkees had never taken the left turn from their earlier well crafted pop albums, HEAD most importantly, we might not still be talking about the group over fifty years later.

These two albums are where the band members began to find themselves musically and branched off from being a TV creation into a musical entity.

The same mixture of pleasure and hesitation greeted me when I discovered The Monkees HEAD album which was the soundtrack to their totally un-Monkee like movie of the same name which REALLY perplexed me.

Again, I have grown to truly love this album and find it and the HEAD movie as a true glimpse into the movement in the late 60’s away from the fantasy and lightness of film, TV and recordings from the late fifties and early 60’s to the gritty reality that was creeping into pop culture at the time.

Now some of the weirder tracks on The Birds and Bees and HEAD are some of my favorite Monkees recordings and I tend to listen to them more than the poppier numbers.

But of all three albums in this post it took me the longest to truly warm up to the Beatles epic White Album which I first heard around 1976.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved many of the songs on it from the first go but there were several tracks that down right frightened me such as “Helter Skelter” (with its unfortunate Charles Manson association), “Yer Blues” and the mother of all weirdness “Revolution 9” which to this day still seems like a window into a bad dream lol.

Throw in the weirdness of “Honey Pie”, “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road”, the starkness of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “I’m So Tired” and the giddy sarcasm of George Harrison’s “Piggies” and my ten year old self felt as if I had been thrown into a reality that wasn’t quite comfortable or enjoyable at times.

BUT as time has gone on and as I have grown older all these songs I’ve mentioned as well as all three albums have now found as place as some of my most cherished and played music.

As an adult I really appreciate the grittiness and starkness of a lot of the tracks on these albums and looking back they all seem to stand out of time, especially the White Album and HEAD, and tower above most other pop/rock recordings of the era.

So here’s to the 50th of all three of these classic albums!!!

I will focus on each album individually when the actual date of their 50th anniversaries arise throughout the year and spotlight different pressings I own of each.

Until then let’s just look forward to 2018 and hopefully some of you out there will celebrate or discover these albums for yourself.

Happy New Year!!!

Below are photos of some uncommon CD pressings I own of these three albums including the first CD issue (from Japan) of “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” and the rare UK issue of HEAD on the Lightning label featuring an alternate mix of “Circle Sky” and the Japanese SHM-CD issue of The Beatles featuring a nice mini-Lp sleeve with all the original posters and inner sleeves in miniature.

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Look Out (Here Comes the Box Set)! … More of the Monkees times three

Okay, Christmas has officially arrived at my doorstep albeit two days late!

Today I received the new 3 CD Super Deluxe box set of the first album I ever owned – “More of the Monkees” by, who else, The Monkees!!!

This new Super Deluxe set contains not only the original mono and stereo mixes of the “More of the Monkees” album but it also includes several studio outtakes (including studio floor chatter), alternate mixes, TV mono mixes, live tracks, remixes and everything else even remotely connected to the recording sessions for The Monkees 5 million plus selling second album.

(Plus you get a cool new vinyl 45 that contains a new 2017 remix of “I’m a Believer” backed with a vocal only version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” in a sweet color picture sleeve as well as a great informative booklet about the album sessions.)

This groovy new 3 CD box is the sixth Super Deluxe Monkees set from Rhino and as a longtime fan I’m just amazed at the amount of stellar music that has remained hidden or lost for all these decades since it was recorded.

Rhino Records, who own the rights to The Monkees recordings and TV show, have been releasing every scrap of Monkees tape in its and Sony Music’s vaults for the last twenty odd years or more and this collection is the culmination of years of hard work and research by Monkee’s archivist extraordinaire Andrew Sandoval.

The first 3 CD Monkees archival set (“The Monkees Headquarters Sessions”) came out in 2000 through Rhino’s Handmade Web division and since that time almost every original 1960s Monkees album but two (so far) have been released in these glorious 3 CD expanded versions.

(Note: technically the Headquarters Sessions box, which began these special Monkees collections, isn’t in quite the same format as every Super Deluxe box set since 2010’s “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” but it was the beginning of Rhino’s major troll through the Monkees audio archives.)

One highlight of this new 3 CD set for me is the backing track for the Boyce and Hart written and produced song “Whatever’s Right” from 1966.

This song had been mentioned for years yet was never heard until it was re-recorded and released officially on last year’s 50th Anniversary Monkees album “Good Times.”

This original version is musically much more laid back than the 2016 version and sounds similar to another Boyce and Hart production outtake from that period, the first version of “I Can’t Get Her Out of My Mind” from 1966 which was later remade in 1967 for The Monkees “Headquarters” album.

Several of the new 2017 remixes present in this set are also quite a revelation especially the new remix of “Sometime in the Morning” which has never sounded clearer and the lovely first takes of “Valleri” and “Words” .

The newly discovered multi-track live songs from the earliest recorded Monkees show from January 1967 are also a blast to hear and sound much better than the bootleg version of this show that has made the rounds for years.

The live versions of “I Can’t Get Her Out of My Mind”, “She’s So Far Out, She’s In”  and “Papa Gene’s Blues” are definitely welcome additions to the live Monkees recordings in existence and as about as good sounding as you could hope for for concert recordings from this era.

I’d say they’re a tad lesser quality than the live tracks available on Rhino’s
“Live 1967” album because some of the vocals aren’t as loud but they sound remarkably good here and are the only live versions of the three songs above and are just raw and rocking and fun.

Having owned all the Rhino Monkees box sets I must say that so far, even though I’ve only skimmed it’s contents, this new set ranks up near the top right next to my favorite Super Deluxe box set “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.”

While this new set doesn’t quite cover the same wide musical styles/genres as the Birds and Bees set it is nevertheless one of the best sounding Monkees Super Deluxe boxes as the new remixes sound so good and the outtakes are so fresh and fun that I have a feeling I will listen to this new set quite a lot.

This album has stayed with me for over fifty years and in my opinion contains some of the best pop/rock gems from the 1960s. “She” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” alone justify this albums inclusion in any pop/rock music fans collection!

If you’re a Monkees fan or just a fan of this album it’s well worth your time and coin to buy one before they’re gone.

Above and below are photos of my copy of the new “More of the Monkees” set which is a limited edition of only 4,500 and available exclusively from Monkees.com.

Run don’t walk to your nearest Internet connection!

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Have Yourself a Very Pepper Christmas …

Welcome to my 2017 Beatles Christmas post, part II!

Last week I detailed the wonderful Beatles Christmas Records colored vinyl set that was just released and today I’m going to feature another record that came out that same day – a picture disc of The Beatles seminal album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Picture disc you say? Yes, you heard me right, picture disc!

Now those of you reading this who were old enough to experience the 1970s know that this isn’t the first time this Beatles album has been released in the picture disc format.

In 1978 Sgt. Pepper was released on picture disc designed to coincide with the release of the ill-fated “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees.

Most of you reading this may wonder why on earth release this album on picture disc again, in this day and age? Aren’t picture discs notorious for sounding worse than their black vinyl counterparts and usually more expensive?

Well, first off vinyl reissues are a hot item these past few years and secondly this new version of the Sgt. Pepper picture disc features the new 2017 remix of the album by Giles Martin, son of famed Beatles producer George Martin.

Having succumbed to a pre-Christmas sale, today I took the bait and purchased this new picture disc at a very nice sale price (yes, New Year’s goal must be to work on self control lol!).

Let me say that after having played this disc (I know, most people don’t actually play picture discs!) I am quite surprised to say that it is a really nice sounding disc!

The 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper has gotten a wide spectrum of feedback from fans with quite a few really enjoying it as well as quite a vocal sector of fandom wishing it had never been tampered with at all.

I can see both sides but I have to say that I do really enjoy the new remix especially on vinyl.

I think a lot of long-time fans like the remix but were turned off by the “hot” (loud) nature of the mix that was on the CD and the Blu-Ray or DVD 5.1 mix that came out as part of the Super Deluxe Edition earlier this year.

Listening to the CD and Blu-Ray/DVD mixes, I can see why long-time fans were a bit turned off. I must admit it is pretty loud, though I’d say not completely brick walled as can be the case with a lot of current mastering in music.

BUT on vinyl, this new 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper is tamed quite a bit as far as loudness is concerned allowing one to experience the clarity of the new remix without reaching for the volume control to turn it down.

I must say I was surprised to find that this new picture disc version of Pepper sounded even a bit more tamed than the previous black vinyl 2 disc issue that came out earlier this year.

To me that’s a good thing as this disc was the most pleasant listening experience I’ve had yet of the new remix which I now can say I really enjoy.

I was also surprised, for the most part, how quiet this new picture disc was as well. There were a few pops here and there but overall this was a nice clean, quiet pressing that sounded just great!

This is definitely not your father’s picture disc as the 1978 picture disc version of this album is not a pleasant listening experience. As I remember it was a very noisy pressing that sounded flat compared to most of its black vinyl cousins.

I haven’t done a side by side comparison to the black vinyl version of the 2017 Sgt. Pepper remix from earlier this year but I must admit listening to this picture disc was a complete pleasure!

Nice clean fat bass, nice highs and like I said earlier the remix sounds much more tame than the CD counterpart which allows you to get more involved in the listening experience (nice touch including the Sgt. Pepper inner groove at the end of side 2 as well!)

Beatles fans, if you’re so inclined to buy this disc, do so without hesitation!

Granted, it is a niche product and not a necessary purchase by any means but the disc looks great, the cover is nice (I love that they kept the rear album artwork the same as the original album unlike the 1978 version) and it sounds great!

So again, have a very Merry Christmas and if you have a Beatles fan on your  list, you could do way worse than to buy this new picture disc for them. They might actually enjoy playing it which is something I wasn’t sure I’d say!

Merry Crimble and until next time, Peace!!!  (Photos of the new disc above and below)

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Christmas time is here again … Beatles style

Merry Crimble Beatle People!

Well, here we are so close to Christmas … again.

A week from today houses around the world will be filled with wrapping paper, foods of all types, happy and grumpy relatives and hopefully for those vinyl fans out there RECORDS!

This year Apple, The Beatles record company, and Universal have given Beatles fans a rare treat – a sparkling 7-inch colored vinyl collection of all The Beatles Christmas messages called The Beatles Christmas Records!!!

These discs were originally sent out to fan club members as part of their membership in the 1960s. The originals, worth quite a bit of coin nowadays, were pressed on flexi-discs. (Flexi-discs for those who don’t know are very thin discs made of plastic that had music pressed into them and you could play on your turntable but tended to slip and slide and sometimes required a coin taped to them to track/play properly.)

Both sides of the pond, UK and the US, received these cool flexi-discs attached to a newsletter and there were discs sent out for 1963 (UK only), 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

In 1970 the Beatles fan club sent out a vinyl Lp to all members that contained all the Christmas messages on one long-playing record and that too is a fairly rare and expensive collectible.

Unfortunately, I don’t own any of the original Christmas flexi-discs and because I don’t this new collection of 7-inch reproductions is a welcome treat.

This is the first official release of this material by The Beatles since those fan club issues in the 1960s and for this go-around they are being pressed on vinyl (yay no flimsy flexi discs!) and have sturdy cardboard covers.

The booklet that comes with this new set reproduces the original newsletters as well and Apple Records used the best sources available they have for this material so in actuality these new versions most likely have better fidelity than the originals.

This new set is supposedly a limited edition but I’m not positive how many were pressed. I’ve seen 5,000 mentioned online but that may be what’s available just to the US and not worldwide.

Needless to say if your a vinyl and Beatles fan grab one of these cool looking sets while you can!

(Note: To anyone reading this who may be considering buying this for a Beatles fan in the family and aren’t familiar with The Beatles Christmas messages, these are more mad radio skits than music. There are snatches of music throughout the discs including The Beatles’ Christmas song “Christmas Time is Here Again” which you may here on the radio but really think more Monty Python than Bing Crosby when listening to these discs!)

Feast your eyes on photos (above and below) of this terrific new set as well as a groovy green vinyl Record Store Day Paul McCartney 45 that came out this November of his song “Wonderful Christmastime” that was performed with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.

I also threw in some photos of a couple of bootleg versions of The Beatles Christmas material just for grins.

Merry Christmas and have a very happy and Beatle-filled New Year!!!

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