December 12 – The Boss…Of The North Pole?

A song you’re going to hear today (count on it) if you’re listening to radio or spending any time shopping was recorded 46 years ago in 1975. And you’d better not pout – because “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” So promises the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, in what has become one of rock’s most-played Christmas songs.

Of course, it isn’t a Bruce original. The ditty about the big guy from the North Pole who watches kids while they’re sleeping was written way back in 1934, by J.F. Cootes and Haven Gillespie and recorded later that year by Harry Reser and Tim Stocks. It was an instant hit, with over half a million copies of the sheet music being ordered that year alone! Bing Crosby further popularized it in the ’40s with his rendition, which added that Santa was “the big fat man with the long white beard,” in case the listener hadn’t seen Coca-Cola’s ads which essentially created the Santa we now know, with the red suit with white trim and so forth.

The Carpenters had released their own version of it in 1974, and had a top 30 hit in the UK with that. A year later, in fall/winter 1975, Bruce Springsteen was rising to international fame and was touring to support his Born to Run album. The tour had run most of the year, and was going strong through December, running to Toronto on Dec. 21 and then resuming to end the year with four shows just outside of Philadelphia. During the tour, he did a considerable amount of his own material, of course, but also at times added in covers. Over the course of the tour, some fans heard him play Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” the Beach Boys “Be True to Your School” or ’60s classics like “Twist and Shout.” So with Dec. 25th closing in, it was no surprise he’d decide to have a little fun and do a seasonal tune or two. Thus we get his Christmas classic, complete with instructions for Santa to bring Clarence Clemons a new saxophone, recorded in a show at C.W.Post College on Long Island.

Oddly enough, the recording seemed to have appeared first on a Sesame Street compilation record in 1982; fans of The Boss could have their own copy by itself three years later when it was put out as the B-side to the single “My Hometown” off Born in the USA. The single hit #6 in the U.S. and earned him one of many gold records both there and in Canada, and as we know, has become a mainstay or pop and rock radio every December since.

Santa Claus mind you, is far older than the 1934 song, the 1970 animated TV show (narrated by Fred Astaire) about it or even Springsteen himself. The story of Santa seems to have evolved from St. Nicholas, a 4th Century Greek saint who gave gifts to the poor and was in turn anglicized as Father Christmas in the middle ages, when giving gifts to children became commonplace. The 1823 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known to us as “Twas The Night Before Christmas”) made him a regular part of the culture and set the gifting date as Christmas Eve… up until then, December 6 was a popular date to do so.

23 thoughts on “December 12 – The Boss…Of The North Pole?

  1. Crazy that this tune is 46 years old! WOW! Every time I hear this song time of the season I enjoy it. Bruce does a good job and the best thing is its LIVE!
    I can’t believe I beat Max to both your posts today! This is a record…lol

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks Bruce, at least the airwaves have something a bit rockier than Bing and Andy Williams warbling out their schmaltzy carols- and thank God I have yet to hear ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’ at the Mall or the car radio.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes- it’s the low point of Christmas hearing that one. Still, there’s always a few good ones to hear, and it is that time of year, and the thought of gift getting means reasons to be cheerful.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This one is good but some years it got a little cloying when it was played on radio hourly and in every store. But this year I haven’t heard it often so I do enjoy it when it comes on again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it seems like in the past 5 years there’s been a big shift both on radio and in stores away from modern/rock Christmas songs like it to the old 40s and 50s type ones by Bing, Dean Martin , Perry como etc. So less chance of getting burned out on this one or the Elton John one or the Eurythmics one.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t know if I have ever heard any James Brown Christmas… that could be interesting. I’ve got ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ in the car player, listening to that from time to time… pretty good compilation with lots of predictables plus some I’ve never heard of, at times by artists I don’t know either.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul

    One of my favorite Christmas tunes and one of the best IMHO (but I’m biased). I’ve seen him do this live a couple times and it’s always fun – although once it was like October so that was a head scratcher.

    Liked by 1 person

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