By Kate Lillie
Originally published on Global Comment
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town has a solid claim to being THE original Christmas hit. Originally released in two formats in 1934 – vinyl and sheet music – it sold over 130,000 copies within 24 hours and is the oldest song we’ve covered in our calendar so far. It’s also, to my knowledge, the only song which sold 100,000 copies in sheet music, which is pretty amazing – it was clearly the song to sing around your piano at home that year.
You will of course need to forgive the serial killer-esque lyrics (He sees you when you’re sleeping/ He knows when you’re awake) – I suspect in the 1930s times were slightly more innocent and the trope of the creepy stalker hadn’t yet entered the cultural mainstream, but the happy tune should help you with that. After all, it clearly hasn’t done the song’s popularity any harm over the past eight decades.
Like most of the old standards, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town has been covered by numerous bands, not all of them good (Alvin and the Chipmunks, I’m looking at you). Many of them, however, are positively illustrious – Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby (of course), The Beach Boys, The Jackson 5, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Kylie Minogue, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny G… the list goes on. And yet, the best version of all, I think, belongs to The Supremes.
That drumroll intro, the bounce and joyous Motown swing, the uplifting ‘Whoo!’ n the background – they take the song to a whole new level. Released in 1965 on their Merry Christmas album, it has since become a Christmas favourite despite never being released as a single.