Christmas songs aren’t for everyone. For those that don’t like them luckily they only have to hear them once a year. I wonder what other music can you say that about?
Here’s a few of my faves. Let me know what yours are, or more importantly, what they aren’t.
Louis Armstrong: Zat You Santa Claus:
Fear, paranoia, suspicion? This Christmas gem has them all. But the real star may be Satchmo’s infectious vocal delivery, which puts this one over the top for me. Plus it really swings.
I don’t know of another Christmas song that manages to effortlessly combine dark elements of the unknown in an inviting, swinging package.
Musically, the reeds blowing whole notes on the bridge (“Are you bringing a present for me”) sound like a cold Winter’s wind with the quarter-note downbeats of the snare drum and bass affecting footsteps walking hurriedly through the night.
I love the air of mistrust in the line “Would you mind slipping it under my door”.
By song’s end, Satchmo is pleading ““Say it’s you, Santa Claus”
Then a signature Louis Armstrong ad-lib to wrap it:
“Ah, that’s him alright!”
From one American classic to another:
Beach Boys: Little St Nick
First off, a Christmas song from a Southern Californian band drenched in surf and sand. Everyone does Christmas songs now, all shapes and genres, but back in ’63 this must’ve bee rather unique. But it shines with all the brilliance of any great Beach Boys song.
A song not about Santa the man himself but rather an ode to Santa’s mode of transportation, how true to form for the Beach Boys. It’s a strong showing that they melded the genre to fit their style, instead of the other way around, even that early on.
Musically, it somehow manages to feel like Christmas and the beach. And the half step climb at the end always gets me.
Lyrically, it’s notable that Santa doesn’t get called out by name til the second verse. Though he’s aptly described in verse one: “ A real famous cat all dressed up in red”. And the 60s turn of phrases like “He’s cruisin’ every pad with a little surprise” just add to the atmosphere. And there's some nice detail in lines like: “She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel”.
Let me know your faves or hates below.
Thanks and Merry Krimble.