SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN

Live 12 Dec 1975 version

[Spoken intro:] (Clarence laughs) It's all cold down along the beach, the wind's whipping down the boardwalk... Hey band! (Yeah? Hey, babe!) You guys know what time of year it is? (Yeah!) What time, huh? What? (Christmas time!) What? (Christmas time!) Oh, Christmas time! You guys all, you guys all been good and practicing real hard? Yeah? Clarence, you been, you been rehearsing real hard now, so Santa'll bring you a new saxophone, right? Everybody out there been good, or what? Oh, that's not many, not many, you guys are in trouble out here! Come on.

Yeah, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

He's making a list, he's checkin' it twice
He's gonna find out whose naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
You better be good for goodness sake
[Clarence:] You better be good for goodness sake

Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho!

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
You better be good for goodness sake
[Clarence:] Better be good for goodness sake

Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Yeah, Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
[Clarence:] Ho ho ho ho
Santa Claus is coming to town
Alright!
Santa Claus is coming to town, yeah
Santa Claus is coming to town, yeah
Santa Claus is coming to town, whoa
Santa Claus is coming to town


Page last updated: 14 Dec 2009

Intro

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN is written by Joe Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie and originally released in 1934. The Christmas song was covered by numerous recording artists including Bruce Springsteen whose version is based on The Crystals' version which was arranged by Phil Spector.

Springsteen's live 12 Dec 1975 performance of the song was first officially released in 1981 (see the below official releases for more details) and has become one of the most popular versions of this Christmas standard. The track sells pretty well in the USA every November-December. It's Springsteen's best selling 1-track download in the USA.

Title

The original title of the song is "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" but sometimes "Coming" is changed to "Comin'". Springsteen used the "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" title on his official releases, so does this website.

Original Version

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. It became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day and over 400,000 copies sold by Christmas.

The earliest known recorded version of the song was performed by George Hall and the Hotel Taft Orchestra (featuring Sonny Schuyler on vocals) in 1934. It was mostly an instrumental except for a 35-second vocal by Schuyler. The version shown in the Variety charts of December 1934 was Harry Reser featuring Tom Stacks on vocal. The song was a sheet music hit, reaching #1. The song was also recorded on September 26, 1935, by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra.

The Crystals' Version

The Crystals' version, from which Springsteen heavily borrows, was originally released in Nov 1963 on Phil Spector's various artists album A Christmas Gift For You (Philles 4005). The album was reissued by Apple Records in 1972, with different cover art and retitled Phil Spector's Christmas Album.

Live History

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN has been a Bruce Springsteen concert standard during the Holiday period nearly every year since 1973.

The first known live performance was on 20 Dec 1973 at Bristol Motor Inn in Bristol, RI. No audio recording has emanated from that show, but partial setlist comes from a newspaper review of the performance. Another known performance that year was during the 23 Dec 1973 at Rova Farms Function Center in Jackson, NJ. Again no audio recording has emanated from that show, but Brucebase reports that about half way into Springsteen's set, he played SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN, only to have a serious brawl erupt in the audience during the song. Consequently the police became embroiled and the promoters had to do some fast talking to get the police to let the show continue. Note that Rova Farms was not a "farm"; it was a congregation center operated by the local Russian Orthodox community. Setlists for many shows from that period are incomplete or unknown, and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN most likely have been performed at many of the gigs in the December Holiday period.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1973 performances list]

The song was again performed in December 1975, a total of 11 times as far as it's known. The 12 Dec 1975 concert at C. W. Post College is the one at which the official SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was recorded and eventually officially released. Setlists for several shows from that period are incomplete or unknown, and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN may have been performed at many of the gigs in the December Holiday period.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1975 performances list]

On the Darkness On The Edge Of Town Tour, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN debuted early when Springsteen played it 4 times in September. He then played it on the last 19 consecutive shows of the tour starting in late November.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1978 performances list]

On The River Tour, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played on the last 13 consecutive shows of December 1980.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1980 performances list]

On 28 Dec 1983, Springsteen made an off-tour guest appearance with La Bamba at the Monmouth Arts Centre in Red Bank, NJ. He was onstage for 3 songs including SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1983 performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was heavily played during the Born In The USA Tour; September-December 1984, January 1985, March 1985, and September 1985. In total, it made 43 appearances.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1984-1985 performances list]

The song was again played off-tour on 18 Dec 1988 at The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ. Springsteen joined local musicians onstage for SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1988 performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played on all December 1992 shows of the World Tour 1992-1993. The 13 December performance of the song featured a guest appearance by Jon Landau, and the 16 Dec performance featured a guest appearance by Joe Grushecky.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1992 performances list]

On 20 Dec 1994, Springsteen made an off-tour guest appearance with Tim McClone's Holiday Express at The Tradewinds in Sea Bright, NJ. He was onstage for 3 songs including SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN. On 21 Dec 1998, he joined Bobby Bandiera and his band onstage for one song during an annual Christmas bash at McLoone's Rum Runner restaurant in Sea Bright, NJ. He again joined Bobby Bandiera and his band the following year the Rum Runner for reportedly well over an hour, performing Beatles and CCR songs among other classics including SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN. Though the date is not certain it seems like the party took place on 20 Dec 1999.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1994, 1998, and 1999 off-tour performances list]

On The Reunion Tour, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played on the last 2 shows of December 1999 in Minneapolis.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1999 on-tour performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was performed during both 2000 Asbury Park holiday shows, all five 2003 Asbury Park holiday shows, and all three 2003 Asbury Park holiday shows. These concerts were billed as "Bruce Springsteen with The Max Weinberg 7 and Friends", with The Max Weinberg 7 serving as the house band, and Springsteen bringing guests on and off the stage throughout the shows. Springsteen rounded off each evening by bringing all performers onstage to close the show with SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2000-2003 holiday shows performances list]

On 15 Dec 2001, the "Holiday Express Concert" was held at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey, only a week after the close of the Asbury Park holiday shows. Springsteen turned up midway through the show to perform two holiday songs with Tim McCloon's Holiday Express, MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2001 performances list]

On The Rising Tour, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played on the last 7 consecutive shows of December 2002.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2002 on-tour performances list]

John A. Mulheren, Jr., a well known businessman from Rumson, NJ, passed away on 15 Dec 2003. Bruce Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa attended his funeral which was held 4 days later in Rumson; they had known him since the sixties. John Mulheren's sister Patti Mulheren Skinner was the lead singer from 1968 to 1970 in "Gross National Product", a band that had performed at gigs alongside early Springsteen outfits The Castiles and Earth. At the request of John's widow, Bruce performed a solo acoustic rendition of  SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2003 off-tour performances list]

On 02 Dec 2004, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers played a benefit concert (billed "Flood Aid '04") at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA, for Pennsylvanians who suffered damage from Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. They rounded up the night with SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN which featured many of the night's performers onstage as well as Jesse Malin and his band, some elves, and Santa himself. Springsteen performed SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN during both the early and late holiday jam shows that were held on 19 Dec 2004 at Harry's Roadhouse in Asbury Park, NJ, backed by Bobby Bandiera and his band. Patti Scialfa and Willie Nile made a guest appearance on the song during the afternoon show.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2004 performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was performed twice times during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour, on the very last date. Patti Scialfa came onstage along with about 15 more friends and family members for the Christmas song. Springsteen's kids were part of the throng, Sam sitting on the piano bench next to his dad, as everyone shook tambourines, jingled bells, and sang along for this official start of the holiday season.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour performances list]

Springsteen joined Joe Grushecky for a few songs during the seventh annual Light Of Day benefit show which was held on 02 Dec 2006 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. They rounded up the night with SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN which featured all of the night's performers onstage, including Bob Benjamin who joined Springsteen on lead vocals. The Bobby Bandiera All-Star Holiday Concert was held on 12 Dec 2006 at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. Springsteen closed the show with a 35-minute set backed by Bandiera's Rock And Soul Revue. For the finale of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN, he shared the stage with the Grinch and a couple of Sesame Street characters.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2006 performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played 10 times during the Magic Tour; 9 in Dec 2007 and a one-off performance in Jul 2008 in Finland. Bruce had made a remark earlier in the Helsinki show about Saint Nicholas possibly being from Finland.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2007 and 2008 on-tour performances list]

Springsteen showed up at Bobby Bandiera's 2008 Hope Concert at the newly renovated Count Basie Theatre. He joined the festivities for a few songs including SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN which he performed with Southside Johnny.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2008 off-tour performances list]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN was played 7 times during the Working On A Dream Tour. It debuted in Finland, again in the middle of year (02 June 2009). That summer the song was also played in the Spanish City of Bilbao and in Manchester, TN. It was then played on last 4 consecutive shows of the tour. These were the last performances of the song when this page was last updated.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2009 performances list]

Official Releases

The live 12 Dec 1975 of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN from C. W. Post College in Greenvale, NY, was recorded and released that year by Columbia Records on a promotion-only reel-to-reel tape which was distributed to rock radio stations. It was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, produced by Chuck Plotkin , Jon Landau , and Steve Van Zandt, and recorded by Toby Scott.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] wasn't released commercially until 1981 when Columbia Records included it on the various artists children's album In Harmony 2. The album was issued in the USA, UK, Australia, and Japan.

A few promotional singles containing SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] accompanied the In Harmony 2 album:

  • "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    Promotional 12-inch single - USA, 1981 - catalogue # COL AS 1329

  • "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    Promotional 7-inch single - USA, 1981 - catalogue # COL AE7 1332

  • "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] / Nobody Knows But Me [Billy Joel]"
    Promotional 7-inch single - Holland, 1981 - catalogue # CBS PRO 151

  • "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] / White Christmas [Barbra Streisand]"
    Promotional 7-inch single - Japan, 1981 - catalogue # CBS/SONY XDSP 93026

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] was included on the Bruce Springsteen 12-inch promotion-only EP in Nov 1984.

Track list:
01- BORN IN THE USA
02- SHUT OUT THE LIGHT
03- PINK CADILLAC
04- JERSEY GIRL [live 09 Jul 1981]
05- SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]

The EP was issued in the USA (catalogue # COL AS 1957), Canada (catalogue # COL CDN 178), Holland (catalogue # CBS SAMP 89), and Australia (catalogue # CBS SAMPLER 93). The first three issues came with only marginal sleeve variations (first scan below is for the USA issue and the second is for the Holland issue) and red labels on disc, while the Aussie issue featured a totally different, unique picture sleeve and came with white labels on disc (third scan below). The first three issues had the first track only on side A and the remaining 4 on side B, while the Aussie issue had the first two tracks on side A and the remaining 3 on side B.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] was also included on Radio DJ Special No. 3, a Sweden-only 5-track various artists promotional 12-inch EP, catalogue # CBS SAMP 1045.

Track list:
Side A, 01- ??? [Big Audio Dynamite]
Side A, 02- ??? [Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne]
Side B, 01- It Is A Crime [Sade]
Side B, 02- Dancing On A String [Time Bandits and Wham!]
Side B, 03- SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] was released as a B-side to MY HOMETOWN on 21 Nov 1985, a perfect timing for Christmas. The singles was issued worldwide with no particular variations except the Portuguese issue which had the A-side and B-side switched and featured a unique colour picture sleeve. In Holland a 12-inch version was also pressed. In the U.S., the single was also issued on a cassette tape in 1985 and reissued on a CD5 single in 1998.

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    White label promotional 7-inch single - Australia, 1985 - catalogue # CBS BA 3394
    7-inch single - Australia, 1985 - catalogue # CBS BA 3394

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Canada, 1985 - catalogue # COL 38-05728

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Holland, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773
    12-inch single - Holland, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 12.6773

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Ireland, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773
    Two variants were issued; one with orange labels, and one with red labels.

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Italy, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Japan, 1985 - catalogue # CBS/SONY 07SP 935
    The Japanese promotional issue is identical to the commercial one with the exception of a Japanese "promo" writing upon the catalogue number on the labels.

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - New Zealand, 1985 - catalogue # CBS BA 3394

  • "SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] / MY HOMETOWN"
    7-inch single - Portugal, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - South Africa, 1985 - catalogue # CBS SSC 5899

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - Spain, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - UK, 1985 - catalogue # CBS A 6773

Bruce Springsteen -- "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]" (UK, 1985, catalogue # CBS A 6773) [7-inch single cover art]

  • "MY HOMETOWN / SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975]"
    7-inch single - USA, 1985 - catalogue # COL 38-05728
    7-inch single, "Collectables" edition - USA, 1986 - catalogue # COL 13-04814
    7-inch single, "Hall Of Fame" edition - USA, 1986 - catalogue # COL 13-04814
    Cassette single - USA, 1985 - catalogue # COL 38T 05728
    CD5 single - USA, 1998 - catalogue # COL 38K 5728



SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] was also included on the Tunnel Of Love 2-track EP in 1987. The UK 12-inch issue comes in a fold-out poster sleeve.

  • 12-inch EP - Holland, 1987 - catalogue # CBS 651295 6
  • 12-inch EP - Spain, 1987 - catalogue # CBS 651295 8
  • 12-inch EP - UK, 1987 - catalogue # CBS 651295 8
  • CD5 EP - UK, 1987 - catalogue # CBS 651295 2

In addition to In Harmony 2, SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN [live 12 Dec 1975] was also included on several various artists compilation albums, including:

  • The Return Of Sampler Claus: Hits From The North Pole
    CD - USA, 1994 - catalogue # COL CSK 6666
    Columbia demo album, also includes MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY [live 31 Dec 1980]

  • Christmas Of Hope
    CD - USA, 1995 - catalogue # COL 67407
    Charity album with net proceeds to the City Of Hope

  • Hit's A Sony - December '96 VOL. 11
    2-CD - USA, 1996 - catalogue # XDCS 93255-6

  • Sounds Of The Season
    CD - USA, 1997 - catalogue # SONY CK 68763
    Charity album with net proceeds to the Children's Hearing Institute

  • Christmas Stocking Stuffers
    CD - USA, 1998 - catalogue # COL ESK 41737
    Columbia demo album

  • Now That's What I Call Christmas!
    2-CD - USA, 2001 - catalogue # UTV 4585620

  • Christmas Hits - 60 Festive Favourites
    3-CD - ???, 2004 - catalogue # BMG ???

  • Elton John's Christmas Party
    CD - USA, 2005 - catalogue # ???
    Charity album with net proceeds to the Elton John AIDS Foundation

  • Sampler Claus 2006
    CD - USA, 2006 - catalogue # COL 88697 01961 2
    Columbia demo album, also includes MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY [live 31 Dec 1980]

  • Columbia Christmas Classics
    CD - USA, ??? - catalogue # ???
    Columbia demo album

  • Sampler Claus Volume III
    CD - USA, ??? - catalogue # ???
    Columbia demo album

  • Play Hits And They Will Buy
    CD - USA, ??? - catalogue # ???
    Columbia demo album

Credits / References

Much of the info about the original version of the song is taken from Wikipedia. Much of the info about the live history of the song is taken from Brucebase and Backstreets. Scans and info for some of the above official releases are taken from the Lost In The Flood website and Schrefel's Springsteen Collection page. Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for transcribing these lyrics and for the additional help on this page. Thanks Massimo Truchet for the help on some of the official releases

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