Only the Beach Boys could conjure up a Christmas tune so effervescently Christmassy as Little Saint Nick, with their trademark harmonies somehow managing to convey both snow and sunshine all at once. What’s more, the subject of the lyrics isn’t Christmas itself, the meaning of Christmas, relationship breakdown, world peace or even just Christmas wishes – oh no. It’s Santa’s hot rod.
“Candy apple red with a ski for a wheel”, Santa’s sleigh, the Little Saint Nick of the song title (is it customary to name sleighs like boats? This isn’t something I’ve ever had to consider before) is so fast he has to wear goggles to protect his eyes from the snow. Santa himself is described as “a real famous cat all dressed up in red”, probably his most gratifying moment of being down with the kids in the history of music.
Originally released as a single in December 1963, it received a muted reception from a media still shocked from Kennedy’s assassination. In 1964 the Beach Boys released a Christmas album which featured Little Saint Nick as the lead track and it remains an enduring classic of the Christmas genre even though it never managed the chart success of other, better-timed Christmas singles.
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