Christmas is not Christmas to me unless the first song played is the Bruce Springsteen version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. This has been going on certainly since the mid-eighties, where it was used as reveille, a blast of joyous noise to get you out of bed. Or at least to signal that Dad was up.
I suspect his adoption of the song as the Wickings Christmas anthem came out of the song’s appearance on the B-side of the My Hometown single, which made it the first time you could own the song as opposed to just listening out for it on the radio. It’s always been a Dad-sponsored thing, although I’ve carried it on, and I suspect I am the only one of his three boys that does so. I got my love of The Boss from him. That being said, It’s also his fault that I like prog rock, so there’s swings and roundabouts.
There’s just something about the song that sends the hairs up on the back of my neck at this time of year. The quiet opening with the sleigh bells and Roy Bittan’s gentle piano. The Big Man’s solo. The bit where Bruce nearly loses it as Santa arrives behind him.
I love the video, that was a regular feature on the Old Grey Whistle Test for at least three years, that I think is a recording of the 1978 Winterland gig where the version we know came from (UPDATE: memory serves me poorly, it seems. There IS a version shot in ’78, but it’s from Passaic, New Jersey and it’s black and white. I’m probably getting that and the version of Rosalita that Hepworth and co always used to play mixed up. Still good, though. Have a look.)
This year Dad mentioned in passing that he was thinking of playing the Dylan version of “Must Be Santa” instead of Bruce first thing on Christmas Day. It’s a good version, sure, and the video is a riot. But it’s not the same. And I was quite genuinely shocked. The very thought that he might play something else to blast the Nans and Mum out of bed on Christmas morning seemed so alien. It pulled against the tradition that we two had so carefully set up and kept running for all those years.
I’m happy to report that he didn’t break the chain, and the Big Man still blared over Havering on Friday morning, in the same way that the Micra shook to the beat as we whizzed down the M4 to join him and the family.
Some thing are just sacred at this time of year.