#1203: Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys (bonus post)

Peak Month: December 1963
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #10
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Cashbox Magazine ~ #69
CFUN Twin Pick of the week ~ December 7, 1963

This Countdown is for the Top 1,130 songs that were bigger hits in Vancouver compared to how a song charted on the Billboard Hot 100. However, from time to time, there will be a post published about a song during this Countdown that is below the official 1130 Countdown. On this first Christmas Day since the Countdown began on October 3, 2016, here is a song that was a hit in Vancouver called “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys. It was the CFUN Twin Pick of the week for December 7, 1963. As it only spent three weeks on the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY, it did not chart as well as other songs on this Countdown. But it was a hit single here in Vancouver. As a song that made it onto record surveys in the USA it did well in a few radio markets in California (#9 in Los Angeles, #3 in San Bernardino and #1 in Sacramento), Seattle (#9) Salt Lake City (#5) and Boston (#10). Otherwise, the song got little airplay across the USA. For the most part, “Little Saint Nick” was a hit in December 1963 from the California coast up to Vancouver. The song was judged too cheery a tune to play on the radio in late November 1963, and December 1963, while Americans were still mourning the death of President John F. Kennedy.

In the fall of 1963 record producer Phil Spector was planning to record a Christmas album of pop tunes by his pop music recording acts. These included “Sleigh Ride” and “Frosty the Snowman” by The Ronettes, “Winter Wonderland” by Darlene Love and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by The Crystals. The album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector was released in the USA on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. With the nation reeling from shock, fear and grief, Americans and their media were in mourning. The cheery Christmas songs by the recording artists in Phil Spectors stable were not what America wanted to hear just then, although the tunes have over the decades become seasonal sellers.

Upon hearing of Spector’s plans, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys got an inspiration that would a year later result in the Beach Boys seventh studio album called The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album released on November 9, 1964. Wilson recalled years later about “Little Saint Nick”, “I wrote the lyrics to it while I was out on a date and then I rushed home to finish the music.” Though “Little Saint Nick” was initially credited to Wilson alone, in 1990 fellow group member Mike Love won a lawsuit crediting him as co-writer of the tune. The songs’ structure and rhythm was drawn from the groups summer 1963 hit “Little Deuce Coupe“.

Beach Boys - 5096AX - Little Saint Nick 45 (Capitol Can.).jpg

The Beach Boys give us the background story to how it was plausible that Santa could be so very fast with his sleigh ride each year on Christmas Eve. In their song the little Saint Nick is actually the bobsled that Santa Claus spends all year driving around like a hot rod. It is candy apple red and has a ski for a wheel. According to the song, Santa is something else to watch when he hits the gas of this bobsled. Santa had 364 days of revving up his Little Saint Nick bobsled to get ready for his much anticipated sleigh ride. It is no wonder, then, that Santa made good time with all the chimneys and households in the world to visit in order to deposit toys to the nice girls and boys in one single night.  In this respect “Little Saint Nick” may be uniquely the only hot rod Christmas song. It was the follow-up single to “Be True to Your School” and “Little Saint Nick” was the seventh single release by the Beach Boys since they first debuted on the pop charts in the fall of 1962 with “Surfin’ Safari”.

Intro: Oo-ooo-ooo
Merry Christmas Saint Nick
Christmas comes this time each year

Well way up north where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas
That you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends all year workin’ out on his sled
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)

Just a little bobsled we call the old Saint Nick
But she’ll walk a toboggan with a four speed stick
She’s candy apple red with a ski for a wheel
And when Santa hits the gas man just watch her peel
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)

Bridge: Run run reindeer
Run run reindeer, whoaa
Run run reindeer
Run run reindeer (he don’t miss no one)

And haulin’ through the snow at a frightening speed
With a half a dozen deer with Rudy to lead
He’s got to wear his goggles ’cause the snow really flies
And he’s cruisin’ every path with a little surprise
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)

Oo-ooo-ooo
Merry Christmas Saint Nick
Christmas comes this time each year…

“Little Saint Nick” became the fifth Top Ten song on Vancouver’s CFUN charts. In fact, the Beach Boys were getting more Top Ten songs in Vancouver than on the national Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. South of the border the Beach Boys had scored three Top Ten hits between May and December of 1963. These were “Surfin’ USA” (#3 Billboard/#6 Vancouver), “Surfer Girl” (#7 Billboard/#8 Vancouver) and “Be True to Your School” (#6 Billboard/did not chart in Vancouver). That’s right, “Be True to Your School” was not on the pop charts in Vancouver in 1963 (or any year after) even though it gets played here on oldies stations. Conversely, “Little Saint Nick” made it onto the pop charts in Vancouver. Although Canadians were impacted by the news of the assassination of JFK, radio station programmers here in Vancouver chose to program “Little Saint Nick” on the play list, while many American DJ’s chose to give the song a pass (with the primary exception of radio stations in the Beach Boys home state of California).

When The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album did get released in November 1964 there was a hit single that went to #3 in December on the Billboard Hot 100. But it wasn’t “Little Saint Nick”. Instead, it was another track on the album called “The Man With All The Toys“. While this other song was a Top Ten hit in the USA it did not chart in Vancouver.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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