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Official Review [Single]: 16. "SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN"/"MERRY CHRISTMAS DARLING" (1648-S)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Oct 22, 2016.

Which side is your favorite?

  1. Side A: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"

    20 vote(s)
    57.1%
  2. Side B: "Merry Christmas Darling"

    15 vote(s)
    42.9%
  1. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    “SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN"/"MERRY CHRISTMAS DARLING"

    SCICTT.png SCICTTCover.png MCD Single '74.png
    Side A: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 4:00 (Gillespie/Coots)
    Side B: Merry Christmas Darling 3:02 (Carpenter/Pooler)


    Catalogue Number: A&M 1648-S
    Date of Release: 11/74
    Format: 7" Single
    Speed: 45 RPM
    Country: US


    Arranged & Orchestrated by Richard Carpenter
    Produced by Richard & Karen Carpenter & Jack Daugherty


    For more definitive information regarding each single, you can visit our Carpenters - The Complete Singles page in our Carpenters Resource.
     
  2. My copy of this 45 is a white-label promo with no picture sleeve. It has a HAECO-CSG stereo version on the stereo side, and a plain mono version on the flip.

    I remember hearing this on the radio and thinking, "Gee, Carpenters have come up with another great Christmas record." They'd already had success with "Merry Christmas Darling" and I began to picture a Christmas album coming soon. But was actually a few years - and this wasn't on it, even though the album contained a quickie version of the song. I was very disappointed about that.

    This version only appears on CD in the Japanese Singles set and the US' THE COMPLETE SINGLES. Word is that the Japanese version was lifted from a 45, while TJL swears that the US version came from a tape master - and it sounds it.

    Because of its relative rarity, I suppose, it hardly ever seems to get played on Christmas radio stations - at least none of the ones I hear. Lots of other Christmas tunes from the duo, but not this version of this song.
     
    byline likes this.
  3. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    The alternate sleeve:

    SCICTTAltCover.png
     
    Jeff, newvillefan and theninjarabbit like this.
  4. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    The slow version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" (which I'm assuming is this one, not the fast one on Portrait) is wonderful. I myself am partial to the '78 version, as that's the version I became enamored of during the holidays. I think this '74 version has the association of a saxophonist falling down the stairs during that section, which I believe was a comment I read on these boards actually, and that mental image makes me laugh. Last time I listened, which was some time ago, I laughed when I got to that part. Silly, I know!

    "Merry Christmas Darling" is a standard and it always will be. The version used here, 1970, is among their best.

    This vote is a toss-up; I love their Christmas music.
     
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  5. K.C. Jr

    K.C. Jr Well-Known Member

    US
    I will choose "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" on this one. Amazing vocals and an outstanding arrangement.
    I actually just recently acquired this single as a 45, but I haven't listened to it yet. Christmas is comin', though!
     
  6. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    US
    Correct. :agree:

    I have to say I prefer "Santa Claus is..." over the flip side, likely due to the arrangement that flips a familiar tune in another direction. The B-side at this day and age is somewhat overplayed, but it has also become a classic.

    I had the 45 with the alternate sleeve posted above.
     
    Chris May likes this.
  7. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    It's to bad that the B-side wasn't "Carol Of The Bells", since going by the Perry Como DVD, Bells seems to have been recorded in 74, minus the singers, who I guess were singing to a pre-recorded track.

    Or at the very least another Christmas Tune, even if it was a Public Domain tune like "Joy To The World" or "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day".

    But with "Santa Claus...", it's nice that Richard re-recorded the sax section in 1984, since the original makes it sound like the saxophonist was walking down stairs while they were playing the sax.

    And Harry, the 1974 single version, albeit the mono mix, appears in one other place: "The Perry Como Christmas Show" DVD.
     
  8. Guitarmutt

    Guitarmutt Active Member

    This was a close call for me. I love both, but side 2 still wins here. Take into consideration, it is an original creation from scratch compared to a brilliant arrangement. At the time, one was still completely new, and one was completely original. To me, this is a fantastic single for Christmas. Which is coming soon, Christmas, I will be in Sarasota with family.
     
    GaryAlan likes this.
  9. michiganguy

    michiganguy Member

    Merry Christmas, Darling is the song that got me into the Carpenters. It introduced me to their regular music, which I love, and different moods always go with different songs (this time of year, love a song like Superstar on a gray, cold Autumn Day)...but their Christmas music is what they are known for to the non-fandom public. Every November and December, Carpenters airplay skyrockets as radio stations across the country play a ton of Carpenters tunes from the untouchable "Christmas Portrait". And while I could listen to their Christmas Albums over and over and over again, Merry Christmas, Darling, both the 1970 & 1978 versions, is a timeless classic that IS Christmas to me. I like hundreds of different Christmas songs, but if I have to pick one that signifies the season for me, its Merry Christmas, Darling. Should start hearing it on the radio in a few short weeks, sooner perhaps in my CD player :wink:
     
  10. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    Yeah I can't wait for next Tuesday---I always start spinning the CD's and LP's on November 1!
     
    Jeff likes this.
  11. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    I was just listening to this version on the PBS disc this morning, and while I won't go so far as to say that the master was a 45, I will say that it definitely sounds like the master that was used had been mastered and EQ'd for vinyl.

    But at 3:20-3:22 on the CD I noticed that one of Richard's backing vocals seems to cut in rather oddly. He seems to be saying 'now-oo-oo' but the cut makes it sound like 'baa-room-mm'.
     
  12. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I like both sides but did choose. There is probably no one else who could carry Santa Claus like Karen since the Carpenters sound fits perfectly balancing Karen's interpretative lead. A great song for the holiday swinging duo! I was fascinated watching it being sung in the Perry Como Christmas Special. She looked as fantastic as the sound they created!

    Craig
     
    DF1950 likes this.
  13. It sounds perfectly normal to me - just the way it always did on the 45, but much cleaner, of course.
     
  14. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Here, again, a tough decision.
    And, my initial reaction is to gravitate to Merry Christmas Darling (another all-time favorite song).
    Ultimately, I went with Santa:
    As I have detailed elsewhere, here we have a confluence--Vocals, arrangement, background---
    where all pieces fit, Carpenters personified.

    But, I Love both songs so very much.
    Really, an (almost) impossible choice !
     
  15. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I love both songs equally, but I give 'Santa' the nod here because it was a brand new single at the time. I remember writing to A&M in 1975 asking how I could obtain the single, and they sent me one for free (jukebox cover)! That was a great surprise.
     
    K.C. Jr likes this.
  16. Murphy

    Murphy New Member

    Merry Christmas, Darling, of course. It's a classic. Santa Claus is a close runner-up, but ONLY the original single version, with the great sax solo. What on earth made Richard re-record the bridge with that awful Vegas-lounge schlock is beyond me.
     
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  17. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I can't stand the original sax solo. Someone else on this forum amusingly described it as like listening to someone trying to play while walking down stairs. It's too jaunty and there's too much staccato in it. The re-recording is smoother, more mellow and flows better, suiting the groove of the song much better.
     
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  18. Murphy

    Murphy New Member

    newvillefan, I couldn't disagree more. The revised version of "Santa" reflects everything my favorite duo did wrong in their later career choices. The bland "Kind Of Hush" album, the MOR Chorale, etc. Putting their own mark on their music made them distinctive...imitating Lawrence Welk did not. Although I enjoy "Christmas Portrait", I wish they had added a few original songs and did not play it so safe with just standards. The great sax solo on the original "Santa" was a touch that made them sound "alive".
     
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  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As I was listening to the ( Live 1971 Miami --it being on Youtube)
    Santa Claus is Coming To Town,
    reinforces my conclusion to stick with the fantastic, Original Sax Solo....
    The sax solo interlude is bookended (by the start and finish sax portions of the song)
    and ties in very nicely with the entire flow of the song.
    The 1984 sax solo (which I like) simply detracts from the entirety of the enterprise,
    especially when one listens to the Live rendition from 1971.
     
    byline likes this.
  20. Nancy J. Limauro

    Nancy J. Limauro Nancy J. "YoNance" Limauro

    ct
    To me..that album is like I Love Lucy...I can listen over and over...and not get sick of it
     
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  21. To me, it seems just a bit silly to pit this fabulous single's A-side with a previously issued, but superlative single as its B-side. But then again, it was an issued 45, and we're doing "a" versus "b" sides. The "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" A-side is surely the focus of this release, and the fact that it was a Christmas single, determined the fact that the only other seasonal song that Carpenters had recorded was their prior Christmas single, so it was chosen as the b-side as a bonus(?), to refresh the listener's collection (?), the radio station's collection (?)

    As I said, my only copy is a promo, and it is the ONLY song on both sides, yet I'm pretty sure that if I had bought the stock single, my focus would still have been the "Santa Claus" track as "Merry Christmas Darling" had already had its day in the sun.
     
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  22. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    According to the Carpenter website, regarding
    Santa Claus is Coming To Town,
    "Karen and Richard recorded the basic track and the lead vocal in 1972,
    and
    added brass, strings, the sax solo and background vocals two years later."

    Again, I do ask,
    as of late 1974 Jack Daugherty is given some Production credit to this record,
    but, we all know he was dismissed long before this record was completed and released.
    Exactly, then, what did he do in regards producing this recording such that he is still credited at all ?
     
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  23. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    He's listed as producer purely because that was still his official role with the Carpenters when they began recording the track in 1972. Think of it as if this track was recorded for ASFY, where Daugherty is listed as producer too.

    Whether he contributed anything to the production of this particular recording is anyone's guess but I'd bet the answer is "next to nothing", which is ultimately why Richard brought the relationship with him to an end. He certainly wouldn't have had any involvement in the process of adding the brass, strings, sax solo and background vocals. At the most he probably booked the studio sessions for them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2016
    byline likes this.
  24. Does anyone know if Karen's vocal was in fact recorded in 1972? It sounds more how she sounded in the 1974 era, more technically assured and richer.
     
  25. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
    The liner notes from Richard on From The Top Box Set states,
    "The track to this selection was recorded in 1972 but our schedules left no time for vocals and sweetening until late 1974"

    I'm taking that to mean Karen & Richard recorded their vocals in 74'
    It's interesting that they debuted this while on their concert tours as we have 2 live recordings of this track from Miami Beach Nov 1971 and some other concert from Dec 1973.
     
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