Best Rock Versions of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Photo: By daigooliva (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every year, many stations on FM radio shift their gears towards holiday music. Its a tradition that goes back as far as radio itself. From Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” to RUN DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis,” through the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping,” and on and on. The holidays bring festive music to the masses. If we had to choose one of the most famous and Christmas tunes of all time, the classic “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” would be right up there at the top with “Jingle Bells.”

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” in its original version was a sweet wonderful song sung in a spirited but laid back traditional holiday feel. The song was written by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots. It first became a hit in 1934 when it was performed in a radio broadcast by Harry Cantor. The song would become the biggest Christmas song of the year. It would eventually be recorded by Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Perry Como.

In 1962 Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons recorded a version of“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” that reached the top 40 music charts. From that point on, the song has been recorded by hundreds of rock and pop artists. Most people know the classic Bruce Springsteen version that was recorded live in the late 1970’s. However there are many great versions of the song available. Her are 10 of our favorite rock versions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,”

# 10 – James Corden

Well this version features James Corden and just about every other person on the planet. The video features stars such as the Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, James Sheeran, Pink and Bruno Mars. This is what it’s all about, the spirit, the cheer, the commercialism and the love. It’s all there in this one great video and a great way to start off our Best Rock Versions of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town list.

# 9 – Brian Setzer

The Brian Setzer version falls somewhere between the old and new. Its swings, it rocks, it’s 100 percent Brian Setzer and we love it. Brian Setzer has been touring with his big band doing Christmas shows for close to 20 years. If you’ve never caught Brian Setzer and his big band doing a Christmas show you’re missing out on one of the most spectacular holiday shows of the past two decades.

# 8 – Jackson 5

You can’t have a top 10 “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” list without including the famous Jackson 5 version. Listen to Michael Jackson sing his heart out on this one. The Jackson 5 Christmas albums were released in October of 1970. It was a very successful record. The album contains a combination of original songs of Christmas classics. It has been hell is one of the best pop music Christmas albums of all time. It was released at a time on the Jackson 5 could really do no wrong. Motown Records heavily promoted the band all the time.

# 7 – Steven Tyler

All you have to do is hear Steven Tyler scream and howl before the chorus in this one and you are hooked. It’s short, but it’s Steven Tyler and that’s all you need to know. From the Lizzie McGuire episode, “Xtreme Xmas.” television show. I think Steven Tyler should make a Christmas album. Now wait a second how about Aerosmith make a Christmas album? That I would be a record that would rock

# 6 – The Beach Boys

It’s a little laid back, at times cartoonish, but it’s The Beach Boys, and oh ! those harmonies trump anyone. Nonetheless, the Beach Boys Christmas album was a groundbreaking record for the group. It took the group out of their comfort zone. It was released in 1964. It was the band’s 7th album. Yamazaki collection of original songs and Christmas standards one of the album’s highlights was Brian Wilson’s lead vocal performance on the track “Blue Christmas.”

# 5 – Dokken

Well, we have to have a least one metal version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and this one is great. Dig the minor chords. Dokken rocks this one hard.

# 4 – Chicago

This is probably the most original version of the song ever recorded. The harmonies, the horns, the band Chicago is an American treasure and their version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” is brilliant. Chicago’s grade version was released on their Chicago XXV album. The Christmas album was produced by Bruce Springsteen‘s pianist Roy Bittan. While the Beach Boys recorded a Christmas album with their 7th album, Chicago did it on the 19th studio album. The Chicago Christmas album was released in 1998.

# 3 – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

One of the only acts in history that could compete with The Beach Boys in the harmony genre was Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. This version is historically important because it was the highest charting version of the song ever released. What may surprise many people is that 4 Seasons Christmas album was only their second studio record. It was also released on Vee Jay records. The famous label known for releasing the first Beatles album before they signed with Capitol.

# 2 – The Crystals

Without the Crystals version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” there would have been no Bruce Springsteen version. The Crystals version was recorded in 1963 and set the stage for all future rock and roll and pop versions.

# 1 – Bruce Springsteen

We thought it would be fair to start out our list with the most popular rock version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” in the modern rock era. But then we thought wait a second how could we do that? Springsteen’s version is the all-time greatest version of the song ever recorded. It captured the magic of Christmas with originality, humor and a true rock and roll heart.

The song was originally recorded live at C.W. Post college in 1975. It was released on a charity album called In Harmony in 1982 and then as the b-side to “My Hometown,” in 1985. However, the song had been bootlegged long before it was ever officially released and it was constantly played from a radio promo on the airwaves since the mid 1970’s. A pure classic.

Updated October 31, 2023

Best Rock Versions of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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