"Zat You, Santa Claus?" /
Instead of a glitter-spangled scene with doors for every day of December, how about a daily treat from my iTunes holiday playlist?
There's a whole vein of Christmas music focused on the Jolly Old Elf, from the comic ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") to the lascivious ("Back Door Santa") to the funky ("Sock It To Me Santa") to the indie-weird ("Get Behind Me, Santa"). I guess if you don't want to sing about the real meaning of Christmas, it's easy to sing instead about snow and reindeer and St. Nicholas.
And yes, this song -- a cover of a Louis Armstrong gem from the mid-1950s -- is played for comic effect. But as sung by lounge lizard extraordinaire Buster Poindexter (a.k.a. former New York Dolls frontman David Johansen), this midnight encounter with Saint Nick trumps even Satchmo's original with its campy irony.
(Sorry for the ad and the grainy quality -- this was probably ripped off of MTV in 1987 -- but for this one, you really gotta see the video.)
Johansen's naturally got the growly vocals just like Armstrong, but translating it to a Park Avenue bachelor pad (dig the smoking jacket) makes perfect sense, given the jazzy big band arrangement. This came out a year before Johansen played the taxi driver/Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged, Bill Murray's delightful wiseguy version of A Christmas Carol. No doubt David/Buster was already campaigning for the part.
The story is negligible; there's no point in wondering why Santa would decide to burgle this guy's apartment. The whole point, really, is that finger-snapping jump-jive rhythm, the kitschy horn fills, and the overall wacky sense of fun. Louis Armstrong had a laugh with this song, but Buster Poindexter takes it to another level. And when you think that this came out in 1987 -- a notably lean year in Fun Rock Music (that is, unless you thought the Smiths were as funny as I did) -- well, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Still is, if you ask me.