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Merry Christmas, Baby - the Beach Boys

"Little Saint Nick" is the Beach Boys' song most often included in shopping mall Christmas compilations, and it is one of only two of the group's Christmas songs ever released as singles. If you think "Nick" is ordinary and boring, you should listen to the other one, the ill-advised "The Man with All the Toys" - the very title gives you the heebie jeebies and should serve as warning enough to avoid this cloying, sickly ditty.

In the early days of the Beach Boys, one of Brian Wilson and Mike Loves' strengths were their ability to project the lives of Californian teenagers onto Wilsons's exquisite rock and roll tunes and harmonies. For their first six albums the subject matter was mainly about adolescent romance, cars and mopeds, drag racing and, of course, surfing. Listen to 1963's album "All Summer Long" and you're in a land of crew cuts, short sleeve shirts, cars, suntans and beach parties, perfectly preserved for all time in vinyl.

But they abandoned the formula for their seventh LP, released the same year, this time a winter offering, "The Beach Boys Christmas Album", complete with 41 piece orchestra.

Side Two is a self-indulgent, overproduced and schmaltzy set of Christmas standards opening with a shudderingly hideous version of the carol "We Three Kings" and including an jaunty, "big band" version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", so sinister you'd have thought twice about leaving your kids in their care.

Side One is better, mainly because they abandoned the orchestra used on Side Two, and Wilson and Love wrote five out of six of the songs. As I say, it's better than Side Two, but only one number is up to the standard of "All Summer Long": "Merry Christmas, Baby", is a Christmas cracker, significantly the sole track on the LP that eschews the standard seasonal paraphernalia of Santa, snowmen and snow in favour of the trials of teen love.

The guy has "messed around" and his girl has broken up with him. He's trying to persuade her to take him back, even "if

just for Christmas". Given that he complains,

"Well maybe she don't love me

and is not thinking of me

but why'd she do it this time of year?"

you get the feeling she'd be better off not forgiving him as he seems more worried at the prospect of missing out on the Christmas round of social events than losing her love.

Be she might cave in because of the song. It's as catchy as a winter cold, right from the first infectious double handclap and fabulous drumming - is it credited jazz session man Jack Sterling or the immortal Hal Blaine? Mike Love's mellow vocal along with the Beach Boys' balmy backing vocals bring a little summer warmth into our cold December. This is the one that should be in the malls and on the compilations, not "Little Saint Nick"!


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