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How The Beach Boys Classic “Little Deuce Coupe” Became “Little Saint Nick”

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The Beach Boys turned one of their most popular hits into a current staple of the Holiday season

The official singers of surfing, sand, and suped-up hot rods have their own seasonal hit

The Holiday season is finally coming to a close, which means local radio stations that have been playing Christmas music nonstop since November are finally switching back to their regularly-scheduled programming. Among the many seasonal songs that were undoubtedly heard during the past two months is a little number called “Little Saint Nick,” performed by The Beach Boys.

If you’ve ever listened to “Little Saint Nick” and thought that it sounded suspiciously similar to another Beach Boys signature, “Little Deuce Coupe,” then you’d be right. “Little Deuce Coupe” actually served as the inspiration for “Little Saint Nick.”

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“Little Saint Nick,” which was recorded and released in late 1963, shares much of its rhythm and structure with the original “Little Deuce Coupe,” released earlier that year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two also share a theme commonly found in many Beach Boys classics: cars.

“We wanted to make Santa’s sleigh a hot rod, ’cause we’d done ‘409’ and ‘Shut Down’ and ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ and [songs] like that,” explained Mike Love, co-writer on the song, during an interview with ABC Radio. “I said, ‘Hey, we gotta do a song about Santa having a hot rod sled.'”

A Beach Boys song about cars? How surprising!

The origins of the lyrics found in “Little Saint Nick” are actually the subject of some controversy. Brian Wilson, co-founder of The Beach Boys, recalls coming up with the lyrics while out on a date. However, Love claims that he helped co-write the seasonal single as well.

For years, Wilson was the only songwriter credited for the song. A 1992 lawsuit changed that, when Love was not only awarded credit for “Little Saint Nick,” but 34 other Beach Boys classics as well, including “California Girls,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and “I Get Around.”

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“Little Saint Nick,” was originally meant to be a part of a larger Christmas album when it was recorded in 1963. The Beach Boys couldn’t have picked a more unfortunate year for their first holiday-themed hit, however, as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in late November, resulting it a rather somber Christmas season.

Despite this, “Little Saint Nick” proved to be a success for the band, reaching the Top Tens in L.A., San Diego, and Washington D.C. and the Top Twenties in San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, and many other cities. The smash hit would eventually appear on The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, released the next year in 1964.

While The Beach Boys went on to write several Christmas-themed songs, “Little Saint Nick” continues to be their most successful seasonal single. If you cannnot wait until the next Christmas season to hear this festive number, you can listen to it down below:

Sources: Rolling Stone, WJBD, NME