Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (F Coots/H Gillespie) and Silent Night (J Mohr/F Gruber)-The Seekers 2010

In 2001 The Seekers released their debut Christmas album Morningtown Ride to Christmas,which sold 70,000 copies and contained timeless versions of seasonal favourites, the group had broken up in 1968, but often re-formed to record and play live tours to the enjoyment of their many fans. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town was written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934 at the request of singer Eddie Cantor, whose version was a big hit in a time when sheet music sales were more numerous than phonograph record sales. Lyricist Gillespie was not enthused to write the song as his brother had just died, but there was pressure to produce a hit song for Cantor before Christmas, and while returning home on the subway after a meeting, Gillespie recalled how his mother would caution, him and his brother about behaving properly “You better watch out/You better not cry/You better not pout/I’m telling you why/Santa Claus is coming to town…”, the lyrics emerged quite naturally, and the sound of the subway’s clickety-clack seemed to suggest a melody that would later be refined by his co-writer Fred Coots. Below L-R – Haven Gillespie, Album artwork, Fred Coots

The song was a seasonal romp, not religious or hymnal in any way, the Seekers opened the song brightly and kept their instrumentation simple – tambourines, a children’s choir, tuneful whistling – with Judith rounding off the outro with the title hook from Georgy Girl, as the whistler faded away in the mix. It becme one of the most-covered Christmas songs ever with best-selling versions by The Crystals,The Supremes, Jackson 5, Partridge Family, Bruce Springsteen, and Mariah Carey powering global sales to in excess of 3 million.

The kids choir were very cute, and a seasonal sense of fun pervaded the music and lyrics.

Silent Night is arguably the most famous Christmas carol ever, it originated in December 1818, when Josef Mohr, the curate at the little Lutheran church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, north of Salzburg, in what is now Austria, discovered that his church organ was broken, the bellows had apparently been eaten away by mice. He shared his troubles with his good friend, Franz Gruber, the local schoolmaster and an amateur composer, Mohr gifted Gruber with a poem he had written two years earlier, Gruber set about writing music to accompany Mohr’s lyrics. On Christmas eve, the two friends, with Mohr playing his guitar, made sure there was music that night, when they gave the first public performance of Stille Nacht, or as we know it Silent Night. Below L-R Franz Gruber/Josef Mohr, Seekers, Artwork.

The song was circulated throughout Europe by travelling folksingers and ultimately found its way to the USA in 1839, Bing Crosby’s version first appeared on Australian charts in 1944, where he had no less than 31 #1 hits in the period 1940-57, he re-recorded and released the song many times throughout his career, and it has been translated into over 300 languages.

Judith will always be a bright and shining star atop our Xmas tree.

The Seekers recorded their version in 2001 for their Christmas album, and they weaved a delicate instrumental web around this melancholy, holy waltz, which is modestly built on only three chords. Bruce Woodley on six-string guitar, and Keith Potger on his signature 12-string, imparted the perfect hallowed quality to match the sacred message conveyed so convincingly by Judith Durham’s vocals, who also played the celeste on this track. Guy’s bass heralded the arrival of the boys supporting harmonies, while Judith’s lead vocal channeled the wonder and innocence of youth, as she did so beautifully on Morningtown Ride and Emerald City The first four bars of the song are in the same chord so encouraging others to re-interpret the song, and many cover versions abound including those by Sinead O’Connor, The Three Tenors, Lou Christie, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Nicks, who have all re-invented this most famous of all Christmas carols.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from 4TR to all our readers,
thank you for your fantastic support during the year, and particularly in these
difficult pandemic times, your interest and comments have been truly inspiring.
4TR looks forward to re-commencing posts to this site on Tuesday January 24
2023, till then enjoy the summer and time spent with your nearest and dearest.

Graeme Davy 4TR


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s