The Boss’ ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’ has local roots

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The Dec. 17, 1975 review in LIU Post's 'The Pioneer' for Bruce Springsteen's performance. (Image courtesy of LIU Post Special Collections Department)
The Dec. 17, 1975 review in LIU Post's 'The Pioneer' for Bruce Springsteen's performance. (Image courtesy of LIU Post Special Collections Department)

When you hear the bells start in Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” this year, imagine an arena of 3,000 confused college kids around the corner at LIU Post seeing the up-and-coming artist right before they head home for the holidays.

The song is a live recording from a performance at the university in 1975, the year the name Springsteen was starting to make the rounds and then, just a couple months before the show, blew up.

In his Greenvale performance, “Springsteen did the unexpected, the tabooed (sic) especially for a new and young performer,” wrote an unnamed reviewer in The Pioneer, the student newspaper. “The experts say that new performers should hit the audience with some of their best known works at such a crucial point. Yet… Springsteen proved the experts wrong.”

Following a “medley of old rock classics,” Springsteen busted it out: a Christmas song.

“The crowd, figuring it was a Xmas joke, laughed and prepared themselves for a quick change into another number,” the review said. “But the change never came. Springsteen and the E Street Band let loose with a dynamic interpretation of the classic that stirred everyone, including Springsteen himself as he danced frantically across the stage.”

The show was just two months after Springsteen had landed the cover of Newsweek and Time on the same day.

“Newsweek and Time cemented him,” said Richard Branciforte, publisher of Good Times Magazine, Long Island’s music publication that earlier that year was the second magazine to ever put Springsteen on its cover.

Branciforte actually helped Newsweek get its cover photo. He had sent 19-year-old Mary Alfieri to a Springsteen concert in Boston for his.

“We get a call about four, five months later from Newsweek magazine and they said we want to run Springsteen on the cover,” Branciforte said. “Nobody had pictures of him.”

So he referred them to Alfieri.

The year that Springsteen blew up was also the year that Branciforte lost an editor: Glen Brunman, who ditched the magazine to manage Springsteen’s tour and eventually picked up more than 20 Grammy’s when he went on to Epic Records and Sony Music.

“He said, ‘I’m going be leaving Good Times Magazine,’ and I was shocked because when I hired him he was working driving cars,” Branciforte said.

The LIU concert attendees flocked to the concert in response to the magazine hype Springsteen was getting, The Pioneer reviewer wrote.

Of 3,000 attendees, probably “no more than a handful” had ever seen Springsteen live, the article said.

But at least two people that the paper quoted were thrilled with their holiday show.

“Definitely the most dynamite concert I’ve ever been to,” one told The Pioneer.

“Ya betta believe it,” the other agreed.

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