"Silver Bells" started out as the questionable "Tinkle Bells." Said Ray Evans, "We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay went home and his first wife said, 'Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is?'" The word is slang for urination.
This song's inspiration has conflicting reports. Several periodicals and interviews cite the writer Jay Livingston stating that the song inspiration came from by the bells used by Santa Clauses and Salvation Army people on New York City street corners. However, an interview with co-writer Ray Evans to NPR said that the song was inspired by a bell that sat on Ray and Jay's shared office desk.
In the original version the lyrics were "Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch, this is Santa's big day" but was later changed to "Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch, this is Santa's big scene".
City sidewalks busy sidewalks . Dressed in holiday style. In the air There's a feeling of Christmas.
Children laughing, People passing, Meeting smile after smile, And on every street corner you'll hear:
Silver bells, silver bells It's Christmas time in the city. Ring- a- ling hear them ring soon it will be Christmas day.
Strings of street lights, Even stop lights, Blink a bright red and green, As the shoppers rush home with their treasures.
Hear the snow crunch, See the kids bunch, This is Santa's big scene, And above all this bustle You'll hear:
Silver bells, silver bells It's Christmas time in the city. Ring-a-ling, hear them ring Soon it will be Christmas day. Soon it will be Christmas day.
^ ab"The Lemon Drop Kid" in The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures (online database).
^American Songwriter Magazine. July–August 1988. We wrote a song called 'Tinkle Bell,' about the tinkly bells you hear at Christmas from the Santa Clauses and the Salvation Army people. We said 'this is it, this will work for the picture,' so I took it home and played it for my wife. She said 'you wrote a song called 'Tinkle Bell'? Don't you know that word has a bathroom connotation?' So I went back to Ray the next day and told him we had to throw the song out, and we did.