Saturday, 13 December 2014

ADVENT CALENDAR: Dec 13th: David Bowie and Bing Crosby - 'Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy'

As a massive David Bowie fan, I used to class this as one of his most bizarre and surreal moments. I still do, in fact. But I never used to like it. Now however, Christmas just ain't complete without Bowie 'n Bing. The most unlikely thing for the Godlike polymath to have done right in the middle of his cocaine period, and after releasing 'Low' and 'Heroes' would have been to sing a Christmas song with Bing Crosby. And yet that's EXACTLY what happened back in 1977. Bowie's voice during the 'Peace On Earth' part = bliss. Very possibly paying homage to Crosby with his vocal delivery too. You simply cannot fail to love the awkwardly scripted introduction either... Wikipedia tells it better than I could: 'Little Drummer Boy' is a Christmas song written in 1941, while the 'Peace on Earth' tune and lyrics, written by Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohan, were added to the song specially for Bowie and Crosby's recording.

The track was recorded on September 11, 1977 for Crosby's then-upcoming television special, 'Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas'. The pair exchanged scripted dialogue about what they each do for their family Christmases, before singing "Little Drummer Boy" with a new counterpoint with original lyrics written for the special, "Peace on Earth". Bowie's appearance has been described as a "surreal" event, undertaken at a time that he was "actively trying to normalise his career". He has since recalled that he only appeared on the show because "I just knew my mother liked him". Buz Kohan was not sure that Crosby knew who Bowie was, but Ian Fraser claimed, "I'm pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did." According to co-writer Ian Fraser, Bowie balked at singing "Little Drummer Boy": "I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?", Fraser recalls Bowie telling him. Fraser, along with songwriter Larry Grossman and the special's scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, then wrote "Peace on Earth" as a counterpoint to "Little Drummer Boy". Crosby performed "Little Drummer Boy", while Bowie sang the new tune "Peace on Earth", which they reportedly performed after less than an hour of rehearsal.

Crosby died on October 14, nearly five weeks after recording the special at Elstree Studios near London; in the U.S., the show aired just over a month later, on November 30, 1977, on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the special first aired on December 24, 1977 on ITV..."