Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth - Mercedes-Benz Forum

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-23-2007, 11:39 PM Thread Starter
CH4S Artist
Teutone's Avatar
Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
Location: Los Angeles / Hannover Germany
Posts: 33,438
Mentioned: 11 Post(s)
Quoted: 937 Post(s)
Lifetime Premium Member
(Thread Starter)
Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth

YouTube - Little Drummer Boy - David Bowie & Bing Crosby (HQ Audio)

Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006; C01

One of the most successful duets in Christmas music history -- and surely the weirdest -- might never have happened if it weren't for some last-minute musical surgery. David Bowie thought "The Little Drummer Boy" was all wrong for him. So when the producers of Bing Crosby's Christmas TV special asked Bowie to sing it in 1977, he refused.

Just hours before he was supposed to go before the cameras, though, a team of composers and writers frantically retooled the song. They added another melody and new lyrics as a counterpoint to all those pah-rumpa-pum-pums and called it "Peace on Earth." Bowie liked it. More important, Bowie sang it.

The result was an epic, and epically bizarre, recording in which David Bowie, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, joined in song with none other than Mr. "White Christmas" himself, Bing Crosby.

In the intervening years, the Bowie-Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," has been transformed from an oddity into a holiday chestnut. You can hear it in heavy rotation on Christmas-music radio stations or see the performance on Internet video sites. First released as a single in 1982, it still sells today -- to add to its quirky afterlife, it's part of an album that's ranked as high as No. 3 on the Canadian charts this month. How did this almost surreal mash-up of the mainstream and the avant-garde, of cardigan-clad '40s-era crooner and glam rocker, happen?

It almost didn't. Bowie, who was 30 at the time, and Crosby, then 73, recorded the duet Sept. 11, 1977, for Crosby's "Merrie Olde Christmas" TV special. A month later, Crosby was dead of a heart attack. The special was broadcast on CBS about a month after his death.

The notion of pairing the resolutely white-bread Crosby with the exquisitely offbeat Bowie apparently was the brainchild of the TV special's producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, according to Ian Fraser, who co-wrote (with Larry Grossman) the song's music and arranged it.

Crosby was in Great Britain on a concert tour, and the theme of the TV special was Christmas in England. Bowie was one of several British guest stars (the model Twiggy and "Oliver!" star Ron Moody also appeared). Booking Bowie made logistical sense, since the special was taped near his home in London, at the Elstree Studios. As perhaps an added inducement, the producers agreed to air the arty video of Bowie's then-current single, "Heroes" (Crosby introduced it).

It's unclear, however, whether Crosby had any idea who Bowie was. Buz Kohan, who wrote the special and worked with Fraser and Grossman on the music, says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie's work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: "I'm pretty sure he did [know]. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did."

Kohan worked some of the intergenerational awkwardness into his script. In a little skit that precedes the singing, Crosby greets Bowie at the door of what looks like Dracula's castle (actually, it's a set that's supposed to be Crosby's rented London home). The conceit is that Bowie is dropping by a friend's house and finds Crosby at home one snowy afternoon.

They banter for a bit and then get around to a piano. Bowie casually picks out a piece of sheet music of "The Little Drummer Boy" and declares, "This is my son's favorite."

The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' " Fraser said. "We didn't know quite what to do."

Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios' basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote "Peace on Earth," an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.

And that was almost that. "We never expected to hear about it again," Kohan said.

But after the recording circulated as a bootleg for several years, RCA decided to issue it as a single in 1982. It has since been packaged and repackaged in Christmas compilation albums and released as a DVD.

It's still the most played Christmas duet on WASH-FM (97.1), airing once or twice a day when the station plays nothing but holiday music, said Bill Hess, WASH's program director. Hess likes how the two men blend their voices. The real clincher, he says, is Crosby, who has been associated with holiday music for generations. " 'White Christmas' really helps sell it," he says.

Also among the song's fans is Roger D. Launius, who remembers watching the original Crosby TV special while he was a graduate student and the parent of two children, ages 1 and 3.

"It was a very hectic time in my life, and the song was very peaceful and beautiful," says Launius, chairman of the space history division at the National Air and Space Museum. "I don't remember anything else about the special, but I remembered that song."

Launius hadn't given it too much thought until about seven years ago, when his now-adult daughter sent him a Christmas CD. Among the selections was the Bowie-Crosby duet.

The other day at his office, Launius checked the hard drive on his computer. Yep, there it was. With a couple of clicks, Launius let the warm harmony, and the memories, come flooding back.
Attached Images
Teutone is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2007, 12:15 AM
Lifetime Premium Member
Shane's Avatar
Date registered: Aug 2002
Vehicle: And what was left was what was guilt was what u gave to me
Location: A cavalcade of strangers came to tear ur world apart
Posts: 41,527
Mentioned: 6 Post(s)
Quoted: 1728 Post(s)
Lifetime Premium Member
Extremely nice, I was struck by the ego differences of age and possibly character. Bing was so good at being self effacing and Bowie so serious at being himself which worked as his looks told quite a different story. We lost Bing far too soon.
Shane is offline  
post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2007, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
CH4S Artist
Teutone's Avatar
Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
Location: Los Angeles / Hannover Germany
Posts: 33,438
Mentioned: 11 Post(s)
Quoted: 937 Post(s)
Lifetime Premium Member
(Thread Starter)
Check out the story of Bowie, and Sinatra's 'My Way.'
BBC - Radio 2 - Sold On Song - TOP 100 - Life On Mars
Teutone is offline  
post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2007, 02:05 AM
Forum Administrator RC Colas® & Moon Pies®
Digmenow's Avatar
Date registered: Oct 2006
Vehicle: 1981 380SL 151K: 2001 E320 4Matic Estate 147K: 2008 E350 Sport 4Matic 120K: 2005 S500 116K
Location: The Land of Pleasant Living
Posts: 36,140
Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Quoted: 1130 Post(s)
Lifetime Premium Member
In the same musical mixing of styles, I enjoy this...
YouTube - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - BNL (feat Sarah MacLachlan)

Here's a clean sounding version of the song.
YouTube - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Digmenow is online now  
Sponsored Links

  Mercedes-Benz Forum > General Mercedes-Benz Forums > Off-Topic

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Mercedes-Benz Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


  • Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
    Thread Tools
    Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
    Email this Page Email this Page
    Display Modes
    Linear Mode Linear Mode

    Similar Threads
    Topic Author Forum Replies Last Post
    We May Not Be the Only Humans on Earth GeeS Off-Topic 13 10-24-2010 04:49 AM
    LIVE EARTH yoseyman Off-Topic 71 07-11-2007 12:30 PM
    Another Earth Discovered? Jayhawk Off-Topic 49 04-27-2007 04:05 PM
    Where on earth is AMG?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!! arevee R170 SLK-Class 7 07-14-2005 06:04 PM
    earth problem 1960del Vintage Mercedes-Benz 0 08-17-2004 07:49 AM

    Posting Rules  
    You may post new threads
    You may post replies
    You may not post attachments
    You may not edit your posts

    BB code is On
    Smilies are On
    [IMG] code is On
    HTML code is Off
    Trackbacks are On
    Pingbacks are On
    Refbacks are On


    Title goes here

    video goes here
    description goes here. Read Full Story
    For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome