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David Bowie & Bing Crosby with London Symphony Orchestra – Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy (1977)

December 24th, 2019 | by admin

This video is a newly enhanced version of the David Bowie and Bing Crosby segment, from Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV Special from 1977.

In addition, the Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy duet is synced to a new re-recording of the backing track, by the London Symphony Orchestra, taken from the recent Bing Crosby album, “Bing at Christmas”.

The Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas show was recorded in Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, near London on the 11th of September 1977. It was originally broadcast that year on the 30th of November, by CBS in the US, and on the 24th of December, by ITV in the UK.

From the book “David Bowie The Golden Years’, by Roger Griffin:

Bing Crosby, aged 73, was still suffering from spinal injuries following his fall into an orchestra pit in March when he arrived in London to play two weeks of concerts at the Palladium. He was also there to film his annual Christmas special, this time with an English setting.

The producers booked various British guest stars including Bowie’s pin-up Twiggy. Bowie was induced to appear with a promise to include a performance of “Heroes”, which he taped at the studios, incorporating a mime sequence.

As the two titans of pop barely knew each other, the scriptwriter Buz Kohan prepared a segment set in an English country manor, where Bowie and Bing meet and talk about their Christmas customs, such as singing carols. Bowie would choose Little Drummer Boy (“my son’s favourite”) which they would sing as a duet.

However when the time came, as the show’s musical arranger Ian Fraser recalls, “David came in and said, ‘I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?’ We didn’t know quite what to do.”[Farhi, Paul. Bing And Bowie: An Odd Story Of Holiday Harmony’ (Washington Post, 20 December 2006)]

Fraser, Kohan and songwriter Larry Grossman hastened down to the piano in the basement and wrote Peace On Earth as a counterpoint to Little Drummer Boy. After less than an hour of rehearsal Crosby and Bowie performed three takes of the new arrangement, after which Crosby mused, “It’s a pretty theme, isn’t it?”

Bing later said Bowie was “a clean cut kid and a real fine asset to the show. He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well. He could be a good actor if he wanted.”

Like Bolan, Crosby never saw his Bowie duet go to air. He died in Spain on October 14 directly after a round of golf (he won).

See also this a short video from 2014 of commentary, from Merrie Olde Christmas writers Larry Grossman and Buz Kohan:

This classic bit of Bowie Seventies TV is a rather silly bit of Xmas nostalgia, but many of us fans have a great fondness for it.

Peace on Earth / Little Drummer Boy was released as a single in December 1982. It was a huge international hit, shifting 400,000 copies in the UK alone. The song became an Xmas classic.

And yet, on that 1982 single, and the official Bing Crosby show DVD and even on the 2017 David Bowie Re:Call 3 ‘rarities’ disc, it appears that all we have ever had is a ropey old mono version, presumably taken from the original broadcast tapes.

In recent weeks, I heard the beautifully produced new LSO version. I don’t know by what process the vocals have been separated from the original backing track, but regardless, in this new version they sound great too.

And so it was clearly time for me to produce a refurbishment of this curious old favorite.

Gratitude to Particledots, who freshened up the sound of the sketch.

Hope you dig it! Merry Christmas!


Video and Audio Source:
David Bowie & Bing Crosby • Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV Special • Including Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy • Produced by Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion • Recorded at Elstree Studios, London • 11th of September 1977

Additional Audio Source:
David Bowie • Bing Crosby • The London Symphony Orchestra • Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy • from the Bing Crosby album “Bing at Christmas” • 2019

℗ A Decca Records Recording; ℗ 2019 HLC, under exclusive licence to Universal Music Operations / Geffen
Vocals • David Bowie
Vocals • Bing Crosby
Guitar • John Parricelli
Background Vocalist • Mary Carewe
Background Vocalist • Michael Dore
Drums • Neal Wilkinson
Conductor • Nick Ingman
Celesta, Piano • Rob Mounsey
Bass • Steve Pearce
Orchestra • The London Symphony Orchestra

Producer • Nick Patrick

Dedicated to Sooky, who adores Christmas. But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas without you.

Always more videos to follow, so please keep your electric eye on me babe!

I don’t own the rights, and I’m not making any money out of this etc. Just a fan making videos for other fans.

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#DavidBowie #BingCrosby #Christmas #1977

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