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The Thin White Duke Next Door
By late 1977, David Bowie was a superstar, albeit one who had taken a rather unconventional route to stardom. By creating the androgynous stage persona of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie, along with Alice Cooper and KISS, had taken live performance to a new level in terms of theatrics. He had become bored with the character, however, and was looking to reinvent himself. So what do you do to let the world know you're looking to become more "normal" as a performer and singer?
The first step in Bowie's career makeover provided what became one of the more bizarre moments in American TV history. He chose to appear on the annual Christmas special of one of the most non-offensive entertainer in showbiz history, Bing Crosby's yearly holiday variety hour. Their "moment" together has become a staple of holiday programming both in the U.S. and the UK. They certainly made for strange bedfellows as duet partners, and the behind the scenes story of how it all came together is equally as interesting.
The oddball pairing was the brainchild of Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, the show's co-producers. According to Nicholas Pegg's Bowie bio, Bowie only agreed to appear on the Bing Crosby special for two reasons. First, he knew his mother was a fan, and as an added enticement, the producers agreed to include his music video for his current single, "Heroes", for airing during the show. It is unclear whether or not Crosby even knew who Bowie was.
Once the two of them arrived on the set, the duet that has since become a Christmas classic almost didn't happen! When Bowie learned he and Bing would be singing "Little Drummer Boy", he told them he hated that song and asked if there was anything else he could sing. The musical directors and writers for the special salvaged the situation by heading to a piano and penning an alternate song for Bowie to perform with Crosby simultaneously. Written in just an hour and fifteen minutes, "Peace On Earth" became Bowie's companion piece to Crosby's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy".
While neither the producers of the show nor Bowie's record label at the time, RCA, thought the song had commercial potential, it was released commercially on a compilation album in 1982. Concurrently, the meteoric rise of MTV around that same time meant that the duet would get a new lease on life as a music video. It became a staple of the channel's holiday lineup, and would eventually become a classic.
On November 30, 1977, American TV viewers were adjusting their sets. That couldn't be David Bowie on Bing Crosby's "Merrie Olde Christmas" special on CBS! It was, and a perennial holiday favorite was performed for the first time. Here is what they saw that night............
Golden Hits Radio's Burning Question of the Day
Speaking of TV specials, which legendary duo had their first network prime time special on NBC today in 1969 despite losing their title sponsor over their objection to footage aired of both the Vietnam War and Robert Kennedy's funeral?
Come back to Everything Oldies tomorrow to find the answer, and leave a Comment below with your best guess!
Yesterday's Burning Question (and Answer) of the Day
Today in 1964, John Lennon and George Harrison met members of which legendary group at the Crazy Elephant restaurant in London?
Answer: Smokey Robinson and The Miracles