Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
|"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"|
|Single by David Bowie and Bing Crosby|
|from the album Bowie: The Singles Collection|
|B-side||"Fantastic Voyage" (David Bowie)|
|Released||27 November 1982|
|Recorded||Elstree Studios, London|
11 September 1977
|Label||RCA Records BOW 12 (UK)|
RCA Records PH-13400 (US)
|Songwriter(s)||Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, Alan Kohan / Harry Simeone, K.K. Davis, Henry Onorati|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
|2010 US Reissue|
2010 7" vinyl reissue by Collector's Choice Music
"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (sometimes titled "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth") is a Christmas song with an added counterpoint performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. "The 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 single saw commercial success upon its release in 1982 and peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart. The single became one of Bowie's best selling in his career, with total estimated sales over 400,000 in the UK alone. The song has since become a Christmas classic in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom and has been referred to by The Washington Post as "one of the most successful duets in Christmas music history".
In 2008, a rerecorded version by Aled Jones and Terry Wogan—under the name "Bandaged"—was released by Warner Home Music as part of BBC Children in Need Appeal 2008. This version also reached number three on the UK Singles Chart, topping the Scottish Singles Chart in the process.
The track was recorded on 11 September 1977 for Crosby's television special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, which was to be his last. The framing device is that the butler Hudson, portrayed along with other characters during the show by Stanley Baxter, who is not seen as he is always changing ("He does that a lot."), lets Bowie use his piano, and that Crosby is the poor American cousin. The intergenerational pair exchange scripted dialogue about what they each do on their respective family Christmases and on parenthood, banter about the old vis-à-vis the new and agents sliding down the chimney, and then proceed to musical subjects, with Bowie remarking that he likes old-timers such as John Lennon and Harry Nilsson ("You go back that far!" Crosby remarks, tongue in cheek); Crosby had further averred, unironically, that some of contemporary music was really fine. They then sort through the sheet music on the piano, which Bowie had ostensibly come over to play, whereupon they sing "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 when he was "actively trying to normalise his career". He later admitted to having 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.
A few days after the taping, Crosby said of Bowie, "clean-cut kid and a real fine asset to the show. He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well."
Crosby died on 14 October, nearly five weeks after recording the special at Elstree Studios near London; in the US the show aired just over a month later, on 30 November 1977, on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the special first aired on 24 December 1977 on ITV.
Release and commercial success
The song was available for some years as a bootleg single backed with "Heroes", which Bowie had also performed on the TV special. In 1982, RCA Records issued the recording as an official single, complete with the dialogue, arbitrarily placing "Fantastic Voyage" from the Lodger album on the B-side. Bowie was unhappy with this move, which further soured his already strained relationship with RCA, and he left the label soon after.
The single debuted on the UK singles chart in November 1982, and climbed to position number three on the chart, boosted by a 12" picture disc release. The single proved to be one of Bowie's fastest selling singles, having sales over 250,000 within its first month and being certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry one month after its release. The single has total estimated sales of 445,424 in the UK, giving Bowie one of his most successful singles. It has since become a perennial on British Christmas compilation albums, with the TV sequence also a regular on UK nostalgia shows.
In the United States and Canada, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" became a staple on radio stations during the Christmas season. On 14 November 1995, Oglio Records released a special multimedia CD single of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" which contained both the standard full-length audio version and the full-length music video of the footage from the 1977 Christmas special accessible via CD-ROM drives.
On 9 November 2010, Collector's Choice Music released a 7-inch vinyl edition of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" on red-colored vinyl in the United States. The flip-side of the single contained a Bing Crosby/Ella Fitzgerald duet of the song "White Christmas", recorded in 1953. The single was limited to 2,000 copies.
The single continues to chart in the Christmas season around North America and Europe. In 2001, the single reached a new peak of number two on the Canadian Singles Chart.
7": RCA / BOW 12 (UK)
- "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (David Bowie, Larry Grossman, Ian Fraser, Buz Kohan / Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone) – 4:23
- "Fantastic Voyage" (David Bowie) – 2:55
- David Bowie: Vocals, Piano on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Bing Crosby: Vocals
- Uncredited session players on "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"
- Adrian Belew: Mandolin on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Dennis Davis: Percussion on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Tony Visconti: Backing vocals, Mandolin on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Brian Eno: Ambient drone on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Simon House: Mandolin on "Fantastic Voyage"
- Sean Mayes: Piano on "Fantastic Voyage"
David Bowie & Bing Crosby version
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||250,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Appearances in popular culture
- In 1997, DJ/comedian Bob Rivers included a parody entitled "Rummy Rocker Boy" on his album More Twisted Christmas, in which a generic heavy metal musician by the name of "Roach" visits a self-admitted "simulation" of Crosby.
- Craig Kilborn and Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü performed a parody of it on Comedy Central, aired as a short piece between shows during the Christmas season.
- In 2001, Anthony Rapp and Everett Bradley performed the song for the compilation album Broadway Cares - Home for the Holidays.
- A parody version was released on the internet as a Christmas present, sung by The Monarch (Jackson Publick) and Doctor Girlfriend (Doc Hammer), from the Adult Swim show The Venture Bros. The song stars The Monarch as David Bowie and Doctor Girlfriend as Bing Crosby. The tension and ambiguities of their relationship contribute to the performance's consonant mirroring of the old kid-vs.-new kid on the block artifice of Bowie's and Crosby's "banter."
- A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! parodied this duet with a song sung by Stephen Colbert and Willie Nelson.
- A 2009 episode of SuperNews! parodied this song with Barack Obama and Joe Biden singing as Crosby and Bowie respectively.
- In a YouTube video that was released on 18 December 2009, internet comedians Aaron Yonda and Matt Sloan superimposed the character of Baby Cookie from the Chad Vader series onto Bowie, replacing his lines with Baby Cookie's unique speech.
- In December 2010, a number of comedians paired to perform or parody the song and video, including Jack Black and Jason Segel for College Humor; Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly for Funny or Die; Black again with Jimmy Fallon on the latter's Late Night talk show; and Paul F. Tompkins with David 'Gruber' Allen.
- Michael Bublé performed a version of this song.
- On the podcast Hollywood Babble-On, hosts Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith sing this song each Christmas. Smith sings Crosby's part, and Garman sings Bowie's counterpart.
- Jimmy Fallon and Ricky Gervais performed a portion of the song on the 9 December 2014 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon during the skit "Lip Flip". Fallon sang Bowie's part with Gervais taking Crosby's part.
- In 2015 on The Best Show with Tom Scharpling, host Scharpling (as recurring puppet character Gary the Squirrel) and associate producer Mike Lisk did a rendition, taking Bowie and Crosby's parts respectively.
- This version of the song is the most-reported one to take out people in the Little Drummer Boy Challenge according to organizer Michael Alan Peck.
- Farhi, Paul (20 December 2006). "Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- "Sorry". Music Week. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- Nemetz, Dave (26 November 2014). "The Story Behind Bowie and Bing's Offbeat Christmas Classic [Video]". Yahoo!. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- Buckley, David (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story. pp. 327–328.
- Pegg, Nicholas (2000). The Complete David Bowie. p. 161.
- "The Accidental Classic". Yuleblog.us. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record, p.117
- Anderson, Sara (29 October 2010). "Bing Crosby, David Bowie 'The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth' -- New Vinyl". AOL Radio Blog. AOLRadioBlog.com. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
- "100 Greatest Rock & Roll Moments on TV". VH1. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Ultratop.be – David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy". VG-lista. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Swedishcharts.com – David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Bing Crosby Chart History (Canadian Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Austriancharts.at – David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart 2008" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
- "British single certifications – David Bowie & Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Little Drummer Boy in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy 2010 (with Jack Black and Jason Segel)". CollegeHumor. Archived from the original on 7 December 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy with Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly from Owen Burk". Funnyordie.com. 12 December 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- McGlynn, Katla (22 December 2010). "WATCH: Jack Black Gets Messy Singing Carols With Jimmy Fallon". HuffPost.
- "The Pod F. Tompkast, EXTRASODE: PFT On Earth/Little Gruber Boy". Pft.libsyn.com/ (Podcast). 25 December 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
- "Fallon "Lip Flip's" With Ricky Gervais". NBC New York. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
- "How to play the Little Drummer Boy Challenge". CNN.com. Cable News Network. Retrieved 5 December 2018.