One of the more interesting duets in musical history took place on September 11, 1977 during filming of Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas
special, where he planned to sing "The Little Drummer Boy" with David Bowie. The show was recorded in London, and had a "Christmas in England" theme. Bowie, who was 30 years old to Bing's 73, was convinced to appear after producers agreed to air his "Heroes
" video on the show, which Crosby introduced.
When Bowie got to the studio, he made it clear that he did not want to do the song, so the writers on the show whipped up a new arrangement with Bowie singing the words "Peace On Earth" and some additional lyrics as counterpoint to Crosby's vocals. The thought of pairing a crooner with a glam rocker proved to be more than a gimmick, with this unique version becoming a Christmas classic.
Bing Crosby died before the Christmas special aired, which drew a lot of attention to the program. The duet could have easily died right there as well, but bootleg copies circulated and it grew in popularity. Much to Bowie's disgust, it was eventually released officially by his label RCA in 1982 and made #3 in the UK. The move soured Bowie's already strained relationship with his record label and he left RCA soon afterwards. The song was further popularized by MTV, which launched in 1981 with very few videos in its library. In particular need of Christmas videos around the holidays, MTV played the Bing/Bowie clip for many Decembers, introducing it to a new generation.
In 2008 the BBC DJ Terry Wogan and former choirboy star Aled Jones recorded a new version of the revised "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" adaptation, for a charity compilation album released in aid of Children In Need. Issued as a single under the name Bandaged, it became a UK #3 hit for the duo.