From the first moment I saw this video on MTV way back when, I was a little flummoxed. I like the duet, but it’s probably the strangest musical pairing ever.
The combination of the two songs is really well done. And David Bowie’s voice melds nicely with Bing Crosby’s. But it’s just so weird! It was filmed for a TV Christmas special Crosby was making in 1977, just a month before his death. Bowie has moved on from his serious gender-bending and Ziggy, but he was still pretty out there for the older, conservative crowd that was Crosby’s primary fan base. I’m sure CBS just wanted to get as many eyes on their program as possible, appealing to the widest demographic they could; ratings make strange bedfellows, I guess.
Although strange bedfellows also often leads to unexpected success. “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” circulated as a bootlegged cult classic for a few years after the special aired, and was finally released as a single in 1982. It’s gone on to be one of the more popular Christmas duets.
It’s still weird, though.