Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 1

So, you think you like Christmas music? How much? Most people who like Christmas music probably like to listen to it, but they probably don’t collect it obsessively. And, of course, there are those people who don’t like Christmas music at all, for one reason or another, perhaps from being subjected to some endless stream of saccharine holiday tunes against their will? I love Christmas music. I love to listen to and collect Christmas music. How much do I love Christmas music? A lot. This much.

My crate o' Christmas vinyl.

My crate o’ Christmas vinyl.

That’s my collection of vinyl Christmas albums and singles. Between them, that’s 109 distinct records (I do have duplicates of several things, but I only counted them once.) There are likely a few more records lurking in a stack of 78s that I haven’t sorted through properly yet. {Update: after going through those 78s, I did find 5 more Christmas records; so that makes 114 records.} Not pictured are the 21 cassette tapes and 104 CDs of Christmas music that I also own, which makes for a total of 239 recordings – of Christmas music. Fa la la la la! I guess it goes without saying that I also love the Christmas season. Sure, it can be hectic, hurried and over-commercialized. Maybe that’s part of why I love Christmas music so much. Music helps me pay attention to the moments that matter. Those moments can be rockin’, swingin’, funny or simply quiet during Christmas-time. I love ’em all.

For the next 25 days, I’m going to share a record a day from my Christmas music collection: some of my favorite albums and songs, from traditional carols to contemporary takes on time-worn pop Christmas standards, along with some interesting novelties, oddities and curiosities that I’ve come across over the years. There’ll be beautiful tunes, brilliant musicianship and a sprinkle of schmaltz. You can’t talk about Christmas music without coming across a little, or sometimes a lot of, schmaltz! I’ll limit the exploration to my vinyl collection. Maybe next year I’ll break out the cassettes and CDs. And I’m sure there are many people out there who are even bigger fanatics and have even more Christmas music in their collections than I do. I’d love to hear about them. Let’s go dashing through the musical snow…


David Bowie/Bing Crosby – “Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy.” (RCA Records PH-13400, 7” single, 1982.)

Bowie:Crosby Single

The record that started it all for me… (click on an image to enlarge it.)

This is the song that started my obsession with collecting Christmas music. It was recorded in 1977 for Bing Crosby’s Christmas special that year. I actually watched it with my family when it aired on TV, and I remember my Mom making a comment along the lines of “I can’t believe that awful David Booey [her pronunciation] is going to be on the show.” She was not really a fan of rock music, except for maybe some middle of the road Beatles tunes, and up to that time Bowie had been quite the strange-looking glam rocker. But when the segment with Bing and Bowie came on, it was pretty amazing. Bowie comes in as the guy who lives down the road and talks with Bing about Christmas music and traditions, all played very nicely within the conceit of the show, and then they go into this really sweet duet where Bowie’s clear voice is allowed to shine along with Bing’s unmistakably warm crooning. Apparently, the counterpoint song that Bowie sings, “Peace On Earth,” was written specifically for the show because he wanted to sing something other than “Little Drummer Boy.” It worked brilliantly, I think. And I have to give my Mom credit for praising Bowie’s voice after it was over. She thought it was nice, after all. This was also one of the final recordings that Bing Crosby made; he died 5 weeks after making this TV special.

Part of what made this song stick with me was that it became a part of my Christmas-time memories. Although I had heard it first in 1977 when the Crosby TV show aired, the song did not become commercially available until RCA released it as a single five years later in 1982. You have to remember, kids, that back in those days we didn’t have access to things like that at the press of a button! VCRs weren’t even around yet. I only had my memories of hearing the song when it first aired and didn’t hear it again until it came out as a single in 1982 and I bought my own copy. I had remembered the song fondly and was really excited when they put it out. It still moves me and it’s one of my favorite Christmas music performances. And thus an obsession is born. Or let’s say a passion.

Take a listen (and look) at it here.

I especially like seeing the interaction between Bowie and Bing before they sing. The whole bit is nostalgic, sentimental and warm, with just a little schmaltz. Perfectly Christmas-y.

Cheers, friends. Welcome to the 25 Days of Christmas Records!