Don’t Overlook the Potential of “Throw-Away” Projects
Jen Adams here, wishing you a merry Christmas day.
And, even if it’s not a holiday you celebrate, it’s certainly a day that brings unlikely groups of people together in a common spirit.
That was the setting in 1977, when Bing Crosby and David Bowie walked into the studio together to record a Christmas duet for Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV special.
Crosby – Mr. White Christmas – was 73 and an established family favorite during the holidays. Bowie, then 30, was his flamboyant opposite … especially in full Ziggy Stardust mode.
In fact, Bowie considered taking on the project to be somewhat of a favor for his mother. She was a huge Bing Crosby fan, and thrilled at the idea of her son recording with him.
So, he nixed the makeup and spangled spandex to present a more subdued version of himself down at the studio. Still, Bowie was a bit recalcitrant about the whole thing.
Writer Buz Kohan, tasked with bringing Bowie and Crosby together for a rendition of The Little Drummer Boy, was certain it was going to be a “throw-away” project … something unlikely to survive past the first playing in public.
Yet, ever the professional, Kohan gave it his best shot. When Bowie balked at doing the traditional “puh-rums” of the drummer boy song in the background of Crosby’s main melody line, he improvised a last-minute solution. He wrote a special “Peace on Earth” line for Bowie to sing as a counterpoint, giving both stars their chance to shine within the piece.
The end result wasn’t hugely popular right off the bat … but it had a certain something and developed a large underground following.
The song lived on through bootlegged albums and mix tapes for years, until RCA released it as a single in 1982.
By then, Crosby had passed away. Bowie was in a different phase of his career entirely, having long forgotten the favor he’d done for his mother by recording a duet with her favorite crooner.
But the song had grown and grown in popularity, and RCA’s single release was just the spark needed to give it the breakthrough it deserved.
Thanks to Kohan’s efforts, instead of a throw-away number, the “odd couple” of music had a hit on their hands. Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth has gone on to become a Christmas staple, particularly abroad, and sold millions of copies over the years.
But it wouldn’t have happened if Kohan, Crosby, or Bowie had decided they were against doing anything with someone so very different than themselves.
Our takeaway? Give unusual combinations a chance. Consider working with someone far outside your normal circle, or someone in a very different field – you never know where it might lead!
After all, it’s often ideas from outside your main area of interest that can give you a fantastic new hook for a promotion … or the insight you need to really beat a control. And, you won’t find these ideas without consciously breaking out of your usual patterns.
So, toward that end, what unusual partnerships have you tried recently? Or, what unique partnerships could you pursue that you may have been shy about until now? Let me know in the comments.
And then tomorrow, we’ll wrap up this holiday week with a special trip through the story behind It’s a Wonderful Life …
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