Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “White Christmas.”
BING CROSBY: I remember Irving Berlin called me up and told me he’d just composed the best song he’d ever written, maybe the best song anyone had ever written. When Irving Berlin tells you something like that, well sir, you hop in the car and drive over to his place pronto!
IRVING BERLIN: Bing came over to my studio and I played “White Christmas” for him. He lit up his pipe and nodded his head slowly. I thought he liked it, then all of a sudden he took off his belt and started thrashing my piano with it. “What’s that for?” I asked him. “I whip things when I get excited,” he said. “And when I get mad. And when I get bored. But in this case, I’m excited, because this song is gold!” Then he whipped his belt once more toward the open piano lid and broke a string. I told him he had to leave.
BING CROSBY: I knew we had to record this and get it out there for the holiday season. So we got in the studio with John Trotter Orchestra, and do you know we banged out that song in 18 minutes? I guess when you’ve got a gem like this, pal, it don’t take too long to get it right, not even for an old crooner like myself.
JOHN TROTTER, ORCHESTRA LEADER: Truth be told, I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the final take, but the band members were terrified of Bing. While they laid down the backing track, he stalked through the orchestra stands swinging a belt over his head like a lasso. It was quite menacing. The orchestra refused to go on when he accidentally let it go mid-swing and it landed in a tuba.
BING CROSBY: What a lot of people don’t remember now is that “White Christmas” wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out. The label really wanted to push another song from Holiday Inn. But around Christmas time, people just took a shine to it, especially on Armed Forces radio. It seems it reminded a lot of the boys overseas what they were missing back home. It was a real privilege to bring a bit of joy to their lives, and to perform for them in a USO tour alongside Bob Hope, who’s always been a dear friend and a great comedian.
BETTY WILSON, USO SINGER: It was great to sing for the boys, especially “White Christmas,” which really brought a smile to their faces. And I got the chance to see Bing and Bob Hope do their thing every night, which always cracked me up. Bob would make fun of Bing’s golf game and his bad luck with the horses, and Bing would whip him with his belt. We had to cut tour short, though, when Bob got hit in the eye with his buckle.
BING CROSBY: If there’s one thing I regret about “White Christmas,” it’s that I used the clout I gained from it to get Capitol to release this concept album of mine called Relax with Bing. It was six 78 rpm records of me hitting things with my belt. To make it up to them, I promised to do 700 “On the Road” pictures.