Tag Archives: bing crosby

“Classic” Scratchbomb: Variety Chronicles Frank Sinatra’s Failed Biker Movie

A few years ago, I put together a series of posts on Frank Sinatra’s failed attempt to make a biker movie, as chronicled by Variety magazine. You see, Ol’ Blue Eyes had seen his daughter Nancy in The Wild Angels and decided to give the biker movie genre a try with all his Rat Pack buddies. The results were not good. You may not remember this because it was a long time ago, and because I completely made it up to amuse myself.

For some reason, these posts recently crawled out from the deep recesses of my mind. It occurred to me that I’d done them so long ago, virtually no one had seen them the first time, and I thought they shouldn’t lay dormant and unseen. They deserved to be seen by barely anybody, at least! So now I present to you this post that collects all the Frank/Hells Angels stuff together in one place. If you missed them the first time around, here’s your chance to miss them all over again!

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Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

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 “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

KIM GANNON, LYRICIST: I wrote this song in 1943, from the point of a view of a soldier who is overseas for the holidays and can only be home “in his dreams.” So he imagines snow and mistletoe and other comforting features of a traditional Christmas, while he awaits orders to march straight into the mouth of hell itself. I wrote a lot of songs for our enlisted men back during those years, because I felt trying to cheer them up was the least I could do for them while they were fighting so bravely for all of us. Unfortunately, nobody showed any interest in songs like “The Bullet With Your Name On It,” “Your 4F Best Friend Is Taking Out Your Best Girl,” and “That Next Bomber Mission Will Surely Be Your Last.” That all changed when Bing Crosby took a pass at “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

BING CROSBY: I couldn’t resist. It had such a beautiful melody, and contained a shocking amount of ironic hopelessness. What can I say? It hit me like a belt whip across the heart.

KIM GANNON, LYRICIST: Needless to say, this changed my life. With my foot in the door, I was finally able to get some of my other compositions recorded. Rosemary Clooney did a fantastic version of “Everyone You Know Will Be Dead Some Day,” and Frank Sinatra did a whole album of my songs called Ol’ Blue Eyes Sings Songs for a Swingin’ Party.

Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: White Christmas

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.

Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: It’s a Marshmallow World

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 “It’s a Marshmallow World.”

CARL SIGMAN, LYRICIST: I worked with some great composers over the years. Duke Ellington was probably the greatest, in terms of being a true artist and generous collaborator. But even he was very close-minded when it came to my desire to write about food. I composed these gorgeous lyrics about a glazed ham, but Duke just couldn’t wrap his head around them, and decided to title the song “Mood Indigo” instead.

So when I got the chance to write a Christmas song for Bing Crosby, I leaped at the chance. When I was a kid, I’d always imagined that the “white” in “White Christmas” was actually frosting, either on a donut or some kind of star-shaped cookie. I was not deterred by the fact that every single person I ever mentioned this to told me I was dead wrong.

I brought Bing some special holiday lyrics I’d been sitting on for quite some time, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to unveil them. The song was about how the new-fallen snow looks like marshmallows laying on the trees and bushes, and the sun looks a little like pumpkin, and sometimes other people walking in the street look like drumsticks with feet to me. In the final draft, I left that last bit out.

Things did not go as planned. In fact, after Bing read through the first verse, he chased me around the studio while whipping me with his belt. I was so devastated, I went home and thought about giving up the songwriting game altogether. Eventually, I poured my pain and frustration into a set of heart-rending verses about muffins.

As luck would have it, Bing was contractually obligated to release another single before the end of the year, and he had no choice but to record my song. He told me, “If this platter flops, there’s a double belt whipping in your future, pally.”

My faith in food paid off when “Marshmallow World” became a huge hit. It even inspired a few knockoffs, like “Macaroon Planet” and “Pfeffernuss Nation.” I took this as a compliment, in part because the idea of a macaroon planet sounds intriguingly delicious.

So Bing did not double belt-whip me for failing to produce a hit. He did do so years later for completely different reasons, and he also tried to cave my head in with a putter, but that’s another story.

Sadly, despite this success, I’ve never been able to sell any more food-based lyrics. Although for years, I’ve been working on an operetta about a pot roast who learns to love.

Holiday Triumphs: Several Tidings of Great Joy

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

I can not, in good conscience, let my last holiday post be about Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny. So here’s a few of my favorite Christmas-y things to spirit us through the depressingly brief portion that remains of this festive season.

First off, a Yuletide rocker that is quite popular in England but that has never caught on here in the US. It’s “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day” by Wizzard, a band headed by Roy Wood, formerly of The Move and ELO. It sounds like an outtake from the Phil Spector Christmas Album in the best possible way, very Wall of Sound-y, with Motown-esque beat that shall not be turned away from the inn.


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