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.