Bing sings the Beatles

John Podhoretz posted 03/22/06 11:31 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
It's kind of long, about four minutes, but this "What's News" item is the most fascinatingly horrifying piece of pop culture memorabilia I've seen in years -- Bing Crosby, Englebert Humperdinck, Gwen Verdon, Dick Shawn and a woman in a big black wig I can't identify on a television variety show from, I'd guess, 1970, singing a long medley of Beatles music, including Bing's very special version of "Obla-Di Obla-Da" complete with go-go dancers. WOW!
Dieter Beier posted 03/22/06 01:50 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This Beatles medley was sung on Hollywood Palace October 11,1969.The partners are Engelbert Humperdinck,Gwen Verdon,Bobby Gentry and Dick Shawn. On another Palace (March 1,1969) Bing sung Ob-La-Di,Ob-La-Da as solo and Hey Jude with his son Gary and on October 23,1968 Eleanor Rigby, Hey,Jude, And I Love Her with Diana Ross, The Supremes and Jose Feliciano.
Arne posted 03/22/06 06:23 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Relax, culture-vultures..... This is no more horrifying than Peggy Lee's versions of Sly and The Family Stone, Mel Torme's versions of The Cyrcle, or any one of dozens and dozens of other remnants of what was a very transitional time in American music, particularly for Tin-Pan-Alley era performers. A look at a music video of, say, KC and The Sunshine Band from the mid-seventies will reveal that mainstream pop music by YOUNG, supposedly "in" musicians of the time were no less outrageous looking than Bing and Company in this clip. I happen to remember the show (and the entire scene) vividly... I was in my late teens, a long-haired rock musician and fervent fan of the Beatles (and Dylan, Stones, etc.) But also a firm, dedicated Crosby collector (as well as Martin, Sinatra, and Armstrong, etc. to a lesser extent). Scenes like this were typical of the way TV Variety was moving at the time, were NOT uncommon, and simply reflecting what everybody thought was the direction clothes, dance, and music was moving at the time. I, for one, was happy to see Bing doing Beatles material, because it showed that he was "hip" to what was out there, as his contemporaries were (even Vallee recorded "Michelle", for cripes sake!) - Anyway, it's only in hindsight, - and in isolation from the times that produced it - that a clip like this becomes quaint, and fascinating. A horror? Only for the contextually-impaired, in my humble opinion.

P.S. - I thought Bing's FULL-LENGTH version of "Obla-DI OBLA- da" (sung on an earlier Palace, not this medley version) was one of the finest performances he ever gave of a song during the later TV era when I first saw it. I haven't changed my mind.
Dennis posted 03/22/06 07:02 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I don't profess the experience or knowledge of the previous contributors, but I do want to sincerely thank Steven for making this video available. I hope he knows how much these otherwise unobtainable gems are appreciated by those of us who really admire and respect Bing Crosby and his tremendous gifts.

On a more personal note, I'm impressed with his recognition and homage of contemorary talents like the Beatles. Consider the fact that he was probably close to 70 years old, and was singing the music favored by his own teenage offspring. Did it sound like the Beatles? Of course not. Bing and his onstage fellows were just having fun and sharing the moment with an audience who fully understood and were in the spirit of the moment.
Harley posted 03/22/06 08:25 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Of course I wrote my little funny knowing full well the exact comments which would come up later; oh, it was a different time, you don't appreciate Bing, etc, and so on blah, blah, blah. Of course I enjoyed Bing's voice, I always do. The other singers were god-awful. The production was tacky and oblivious, NO MATTER what the times were. OF COURSE these tacky, goofy productions were the norm at the time. That doesn't make them right. Even as a small child I had the sense to know how cheesy these types of production were, and I hated them. That being said, I guess they're relatively harmless. As far as Bing being open-minded enough to sing the Beatles? We all know Bing was open to different musics, but please, everyone was doing the Beatles. String quartets in England and the US were doing arrangements of Beatles songs back when the Beatles were first a blip on the screen. This type of stuff was cynical pandering to the lowest common denominator. Was Bing having fun with it? of course. They said, "Hey Bing, we're gonna do this, wanna do a run-through?" and Bing said "Oh, yeah, I know this, da-da-dee-dee-bom-bom, bom, la, la. Looks great. You fellas go ahead and do the run-through, I'm gonna go check the sports pages while they slap on the ol' scalp doily."

For the sake of perspective, I like almost nothing on modern-day TV either. Some modern celebrity supergroup sang a terrible version of "Across The Universe" just recently on an awards show (or something), and it was just as dreadful and almost as tacky.

Now, I'm not saying people shouldn't enjoy this type of sequined fluff, I'm just saying that I don't. So, if it pleases you, call me a snob and be done with it, but DO NOT tell me that no one thought that this was tacky back in the day.

BTW, I thank Steven as well. I enjoyed watching it because it was funny. I'll probably watch it again right now. I like seeing Bing in just about anything at all. I like seeing Bing selling cigarettes too, or in bad movies. I just like Bing, he makes me happy. Oh, and Arne, of course it's no worse than other stuff of the time, but I hate all of those types of productions (almost) equally. Bing being featured is enough for me to watch it and get a kick out of it, but I wouldn't waste two seconds on it otherwise.

Complete snob and party-pooper,
Arne posted 03/22/06 09:05 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Harley, I don't think you're a snob or a party-pooper (hope you don't think I'm being one!) - I LIKE your stuff and the way you write. Fun to see your response.

I think we might have a bit of cross-purposes here, in that you are essentially agreeing with at least a part of what I was trying to say:

1.Numbers like this were, indeed, "the norm" as you put it. My MAIN point was not to single Bing out for being somehow "tackier" or more horrific than the others at the time... I'm glad you agree!

2. The Beatles were enormously popular, of course, and their music was EVERYWHERE! While it is pandering, I suppose to want to appeal to as big an audience as possible, I'm wondering if you remember how incredibly ubiquitous (God help me if I spelled that one right) they and their music were then. Also, it was just becoming obvious to the "Establishment" (as we called it then), that the Beatles had really left something that could be referred to as a "body of work", and the older generation was beginning to realize that they were, in fact, very good. Hence, shows like this were at least somewhat more reverential, and perhaps more sincere in attempted "homage" than you may remember. Picture Duke Ellington leading his band through a Beatles medley in 1970. I remember it, I saw it (on Sullivan), and it was not jarring at the time, everybody just thought that was their (The Beatles) due. - It seemed natural.

At least, that's the way I remember those times. Harley, I have no idea how old you are, or how atuned you are/were to the era; as a deeply, profoundly involved teenager, I was aware of almost nothing else in life but Beatles, Bing, Frank, etc. and if I was going to get lucky on the weekends. So I trust my perceptions and memories.

I never said, anywhere, that you or anyone else posting "didn't appreciate Bing" - not remotely. Perish the thought!

However, after having said all that, I must admit that I was aware of the potential "cheese" factor on the show at the time, and later on, but not due to the settings, instrumentation, or choice of material (all of which simply seemed like contemporary TV variety show music then, which it was), but rather due to the presence of the ultra-cheesy Engleburt, whom everyone of my contemporaries loathed passionately at the time, including me.

We have something else in common, Harley: every time I post something on this board at least somewhat in jest, or ironically, or just goofy, it gets misunderstood. Poor us!
Jon O. posted 03/22/06 10:20 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Kudos to Bing for being in touch with those unorthodox times without succumbing to their excesses for the sake of appearing "hip". Imagine if he had been wearing sandals, love beads, and a psychedelic Nehru jacket--now that would have been pandering! As with everything else he did, Bing comported himself with dignity in a typical contemporary TV production tribute to contemporary idols.
N R O posted 04/11/06 04:57 AM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Whilst the focus of this topic has been Oh Bla Di - wasn't it a great pity he never formally recorded the other song "And I Love Her."
Candace Scott posted 04/14/06 07:25 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
This clip is one of the great gems ever posted here and I bow down in gracious acknowledgement to Steven. I've waited over 30 years to see this and it was indeed worth the wait.

What a classic piece of 60's schtick! Bobby Gentry absolutely ruins Fool on the Hill and can't even get the lyrics straight. Gwen Verdon is abysmal and Humperdinck is subpar. But Bing saves the day, even with that attempt at the Watusi in the closing refrain of Ob-La-Di,Ob-la-Da. I agree he should have recorded And I Love Her, one of Pauls' best early ballads.

I will watch this clip over and over. Wonderful!

P.S. If anyone is interested in truly hilarious campy Beatles covers, check out the all-time classic in this genre, William Shatner's version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds!

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