316. ‘Puppy Love’, by Donny Osmond

Oh man. It seems that for every great song we get at the moment, there’s a bloody awful one coming right up behind. ‘Metal Guru’ – transcendent, ‘Vincent’ – beautiful, ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ – gritty… ‘Puppy Love’… Oh…

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Puppy Love, by Donny Osmond (his 1st of three #1s)

5 weeks, from 2nd July – 6th August 1972

Well, we all know how this one goes, don’t we? I’m not sure how, because it’s not a song you will ever hear on the radio these days, but ‘Puppy Love’ has still somehow seeped into our collective conscience. And it’s a record that sets its stall out from the start – from the opening seconds you are left with no doubt that this song will be as saccharine and cloying as the title suggested.

The intro soars and pirouettes, like they used to in the fifties, before wee Donny goes for it: And they called it, Puppy love, Oh I guess they’ll never know, How a young heart really feels, And why I love her so… His voice doesn’t sound real. I don’t mean that it’s touched up with autotune, or any other kind of modern-day trickery. I mean that it’s impossible to imagine an actual human being sounding this soppy.

And they called it, Puppy love, Just because we’re in our teens… The song’s premise being that ‘puppy love’ is what you call the sort of chaste, pecks-on-the-cheeks-and-notes-passed-in-class crush you get in Year 6. While Donny is quite adamant that his love is for real, that he and his girl should be taken seriously: How can I, Oh how can I tell them, This is not a puppy love…? Which means, you realise with a shudder, that lil’ Donny – just look at those eyes up there! – is actually a randy little horn-dog.

I am clearly not the target of this song. I am not a thirteen year old girl from the early 1970s, for a start. But it is terrible. If you wanted to write a cheesy pastiche of a fifties pop hit, you’d write a song that sounds a lot like ‘Puppy Love’. The bit where the music drops off and Donny pleads: Someone, Help me, Help me please… is simultaneously one of the most annoying moments in a #1 single, and yet quite funny. If you don’t think too much, it is just about possible to get swept away by the stupid melodrama of this record.

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This is actually quite a significant moment at the top of the charts, I’d say. Of course, Donny Osmond is not the first teen-idol to trouble the hit parade, or the #1 spot. And ‘Puppy Love’ is not the first piece of schmaltz to catch the public’s imagination. But having the two thrown together so shamelessly? It feels very post-sixties. Very glam, in a way. A complete triumph of looks over substance. Though ‘Puppy Love’ was a much older song (almost older than Osmond himself) having been recorded by Paul Anka in 1960, making #33. Having listened to Anka’s version, it’s actually a relief to return to this cover…

Donny Osmond was fourteen when this hit top spot, making him the joint-youngest chart-topper, tied with Helen Shapiro. But for God’s sake, listen to Shapiro’s ‘You Don’t Know’ and compare it with this drivel. They do say girls mature quicker than boys… Would tweenage girls still fall for someone like Osmond in 2020? Probably, if their version of ‘Puppy Love’ was Tik-Tok friendly. I remember being at high school (so not that long ago) when the legendary S Club Juniors took a version of it back into the Top 10. And actually, my first thought when I saw the picture of Osmond above was that he looked just like a 2010 Justin Bieber. Which goes to show: a cute white boy with a bowl-cut always has, and always will, sell…

19 thoughts on “316. ‘Puppy Love’, by Donny Osmond

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    No no no…make it go away. Kill it with fire…I don’t dare listen because I heard it enough growing up with one of those 13 -14 year-old girls…

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        Too late… I guess I have a sadistic streak in me to myself. I had to see little Donny in that suede jacket…now it’s in my head. Curse you lol.

  2. This was a cute song when Paul Anka sang in in 1960. I think past the innocence of early 60’s era it doesn’t really work. But that’s just my 2 cents. 🙂

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  4. I loved this song when I was 4/5 years old. My dad was in law enforcement and he was friends with a cop that moonlighted as a DJ in our town’s local radio station. I remember going with him for a visit and Kirk (the cop/DJ) put this song on. I started singing along and my dad told me to hush. Kirk told him that no one could hear me over the air. LOL!

    It’s tied to that memory but, UGH…the song.

  5. It was osmond-mania. The USA had already been through it the previous year with Go Away Little Girl when Donny was 13 (same age as me, old Donny), and the Osmond Brothers had been a staple of US TV for years and years, especially Andy Williams Show, so kids like me had grown-up with them, enjoyed the cartoon series and the Jackson-5-styled theme One Bad Apple, which is fab, and the rocking band tracks like Down By The Crazy River, Crazy Horses and Going Home.

    And then the UK 13-year-olds muscled in on Donny, wanted to marry him, made him huge, and just plain encouraged him to keep plugging out cover-versions of a bygone era that just got worse and worse. You think Puppy Love is bad? It’s quite sweet compared to what is coming, and he at least has a great range and delivery compared to those coming up once his voice broke. It took me 16 years to forgive him, but eventually I stood next to him in our local HMV opening and bought his adult Soldier Of Love CD.

    1. Yep, I’ve heard his next #1 and let’s just say my critiques aren’t going to get any nicer… Utter drivel. One Osmond did release a (semi)enjoyable hit in 1972, and it wasn’t Donny…

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