324. ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’, by Little Jimmy Osmond

Hot on the heels of Chuck Berry’s smut-fest ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ comes another Christmas novelty, and 1972’s festive #1. Two novelty chart-toppers in a row! Aren’t we the lucky listeners…?

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Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, by Little Jimmy Osmond (his 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 17th December 1972 – 21st January 1973

Actually no. We are not. For everything that ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ got right, ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’ gets wrong… It’s not funny, it’s not subversive, it’s not got a bawdy bone in its body. It’s a nine-year-old boy singing a music hall ditty, and it is intensely, painfully, terrifyingly catchy.

I first listened to it a few days ago, after finishing my previous post, and it has been lodged in my brain ever since. I’ll… Be… Your… Long-haired lover from Liverpool, And I’ll do anything you say… Was Little Jimmy Osmond from Liverpool? No, obviously not. They were Mormons from Ogden, Utah. Had he ever been to Liverpool? Doubtful. But he’ll say he is, and that he has, for his sunshine daisy from LA…

He’ll also be her leprechaun sitting on a toadstool, her clown, her puppet, her April Fool… Anything she asks, as long as she’s his sunshine daisy from LA… You have to wonder if Little Jimmy had any idea what the hell he was singing. But he does it like a pro, like the youngest son from a family steeped in showbiz. Before I’d even seen any pictures of him, I could picture his cheeky grin and chubby cheeks. His voice is ear-piercingly high, especially on the title line, but then I suppose nine-year-old’s voices usually are.

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It’s strange. On the one hand I am aware that this is a genuinely heinous piece of music. Meanwhile the other hand is tapping along happily. But lo! Suddenly, just past the two-minute mark, the song fades. Finished. I like to think that the sound engineer just couldn’t take it anymore and slid the volume dial down, while Jimmy and his band kept going for another three minutes, unaware…

‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’ had been written and recorded a few years earlier, by a Christopher Kingsley, and played on local radio. That’s where Mother Osmond heard the song and thought it would be perfect for her Jimmy. And it was – Osmond mania was sweeping the world in late ‘72. Little Jimmy was, apparently, particularly huge in Japan. We’ve had one Osmond at the top of the charts already this year, and I have to admit that I’d choose ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’ over Donny’s ‘Puppy Love’ any day of the week.

At nine years and eight months old Jimmy Osmond was – and still is – the youngest artist to be credited with a UK #1 single. (Though younger children have featured on #1s, without getting a credit… more on that anon.)

And that’s that for 1972. What a strange year for chart-toppers! Some have been era-defining, others have been heart-breaking, while some have been hilarious. And a few have just been really, really bad. Roll on 1973!

323. ‘My Ding-A-Ling’, by Chuck Berry

And so we come to our alma mater. We must do our alma mater

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My Ding-a-Ling, by Chuck Berry (his 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 19th November – 17th December 1972

Come along one and all, for the touching tale of a young boy and his favourite childhood toy: When I was, A little bitty boy, My grandmother bought me a cute little toy… Silver bells, Hanging on a string, She told me it was my ding-a-ling-a-ling…

In this live-est of live number ones, the audience sing approximately half of the song. The girls in the audience give us My… While the boys give us Ding-a-Ling! Girls: I want you to play with my… Boys: Ding-a-Ling! While Chuck croons his encouragement: Beautiful! I think it’s a beautiful little song, really I do…

Mum takes the boy to grammar school, but he stops off in the vestibule. (Find me, if you can, another #1 single that includes the word ‘vestibule’.) Every time that bell would ring, Catch me playing with my ding-a-ling-a-ling… Life brings along many trials and tribulations for the hero of the piece but first and foremost, no matter the danger, the lad looks after his prized possession. Climbing the garden wall, swimming across Turtle Creek… All the while holding onto his ding-a-ling. You can guess where every verse is going after the first line; but that’s the beauty of it. Like all lame jokes you can see it coming a mile off, bounding over the horizon like a big dumb dog.

And Chuck Berry’s enthusiasm for this silliest of silly songs really helps to sell it. The spoken asides – the two girls singing in harmony, the guy singing in rhyme (that’s alright, brother, you gotta right baby) – are the best bits. In an extended version that runs to well over eleven minutes, Berry can be heard briefing the audience on how to sing. It is complete end-of-the-pier, pantomime smut, with lines like: We’ll teach the boy’s first, cos they’ve only got one part… (You notice how the boy’s part starts rising right there?)… Now boys you gotta come in strong with your ding-a-lings… It’s a very funny listen – those aren’t even the dirtiest bits – if your sense of humour is as underdeveloped as mine… When it comes to the verse dedicated to those who will not sing, the glee in Berry’s voice as he changes the lyrics to Your ding-a-ling, Your ding-a-ling, We saw you playin’ with your ding-a-ling…! is unmistakeable.

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I’ve been looking forward to writing about ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ ever since I started this blog. For a start, it’s Chuck Berry finally getting a #1 single. He, more than any other artist, is rock ‘n’ roll. He’d only had one (1!) Top 20 hit in the fifties – ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, which peaked at #16! In the sixties, when his influence on beat bands became evident, he started hitting the top 10 with discs like ‘No Particular Place to Go’. By 1972, though, he was a veteran; a legacy act. This had been recorded in February, at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, and was belatedly pushed as a single by a radio station in Boston.

The other reason I’d been looking forward to writing about this record? The controversy, of course. Radio stations refused to play it (duh). Not that there’s anything wrong with the lyrics on face-value, but the fun that Chuck and the audience are having singing along like drunks at closing time means that even the most innocent of minds can get in on the innuendo. Mary Whitehouse, last seen campaigning against Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’, claimed that whole classes of young boys across the nation were lowering their trousers, ‘singing the song and giving it the indecent interpretation… that is so obvious.’ Which, if they weren’t doing before Mary made this claim; they certainly were afterwards.

This tune had been around for a long time, since the 19th century in fact, in the form of the American folk number ‘Little Brown Jug’. It was first recorded as ‘My Ding-a-Ling’ by Dave Bartholomew in 1952, and if you thought Berry’s version was bawdy then you’re in for a treat with the original (sample lyric: When you’re young and on the go, Your ding-a-ling won’t ever get sore…)

There are a lot of people who think of it as sacrilege that this was Chuck Berry’s biggest hit. Which I understand, on one level. But, at least it’s fun. Compare and contrast with Eddie Cochran – another rock ‘n’ roller who, after genre-defining hits like ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’ reached #1 with the soppy ‘Three Steps to Heaven’. Plus, he was dead. Chuck Berry had decades of playing with his ding-a-ling to come after this (though, given some of the allegations made against him over the years that might not be the best way to phrase it). He died in 2017, aged ninety.

To conclude, then. This may be puerile, and silly. It may not be anywhere near as momentous a record as ‘Johnny B. Goode’, or ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Music’, or ‘Maybelline’, or hundreds of Chuck Berry’s earlier hits. But I love it for what it is. Somehow, some way, ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ is every bit as rock ‘n’ roll as his classic hits.

Follow along with my #1s Blog playlist, here.

322. ‘Clair’, by Gilbert O’Sullivan

For the first time in three hundred and twenty-two #1 singles… I find one that is not on Spotify. At least not in my ‘region’. I realise that this may be of no interest to anyone but me, but damn it if it hasn’t ruined the #1s Blog Playlist I attach at the foot of every post!

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Clair, by Gilbert O’Sullivan (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 5th – 19th November 1972

Actually, the fact that this isn’t on Spotify might be quite telling. Spotify might be on to something… Let me explain. First up, we have whistling. Whistling in pop records rarely leads to good things. (There are notable exceptions, I will admit, but still.) Clair, The moment I met you, I swear, I felt as if something somewhere, Had happened to me… The tune is jaunty but bittersweet, the production very soft-focus. It’s easy-listening – the softest of seventies soft-rock.

Who is Clair? Must be his girlfriend, right? A guy called Gilbert writes a song about a girl called Clair. Words mean so little, When you look up and smile… Yadda-yadda-yadda… I don’t care what people say to me, You’re more than a child… Wait a second. Plot twist. Why in spite of our age difference, Do I cry, Each time I leave you…

Ah… she’s his daughter. Which kind of excuses the cutesy shlock factor. He’s written a love song to his daughter. Aw… But no. The mystery of ‘Clair’ continues to unravel. Nothing means more to me than hearing you say, I’m going to marry you, Will you marry me Uncle Ray…? What now? Who’s Uncle Ray?? I give up, and resort to Wiki.

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Where I discover that ‘Clair’ was the child of O’Sullivan’s producer, and Ray is Gilbert. He would sometimes babysit his friend/producer’s daughter. He has written a chart-topping single about a child he sometimes babysat for. Process that over the horrible harmonica solo…

It’s clever, I guess. It’s like a murder-mystery novel that keeps you guessing till the end. And it ends with a flourish – I quite like the lines in the final verse in which he’s trying to put Clair to bed: Get back into bed, Can’t you see that it’s late, No you can’t have a drink… It’s quite modern, like today’s beanie-hat wearing singer-songwriters picking lyrics out of the mundane. If Tom Walker wrote a song about babysitting, it might sound a bit like ‘Clair’.

But the final verse can’t redeem the song as a whole. It’s pretty terrible (and crucially, if you miss the bit about babysitting, it sounds super, super creepy…) And just to rubber-stamp this song’s terribleness, the real-life Clair giggles on the final note, like a doll in a horror movie. Oh Clair…

Gilbert (Raymond) O’Sullivan – I assume that he was going for a pun on ‘Gilbert & Sullivan’ with his stage name? – is an Irish singer-songwriter who had been scoring hits since a couple of years before his first #1. ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ had been his biggest hit earlier in the year: a #3 in the UK and huge #1 on the Billboard 100. He’ll have one more chart-topper in early ’73, with a song I already know and that I can confirm is much better than this.

One final note: ‘Clair’ was at #1 for the twentieth anniversary of the UK Singles Chart. We have covered two decades’ worth of chart-topping singles, plus a diversion or two, in just over two and a half years, since my first post on Al Martino’s ‘Here in My Heart’! Well done to everyone who has been keeping up!

Listen to every other UK #1, here

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX?si=4EBnqoWIR1awaGjeBnPfWQ

321. ‘Mouldy Old Dough’, by Lieutenant Pigeon

I’ve heard of this song before – for better or for worse – but don’t think I’d ever heard it, in full, until now. And boy, is it strange…

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Mouldy Old Dough, by Lieutenant Pigeon (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 8th October – 5th November 1972

It starts with a military drum beat, and for a second I’m worried that we’re getting 1972’s second pipes ‘n’ drums #1 single. Then we get a flute, and I’m picturing an orange march. Then we get a boozy, woozy, synthesised rock ‘n’ roll piano, and we’re in a crowded German beerhall.

Two immediate points of reference jump out at me. There’s Chicory Tip’s similarly stomping ‘Son of My Father’ from a few months back. And then there’s the work of Joe Meek a decade ago: The Tornados, and ‘Have I the Right?’ and so on. There’s a lot of similarities there, but they don’t fully explain what the hell is going on here.

‘Mouldy Old Dough’ is an instrumental, save for the title being growled by what sounds like a very old man with no teeth. Apparently the line Dirty old man… is also buried in there, deep within the soupy mix, but I can’t make it out. It is so rough and ready, this record. It sounds like an old demo that was burnt, buried in a shallow grave, then dug up years later, released and sent to the top of the charts…

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Have you ever eaten durian? It’s a huge spiky fruit, really popular in south-east Asia, with a smell somewhere between sweaty socks and rotten onions. Apparently, though, if you can get past the stench the actual flesh of the fruit is quite nice. I’ve never been able to get past the stink but feel that ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ might be the durian fruit of #1 singles. Get past your initial doubts and reservations, your initial what the hell?, and by the third or fourth listen you start to find something charming buried deep within its relentless, plodding, churning beat.

The backstory of Lieutenant Pigeon only adds to the record’s charm. They were an experimental band from Coventry, fronted by Rob Woodward, and featuring his mum, Hilda, on piano. She’s basically the star of this record, as it’s her melancholy piano line that holds it all together. ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ was recorded in their living room (what I mistook for synths is just poor sound insulation!) When asked what it was all about, Rob admitted that he had no idea… Despite being the composer. Honest. I like it. The follow-up to this, ‘Desperate Dan’, made #17 and after that the charts were a Pigeon-free zone… The Woodwards are still the only mother and son combo to ever top the UK singles chart.

And isn’t that nice? Lieutenant Pigeon still record and release music to this day, mainly online, while Hilda died twenty years back. She was fifty-eight when this record hit the top of the charts, and she’s still in the Top 10 oldest people to feature on a number one single. By the end the marching beat has transformed into a glam-rock stomp as we fade out. As weird as this record sounds – and it does sounds pretty darn weird – it still somehow fits in with the styles of the time…

320. ‘How Can I Be Sure’, by David Cassidy

Unluckily for David Cassidy, I arrive at his first UK chart-topper – ‘How Can I Be Sure’ – and instantly think of Dusty Springfield’s version of the same song. It’s a version that I’ve known for years, and it puts young Cassidy at a bit of a disadvantage…

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How Can I Be Sure, by David Cassidy (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 24th September – 8th October 1972

…for which singer would want to be compared against Dusty? But hey. I’ll try to keep an open mind. This version opens a little gently: echoing guitars backed by an annoying ting – like a typewriter reaching the end of a line – before settling into a French accordion’s sway. Whenever I, Whenever I am away from you… I wanna die, Because you know I wanna stay with you…

Dramatic, right? Except this record never quite reaches the levels needed to sell the lyrics. How can I be sure? I really, really, really, really wanna know… He loves someone, but is overcome with self-doubt. Do they really love him back? How can he ever know? And that’s before you add in the ‘alibi’, who’s going around spreading nasty rumours about him… It’s just a shame that he sings it, for the most part, in a crooning style, never really letting loose. He sings it nicely, and enunciates his words wonderfully, but I’m not sold.

At least it’s not too sickly saccharine. I still have the aftertaste of ‘Puppy Love’ in the back of my throat… In my mind (and remember this all came a decade before I was born), Cassidy was the main rival of Donny Osmond, with the two pre-eminent teen-idols of the day competing to see who had the whitest smile and the most perfectly set hair. Both came from a showbiz family too, though Cassidy’s was the made-for-TV ‘Partridge Family’. In reality, Cassidy was a decade older than Osmond, so they would surely have been competing for different audiences, and by 1972 he had been photographed nude on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ by Annie Liebovitz and had been reported to have taken – shock horror – recreational drugs.

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So, David 1 Donny 0, if indeed it was a competition at all. You would, after all, have to go to some lengths to make a worse record than ‘Puppy Love’. At the same time, I’m struggling to have a strong opinion on this song. It’s fine. It’s nice enough. It’s no Dusty. It’s the perfect proof of a truly great singer, when they can take lyrics that sound a little trite in the voice of another, and give them meaning… But I do like the ending here, as the lines How can I, How can I, How can I… tumble and cascade over one another, like a wonky soundtrack in a circus big-top.

‘How Can I Be Sure’ had been around for a few years by the time David Cassidy recorded his version. It was originally a hit for The Young Rascals in 1967 – their version is meh – before Dusty in 1970 and David two years after that. And we’ll hold off on a full Cassidy bio, as he has another #1 to come in a year or so. Though, I have to admit that, until a few seconds ago, I had no idea that he passed away a few years ago…

319. ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, by Slade

Slade’s third chart-topper in well under a year – a mean feat that not many other artists can boast of. And it enters with all the swagger you’d expect from a band well on their way to being the biggest in the land. As Noddy sums it up in the intro: Awooooooooo!

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Mama Weer All Crazee Now, by Slade (their 3rd of six #1s)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th September 1972

The riff could never be described as sophisticated, or revolutionary, but it’s perfect in its own way. A riff that does the DJ’s job for him, by announcing ‘Here’s the latest single from Slade…’ Meanwhile the drums are deep and beefy and the bass kicks. We’re all set up for a good time.

Similarly, the lyrics aren’t going to change the world; but they are a statement of intent. Holder is at his sneery, husky best as he announces: I don’t want to, Drink my whisky like you do… The kids are going to do things their own way. I don’t need to, Spend my money but still do… Did someone say ‘teenage rebellion?’ Think ‘Son of My Father’, but in the simplest, Sladest terms.

I said mama, But we’re all crazy now… the band hollers as mum bangs on the bedroom door, wondering what this noise is. A year so ago, the top of the charts was full of easy-on-the-ears, grown-up pop – ‘I’m Still Waiting’ and ‘Woodstock’. But 1972 has seen the #1 spot reclaimed by the kids: teeny boppers and glam rockers. It’s like the fifties all over again, but with more make-up.

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Is ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ a little basic? Probably, but that’s the point. It’s a song about having nothing but a good time. Another drop now, come on… I want the lot now, come on… About being young and reckless and not giving two shits. Jim Lea, the bassist, was inspired to write it after looking out on Wembley Arena after the band had played a gig, and surveying a hall full of broken seats and empty bottles. Plus he wanted a chorus – a chant, even – that the audience could sing back to them at full volume.

The record ends with that line repeated over and over, until it’s reduced to a stutter: Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-woooooooo! Glorious nonsense. (Isn’t that the perfect description for glam rock?) Actually, I’ve just had an idea, a way of categorising the glam rock acts of the early seventies, using British supermarkets as gradients (Apologies to any non-British readers who will have no idea what I’m on about, please skip ahead if you like…) If Bowie was Harrod’s Glam, then T. Rex were Waitrose Glam. Slade? Slade were Tesco glam: no frills and popular across the land. And LIDL Glam? That was Mud.

Anyway, nothing wrong with being the Tesco of glam. Whenever I’m back in the UK, Tesco’s one of the first places I go. And it didn’t hold Slade back any. ‘Mama…’ was their 3rd of six #1s, and the last not to enter at the top of the charts. Very, very few records entered at #1 before the mid-nineties. Slade will go on to do it three times. Enjoy the video below, then, as the sound of a band just about to go stratospheric…

318. ‘You Wear It Well’, by Rod Stewart

In which Rod Stewart scores his second number one single, by releasing a song that sounds suspiciously like his first. I mean, ‘Maggie May’ had been such a huge hit, his now-signature song, that you can’t blame him for trying to re-bottle lightning.

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You Wear It Well, by Rod Stewart (his 2nd of six #1s)

1 week, from 27th August – 3rd September 1972

Not that it’s a rip-off (can you even rip-off your own song?), but it’s similar enough to sound like an off-cut from the same recording session. The intro meanders, as it did in ‘Maggie May’, before two drumbeats – dun dun – signify that we’re ready for the song proper to get underway.

I had nothing to do, On this hot afternoon, But to settle down and write you a line… Rod’s reminiscing about a woman he once loved. Who knows, maybe it’s Maggie…? He’s been meaning to call her, but thinks a handwritten letter would tug the old heartstrings a bit more effectively. You wear it well, A little old fashioned but that’s alright…

He reminisces about basement parties, her radical views, a birthday gown he bought her in town… Then he lays on the charm: Madame Onassis got nothing on you… It’s another wordy ballad, a little more electric than acoustic this time, while the fiddle from ‘Reason to Believe’ – the flip-side of his first #1 – makes another appearance to add some homespun charm. To be honest, I’m struggling to get into ‘You Wear It Well’. It’s a bit plodding, and the words sometimes get lost in the mix.

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When you look the lyrics up, though, you see that there are some nice touches. The fact that he didn’t call because he’s in Minnesota and, y’know, that’d be a bit pricey, and the line: My coffee’s gone cold and I’m getting told, That I gotta go back to work… While at the end Rod hopes that she’s still at the same address. It’s not a record without charm; you just have to give it a few listens and dig a little deeper to find it.

But, you’d have to admit that if he had been trying to recapture the magic of his debut chart-topper then he’s not quite managed it. It’s strange to think that of all Rod Stewart’s big seventies hits which didn’t make the top of the charts – ‘You’re In My Heart’, ‘Tonight’s the Night’, ‘Hot Legs’ – ‘You Wear It Well’ did.

A short post, then. A nice enough song, and a nice enough addition to 1972’s parade of chart-toppers. It seems that to hit #1 in the summer of ’72 your record either had to be glammed up to the eyeballs, soppy teenybopper fluff, or an acoustic ballad. Let’s spin the tombola and see what pops up next…!

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317. ‘School’s Out’, by Alice Cooper

Aw, hell yeah! School heartthrob Donny Osmond finds himself elbowed out the way by school bad boy, and shock-rocker supreme, Alice Cooper. No more mister nice guy indeed!

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School’s Out, by Alice Cooper (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 6th – 27th August 1972

The charts of 1972 continue to swing wildly: acoustic ballad to glam to teeny bopper pap to this. Some anarchic hard rock. And it’s a great record, right from the start. The riff rings out, loud and clear, before the drums and the bass are added. (There are three songs that I cannot tell apart for the first five seconds or so: this, ‘Born to Be Wild’ by Steppenwolf, and Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’. They don’t even sound that similar, so I’m not really sure why I have this problem…)

Vince Furnier said in an interview that in ‘School’s Out’ he was trying to capture the last three minutes of the school year which, along with Christmas morning, is the best moment of a child’s life: the nervous tension, the excitement, the sense that wonderful chaos is just around the corner. I’d say he managed it. Well we got no choice, All the girls and boys, Make all the noise, Cos they’ve found new toys…

There are famously no real punk-rock #1s… Is this, then, the first and only punk #1, several years before anyone knew what ‘punk’ was? It soon becomes clear that this isn’t just a song about two months of sun and no homework; it’s an anarchist’s manifesto. School’s out for summer… then it’s out for ever… then it’s been blown to pieces. The playground chants in between the verses move from No more pencils… To We might not come back at all…

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The best bit is the second verse, with its word-play: Well we got no class, And we principles… and the so dumb its actually pretty clever last line: We can’t even think of a word that rhymes! And then there’s the final verse – perhaps the heaviest moment in a #1 single so far – where the lead guitar squeals, and the drums beat out a pounding, tribal rhythm, as if the kids have rounded up all the teachers for a ritual sacrifice. Morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse managed to get it banned from featuring on ‘Top of the Pops’, an act for which Furnier sent her a bouquet of flowers in thanks for the free publicity.

‘School’s Out’ was the breakthrough hit for Alice Cooper, who had been seen as a bit of a novelty act until then with all their make-up and on stage pyrotechnics (they were friends of Arthur Brown). And actually, maybe ‘School’s Out’ still suffers from being seen as a novelty song, when in actual fact it’s a great hard rock track. The band would score a few more Top 10s off the back of this, before ‘Alice Cooper’ became Vince Furnier’s solo act. His biggest hit will arrive many years later: ‘Poison’ coming oh so close to the top in 1989.

In the end the bell rings, everybody cheers and then we all get sucked into a blackhole, a cool effect that caps off a startlingly fresh sounding #1 single. OK, in the end it might not quite be ‘punk’, but I’ll bet it felt amazing blasting this record out on the final day of 1972’s summer term. And speaking as a teacher, I have to say that this song speaks more to me now than it ever did as a kid…

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…

315. ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’, by Slade

As great as our last chart-topper ‘Vincent’ was, you wouldn’t want to listen to it every day. Thank God, then, for Slade, getting us back into a hard-rocking, glam-boogying groove.

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Take Me Back ‘Ome, by Slade (their 2nd of six #1s)

1 week, from 25th June – 2nd July 1972

Their first number one, ‘Coz I Luv You’, was great but, as I noted at the time, it didn’t sound like the Slade that would go on to grab the charts by the balls. Their second chart-topper, though, sounds 100% like Slade. We’ve got Noddy hollering, a nasty riff, and some

Imagine the scene: closing time at a pub in Wolverhampton. Last orders, in more ways than one. Noddy needs a girl for the night, so he gets a wooing. Came up to you one night, Noticed the look in your eyes, Saw you was on your own, And it was alright… He has a way with words to rival Mungo Jerry and their attempts on ‘Baby Jump’: You and your bottle of brandy, Both of you smell the same… Is she really as rough as she sounds, or is he just a brute? Either way, I love the complete and utter lack of glamour.

So take me back home, Take me back home, And we can find plenty to do, And that will be alright… It’s an unsophisticated song. The hook is simply Holder drawing out his ‘all-rights’ in a sneery way. But, it’s great. I kept thinking that the riff sounded familiar, and then I realised that it simply sounds like 50% of Oasis’s mid-nineties output. (They always get the Beatles comparisons, but to me they ripped Slade off just as much. Anyway, more on Oasis in twenty years or so.)

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By the second verse, the handclaps have turned into terrifying horse-whips, increasing the glam-stop even further. And by the third verse, the girl’s boyfriend, who’s twice the size of Noddy, has turned up. I didn’t stay around to say goodnight… But it was alright… We fade out with Holder trying to punch through brick walls with his voice, then doing his best Marc Bolan stutter.

So Slade are a-go. Although I’d rank ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ more alongside the Stones’ bluesy numbers from the sixties, ‘Honky Tonk Women’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and the like, than  the pure glam that was to come. Few #1s have been as low-down and dirty as this. But, I like that this came just two weeks after T. Rex’s final chart-topper, ‘Metal Guru’, and that it feels like a passing of the glam-rock flame. Slade were now poised to become the biggest band in the country, and we’ll hear a lot more from them in the next year and a half.