Should’ve Been a #1… ‘Crazy Horses’, by The Osmonds

I’ve done a few posts like this before, but thought I’d start making it more of a regular feature. Having just featured Donny and co’s sole UK chart-topper – the decidedly so-so ‘Love Me For a Reason’ – we might as well visit their first big British hit.

‘Crazy Horses’, by The Osmonds – #2 in November 1972

I had heard of ‘Crazy Horses’ long before I ever listened to it. Aged twelve or so, I was the proud owner of the ‘A-Z of Behaving Badly’, a spin-off book from the ’90s sitcom ‘Men Behaving Badly’ (Wiki link provided, if you have no idea what I’m on about). Said book named ‘Crazy Horses’ as one of the best songs for singing loudly on your way home from the pub…

In those pre-internet, iTunes, Spotify days… amazing to think of it actually… I went years without ever knowing what the song sounded like. It sounded cool: ‘Crazy Horses’. But it was by The Osmonds, who were lame, so it mustn’t have been that good…

How wrong I was. ‘Crazy Horses’ is brilliant. One of the catchiest, zaniest, most enjoyable hits of the early seventies. Just watch the video below. How much fun is Jay Osmond having on lead vocals, doing the funky chicken! How much fun is Merrill having shrieking his way through the bridge! How much fun is Donny having making horsey noises on his keyboard! A lot of fun, is the correct answer.

I’ve seen ‘Crazy Horses’ described as metal. It’s not, but for The Osmonds it might as well have been. Their one, minor hit as a group before this had been the catchy-but-super-cheesy ‘Down by the Lazy River’. Just a few months before this made #2, lil’ Donny had scored his first chart-topper with the cloying ‘Puppy Love’.

Not only is ‘Crazy Horses’ ridiculous, and ridiculously catchy, it also has a message behind it. What a show, There they go, Smokin’ up the sky… ‘Crazy horses’ being cars, whose fumes are destroying the planet: Crazy horses all got riders and they’re you and I…! How woke is that, for 1972!

Unfortunately, some countries banned the record, as they thought all the talk of ‘horse’ and ‘smokin’ were… gasp… drug references! Which simply makes it even more rock ‘n’ roll, and even more amazing that The Osmonds were behind it.

So there you have it. After sitting through all the middling to awful #1 singles involving the Osmond brothers, we desperately needed to give their best song a moment in the sun. ‘Crazy Horses’ should definitely have been a number one!

355. ‘Love Me For a Reason’, by The Osmonds

It’s time. A little later than you might have expected, but The Osmonds have their number one single.

Love Me For a Reason, by The Osmonds (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 25th August – 15th September 1974

It’s every bit as cheesy and tinkling as you might expect. It soars, it swoops, it blinds you with the whiteness of its teeth. Suddenly the UK charts sound very ‘American’, with three glossy, shining number ones in a row. But while George McCrae and The Three Degrees were pretty cool… this one really ain’t.

Don’t love me for fun girl, Let me be the one, girl… Love me for a reason, Let the reason be love… For the second time this year, we come to a #1 that I first heard as a child thanks to an Irish boyband. I knew ‘Seasons in the Sun’ through Westlife’s cover, I knew this thanks to their predecessors Boyzone, who took their ‘Love Me For a Reason’ to #2 in 1994.

If love ever-lasting, Isn’t what you’re asking… I’ll have to pass, girl, And be proud to take a stand… Maybe I’m showing my prejudices here, but isn’t it usually girls that sing about love that lasts? The Three Degrees, for example, were just asking when they’d see you again. Or there was Freda Payne lamenting broken promises on her wedding night. Guys are usually happy with, well, something more instant. But, The Osmonds were good ol’ Mormon boys that needed more than just physical attraction (their words.) All of which culminates in the spectacular line: My initial reaction is, Honey give me love, Not a facsimile of…

Any song that can crowbar the word ‘facsimile’ into its lyrics cannot be all bad and, to tell the truth, this is a decent pop song with a highly singalongable chorus. It also has one hell of a key change towards the end, that sounds as if a sound engineer accidentally leant on a dial. And, even though I introed this post by suggesting that The Osmonds had waited longer than most for their shot at #1, ‘Love Me for a Reason’ was only their sixth chart hit in the UK. It feels like a longer wait because, unusually, the solo Osmond(s) topped the charts long before the band. Donny’s been there three times, and Little Jimmy (while not technically a member of ‘The Osmonds’ at this point) has summited once.

The band would go on releasing albums until the end of the seventies, before splitting up and moving into different ventures. Donny would be the most successful, with his sister Marie. But this is it for them, in terms of topping the charts as a group. Just the one. And I’m sure most would agree that, if they could choose the one Osmonds disc they would allow to top the charts, it wouldn’t be this one. It would be… Well, I might just do a separate post on that very soon. Watch this space…

336. ‘Young Love’, by Donny Osmond

We’ve heard this one before, haven’t we…?

Young Love, by Donny Osmond (his 3rd and final #1)

4 weeks, from 19th August – 16th September 1973

Cast your mind all the way back to early 1957, when blue-eyed, all-American heartthrob Tab Hunter was crooning his way into the hearts of many with his own version of ‘Young Love’. I wasn’t keen on it then – and I quote: “I’ve listened to ‘Young Love’ several times now, trying to find something to like about it, but I can’t do it. It’s insipid. And that’s it” – and I ain’t much keener on it now.

It’s a pretty faithful cover – the same lullaby guitar and lyrics, with a few strings thrown in for that trademark Osmond schmaltz. Donny sounds like… Donny. It’s not as teeth-grindingly terrible as ‘The Twelfth of Never’, but it’s no ‘Puppy Love’. Who’d have thought, when I gave ‘Puppy Love’ it’s glowing review, that it would wind up being the best of Donny Osmond’s three chart-toppers!

No, I’m going to play nice. Yes, this is complete tripe, but as I say every time: I am not the target audience for it. Same way that I will not be the target audience for New Kids on the Block, Boyzone, Westlife or 1 Direction, when their times come. Plus, it’s a song by a fifteen year old kid. No way would I want any of the stupid things I did, said, wore, or released on 7” vinyl around the world, aged fifteen, held against me. I’ll let him be…

But then, oh Jesus, he starts talking. Even Tab Hunter didn’t go this far… Just one kiss, From your sweet lips, Will tell me that our love is real… Donny, son, you’re making it really hard for me to not write terrible things about you… You just know that this was the exact moment in the song where girls across the country leant in to give their Donny posters a good hard snogging.

It’s short, at least, two and a half minutes and we’re through. That’s it as far as this young man’s solo chart-toppers are concerned, though he does have one more #1 coming up soon with his brothers in tow. I feel we need write no more.

Except, I guess it’s interesting that back in the fifties, at the same time as Tab Hunter took this to the top first time around, right on the verge of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, that it was common for artists to cover songs from the twenties and thirties. Connie Francis took ‘Carolina Moon’ to the top, Bobby Darin did the same with ‘Mack the Knife’, while Tommy Edwards used an old melody in ‘It’s All in the Game’. This disc marks the first time, of many, that a former #1 will return to the top as a cover version. And, scarily, the 1950s are to the 1970s what the 1930s were to the ‘50s…

327. ‘The Twelfth of Never’, by Donny Osmond

I press play on this, the second part of Donny Osmond’s chart-topping trilogy, and the first word that comes to mind is ‘syrupy’. Listening to this record’s intro is like being dropped head first into a vat of treacle, and trying to swim to safety…

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The Twelfth of Never, by Donny Osmond (his 2nd of three #1s)

1 week, from 25th March – 1st April 1973

Second thing I notice is that lil’ Donny’s voice has broken. He’s become a man, or at least a proper teenager, and so, we wonder, will his music have grown up along with him? We last heard him chirping about his ‘Puppy Love’; is there any sign that Donny is pushing boundaries, experimenting on the lead single from his fifth (his fifth!) album?

No. If anything – and I have considered this statement very carefully – ‘The Twelfth of Never’ is worse than ‘Puppy Love’. (Meanwhile it makes his little brother Jimmy’s chart-topper sound genuinely enjoyable by comparison.) You ask how much I need you… Must I explain… I need you oh my darlin’, Like roses need rain… You really don’t need to hear any more of the lyrics to get the picture.

But, just in case you were enjoying it, he will love his girl until the roses don’t bloom, until the clover has lost its perfume, and until the poets have run out of rhyme… Until the twelfth of never, And that’s a long, long time… I’ll give this song one thing: it’s powerful. Certain songs make you sad, certain songs make you happy, certain songs make you nauseous. You can guess what category this one falls under…

I dunno. I feel a bit bad. He was only fifteen, and picking on this record feels a bit like taking candy from, well, a kid. I’m sure he was a nice young man, and your nan would certainly have approved (though she might have suggested a haircut), but Donny Osmond did release some utter shite. But then again, as I wrote in my post on ‘Puppy Love’, I am not and never have been a thirteen-year-old girl, and so am far, far away from being this song’s target audience.

‘The Twelfth of Never’, like ‘Puppy Love’, was a cover of an older hit. Johnny Mathis had released his version way back in 1956, and it is much less syrupy, almost gospel-ish. (Mathis, though, disliked the song and kept it as a ‘B’-side.) In the UK, Cliff Richard had had a #8 hit in 1964 with his own version

Donny will have one last UK #1, coming up pretty soon, so brace yourselves. That one is interesting as it is not just a cover of an oldie, but a cover of an oldie that has already topped the charts! Until then, I need a glass of water and a ‘Rennies’…

Follow along with my #1s playlist…

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…