355. The Osmonds – Love Me for a Reason (1974)

With three number 1s from Donny Osmond and a Christmas chart-topper from Little Jimmy Osmond, this blog has been no stranger to the 70s musical Mormon family phenomenon. But The Osmonds, the group that started it all, only scored one number 1. It is the best of (a poor) bunch, though.

The story of their beginnings in showbiz was covered in my blog on Puppy Love. Alan, Wayne, Merril and Jay started out as a barbershop quartet before finding fame on The Andy Williams Show. Donny soon joined them, and occasionally sister Marie and their little brother Jimmy would make appearances too. Producer Mike Curb got the quintet a contract with MGM Records and they had a US number 1, One Bad Apple, in 1971.

A formula was soon established where Merril would sing lead and Donny would perform the hook or chorus of their singles, which included Double Lovin’ and Yo-Yo. Oldest brother Virl taught the group how to dance, as he could only hear 15% of what most people can hear – just enough to follow a rhythm.

Donny’s solo career took off, but the other four would perform on his material too. 1972 was a big year for The Osmonds, with an animated TV series and group and solo hits. They began to tire of the clean pop sound, and the album Phase III moved them closer to rock. But not as much as the follow-up, Crazy Horses, featuring as its title track a surprisingly heavy rocker about the environment that remains brilliant. The Osmonds wrote all the songs here and even played all the instruments, with Alan on rhythm guitar, Wayne on lead guitar, Merril on bass, Jay on drums and Donny on keyboards. It took Crazy Horses for The Osmonds to score a hit in the UK (number two), despite Donny’s popularity.

In 1973 The Osmonds took the bold move of releasing a concept album about their Mormon faith. Despite the unusual subject matter, the hits continued, with Goin’ Home and Let Me In reaching two and four respectively. By this time, Little Jimmy had scored a Christmas number 1 and their sister Marie was also releasing material along with duets with Donny. The Osmonds were getting older, spreading themselves thin and beginning to get on people’s nerves, but their biggest hit was right around the corner.

The ballad Love Me for a Reason was originally released by its co-writer, former Motown songwriter Johnny Bristol, without much fanfare. However, he was on the same label as The Osmonds, and their management thought it would be a good fit. It became the title track of their sixth LP.

This is normally the kind of sentimental ballad I’d run a mile from, and yet, I quite like Love Me for a Reason, and have done since my first exposure to it when Boyzone took their version to number two in 1994. Sure it’s soppy and slushy, and a bit righteous. No doubt the message of ‘only have sex if its true love’ worked nicely with The Osmonds, and with a boyband as wet as Boyzone (I’ve never been able to stand any song they released from then on), but the tune is pretty nice, and Mike Curbs’ production makes it superior to the 90s version, with some guitar touches here and there making it almost a country song. The highlight of both versions is when a bit of passion breaks through on ‘My initial reaction is honey give me love/Not a facsimile of’. Ok, it’s not Robert Plant screaming ‘I’m gonna give you every inch of my love’ but there’s a time and place for everything and if you ever need a squeaky-clean love song, this does the job.

Only one more big hit followed for The Osmonds over here – the title track to their next album, The Proud One in 1975 (the album was called I’m Still Gonna Need You on these shores), reaching number five. By then, the Bay City Rollers were the UK’s biggest teen idols, and The Osmonds seemed stale. There never seemed to be any tensions or inner jealousy in the family, and the older brothers became happy to go behind the scenes and produce The Donny & Marie Show from 1976 to 1979. When the show ended, the brothers were in debt and needed a new direction. They switched record labels to Mercury and made an album with Maurice Gibb. Although The Bee Gees were still huge, the LP bombed.

Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay returned to performing as The Osmond Brothers, as they had when starting out, and had a few country chart hits in the US in the early-80s, but their refusal to tour didn’t help their careers. The eldest singing Osmond, Alan, was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis in 1987, and his performances understandably became even more sporadic. 10 years later, Wayne found out he had a brain tumour, and it caused him to retire in the early-10s.

In 2007 the whole family embarked on a tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary in showbusiness. A televised concert from Las Vegas saw them all perform, and even Tom and Virl joined in with signed lyrics on a couple of songs, plus Andy Williams made a guest appearance.

Merrill, Jay and Jimmy began working together performing and in business ventures. They released an album, I Can’t Get There Without You, in 2012, but these days, it’s just Merrill and Jay mainly, sometimes with Marie and Alan’s son, solo star David. Alan and Wayne rejoined for one final performance in 2019, but were back again on TV for Marie’s birthday in 2019.

Often derided for their teen pop and squeaky-clean image, The Osmonds at least tried to explore new avenues in the 70s, following The Monkees in learning to write and play themselves. And come on, Crazy Horses is a real banger.

Written by: Johnny Bristol, Wayne Brown, Jr & David Jones, Jr

Producer: Mike Curb

Arranged by: HB Barnum

Weeks at number 1: 3 (31 August-21 September)

Births:

Presenter Lisa Snowdon – 2 September
Transgender fell runner Lauren Jeska – 5 September
Tennis player Tim Henman – 6 September
Backstroke swimmer Adam Ruckwood – 13 September
Footballer Sol Campbell – 18 September

Meanwhile…

12 September: After only 44 days in the job, Brian Clough is dismissed as manager of defending league champions Leeds United following a disappointing start to the Football League season.

18 September: Harold Wilson confirms a second general election within a year for 10 October. Following the hung parliament result in February, Labour ruled with a minority government. Wilson aimed to secure more seats and hold a bigger balance of power.

327. Donny Osmond – The Twelfth of Never (1973)

You just couldn’t keep the Osmonds down for long in the early-70s. After a brief fightback from glam rock acts, they were back at the top once more, this time it was golden boy Donny with his second number 1.

Since his last solo number 1, Puppy Love, Donny’s voice had broken. Despite this, and while the Osmonds experimented with rock on the unlikely classic, Crazy Horses, he ploughed the same furrow of romantic ballads from the 50s and 60s. The title track of his fourth solo album, Too Young, climbed to number five, and double-A-side follow-up Why/Lonely Boy reached number three. With two albums per year, not counting LPs released with his siblings, you certainly can’t accuse the Osmonds of laziness. They were milked for all they were worth, which was a fortune.

The first track off his fifth album, Alone Together, The Twelfth of Never dates back to 1956. Penned by Jerry Livingston (who co-wrote songs on Disney’s Cinderella) and Paul Webster (the lyricist on 1953 best-seller Secret Love), the tune was inspired by the 15th-century English folk tune The Riddle Song.

Crooner Johnny Mathis was the first to record it, a year later, as the B-side to his hit Chances Are, but he didn’t think much to the song. Then Cliff Richard released a version in 1964, which reached number 8.

Coming after Block Buster ! and Cum On Feel the Noize only makes The Twelfth of Never seem that much duller than it already is. Osmond’s voice may have broken but he still seems too young to be singing about how he’ll love his girl forever. It needs a crooner with gravitas, and is far better suited to Mathis. It has a pretty nice tune, but the lyrics have aged – and the ending in which is noted that the twelfth of never is ‘a very long time’… no kidding!

Mike Curb and Don Costa’s production is polished but barely conceals a rather lacklustre affair, when all is said and done. Not as nauseating as Puppy Love though, and certainly better than his little brother Jimmy’s effort.

Written by: Jerry Livingston & Paul Francis Webster

Producers: Mike Curb & Don Costa

Weeks at number 1: 5 (31 March-6 April)

Births:

Actor Jamie Bamber – 3 April

Meanwhile…

1 April: Value-added tax (VAT) first came into effect, and phase 2 of the Price and Pay Code came into effect, restricting rises in pay and prices as a counter-inflation measure.

6 April: Peter Niesewand, a correspondent of The Guardian newspaper and the BBC, was jailed in Rhodesia for an alleged breach of the Official Secrets Act.

324. Little Jimmy Osmond with The Mike Curb Congregation – Long Haired Lover from Liverpool (1972)

What fresh hell is this? By installing nine-year-old Little Jimmy Osmond as Christmas number 1, the UK record-buying public’s collective nervous breakdown of 1972 was complete. The Osmonds were the biggest pop sensation of the year – but this was a step too far.

James Arthur Osmond, born 16 April 1963, is the youngest member of the family, born in Canoga Park, California. His brothers were already TV stars as regulars on The Andy Williams Show at this point, and Jimmy was taught by tutors, his parents preparing him from a young age to follow them into the music industry.

Long Haired Lover from Liverpool was originally a single by Christoper Kingsley (credited on the Osmond version as Christopher Dowden for some reason) from 1969. I’m assuming the title is a reference to The Beatles, then still a going concern. It’s almost identical to the Osmond version, though as it’s sung by a grown man, it’s not as irritating. Examining the vinyl label suggests the backing singers on the original are the same as Osmond’s version, namely The Mike Curb Congregation. Curb, a film score and TV theme writer, had formed the group in the 60s to sing on his work. In 1969 he had merged his company with MGM Records, which soon became home to The Osmonds. He also co-produced this abomination.

The original version bombed, but Jimmy’s mother Olive heard it as it was distributed by MGM, and a horrible, terrible idea formed. It was a cute little tune… her boys had cornered the market in teenage girls… Christmas was around the corner, the boys were about to visit the UK… Jimmy could release it as a single!

A few years back I listened and reviewed every Christmas number 1 in one sitting here. I rated Long Haired Lover from Liverpool as the worst of the 70s, and I stand by that. Comments included ‘Jesus Christ. That’s the only thing I can say about this that’s remotely festive, but it’s not meant as a compliment… It’s memorable I guess, but so is a bout of diarrhoea’. Nothing has changed since then to change my opinion, and although there have been plenty of weird choices in 1972’s number 1s, this still stands out as particularly stinky.

Osmond’s voice is just awful – but he was only nine (still the youngest person to ever have a UK number 1), so his parents are to blame. And the fools who kept this at the top of the charts for five weeks. FIVE WEEKS?! You can almost excuse it happening in the silly season, but for a month afterwards? And it kept David Bowie, T. Rex and even his brothers from number 1 with The Jean Genie, Solid Gold Easy Action and Crazy Horses respectively. The only plus point is it’s over quick.

Amazingly, Osmond scored further hits with Tweedle Dee and I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door (none of these songs fared anywhere near as well in his home country). His recordings became sporadic as the Osmond empire declined in popularity, and in the 80s he moved into management, though he would still occasionally appear on stage with his siblings. He opened the Osmond Family Theater and became president of Osmond Entertainment, running their merchandise and producing TV.

Since the new millennium began, Osmond has been a pantomime mainstay in the UK and appeared on TV time and time again, including I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, Come Dine with Me and Celebrity Masterchef. He seems a thoroughly nice guy, and we all do silly things in our youth, so lets forgive him for this aberration.

1972 must rank as one of the weirdest years for number 1s to date. Lots of the ‘grown-up’ stars were still concentrating on albums, and although glam rock ensured great releases by Slade and T. Rex, it wasn’t as huge as it was to become. At least January 1973 was a blockbuster month…

Written by: Christopher Dowden

Producers: Mike Curb & Perry Botkin Jr

Weeks at number 1: 5 (23 December 1972-26 January 1973)

Births:

Actor Jude Law – 29 December 1972
Kula Shaker singer Crispian Mills – 18 January 1973

Deaths:

Art historian Gisela Richter – 24 December 1972
Scottish novelist Neil M. Gunn – 15 January 1973
Northern Irish actor Max Adrian – 19 January

Meanwhile…

1 January 1973: A big day for the UK, as it officially entered the European Economic Community along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. Membership refusals in 1963 and 1967 had both been vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle. Edward Heath later said entry into the EEC was his greatest accomplishment as Prime Minister.

11 January: The BBC’s Open University awarded its first degrees.

19 January: Super tug Statesman was sent to protect British fishing vessels from Iceland’s ships in the Cod War.

22 January: British share values fell by £4 billion in one day.

25 January: English actor Derren Nesbitt pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife Anne Aubrey after she told him she had been having an affair. They divorced a few months later.