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.

316. Donny Osmond – Puppy Love (1972)

Of course, the first half of the 70s wasn’t just glam rock. Catering for the teenage and pre-pubescent girls were squeaky-clean singing sensations The Osmonds. And most popular of them all was Donny, who scored their first number 1 with a Paul Anka song.

George Virl Osmond, Sr and Olive Osmond, living in Ogden, Utah, were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They raised nine children –  Virl, Tom, Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie, and Jimmy.

Their music career began in 1958 when Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, all aged between three and 10, formed a barbershop quartet, in part to raise money for hearing aids for Virl and Tom, who were born with severe hearing problems. George thought his boys had something special, and he took them to an audition in California. It fell through, but they visited Disneyland, and while there, a bigwig spotted the boys singing with the theme park’s Dapper Dans. He was so impressed he hired them to perform on a TV special, Disneyland After Dark.

Among those sat watching at home was easy-listening legend Andy Williams’ father. He thought they would be a perfect fit for his son’s TV show and urged him to book them, and they became regulars from 1962-69. In 1963 the quartet were joined by five-year-old Donny, the Osmonds’ seventh son, born 9 December 1957.

As the 60s went on, the boys had ambitions to become a proper pop group. George was initially sceptical, but they won him over and record producer Mike Curb was brought on board to help them garner a major label recording contract, which they did, with MGM Records. Their first single with MGM, One Bad Apple, was originally intended for The Jackson Five. It made The Osmonds number 1 in the US in 1971, and the hits went on.

A year later, Donny, who had shared lead vocals with Merrill, was singled out for a solo career to run alongside working with his brothers, thus cornering that all-important ‘impressionable girls’ market. Debut single, the aptly-named Sweet and Innocent, was a number seven smash in the US, and follow-up Go Away Little Girl was a number 1 in America.

Whoever had the idea to make Donny record Puppy Love, I hope they were rewarded. Anka’s 1960 rock’n’roll tearjerker had been written by the wunderkind (who had the biggest-selling UK single in 1957 with the similarly-themed Diana for Annette Funicello, with whom he was having an affair. This maudlin ballad was tailor-made to make young hearts swoon for poor Donny, who keeps being told he’s not old enough to know what love is. How dare they!

It’s very hard as a 41-year-old cynical old sod to relate to this, and it’s really not helped by the fact Donny sounds even younger than his true age of 15 back then. His overacted whining of ‘Someone help me/Help me please’ is nauseating, but to be fair, not as annoying as Anka’s own version. In its defence, it’s a nice tune, well-produced and Donny sings it well, other than the lines I just mentioned.

In short, I’d take Crazy Horses over this every time. But compared to the next Osmond-related number 1, Puppy Love is a classic…

Written by: Paul Anka

Producers: Mike Curb & Don Costa

Weeks at number 1: 5 (8 July-11 August)

Births:

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell – 6 August

TV presenter Sarah Cawood – 7 August

Meanwhile…

21 July: Nine people died and over a hundred were injured on Bloody Friday in a series of explosions by the Provisional IRA in Belfast city centre.

28 July: Thousands of dockers went on strike, leading to Edward Heath declaring the second state of emergency of the year on 4 August.

31 July: In Northern Ireland, the British Army started to regain control of the ‘no-go areas’ established by Irish republican paramilitaries in Belfast, Derry and Newry.

Also that day came, sadly, Bloody Monday, in which three car bombs in Claudy, County Londonderry killed nine. In 2010 it was discovered that a local Catholic priest was an IRA officer believed to be involved in the bombings, but his role had been covered up by the authorities.

6 August: Ugandan dictator Idi Amin announced 50,000 passports were to be expelled from his country to the UK within the next three months. 

9 August: Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar made its West End debut.