20
Jun 07

LITTLE JIMMY OSMOND – “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”

FT + Popular50 comments • 7,267 views

#324, 23rd December 1972

Lil Jimmy O 

My feeling – hard to pin down – is that this record is something new under the chart sun: the birth of a different kind of novelty hit. The “novelty records” that have featured on Popular before now have been so mostly because they’re comedy songs or because they’re hits appealing to the well-established music tastes of people who don’t usually buy singles. “Ernie” might be an example of the first, “Amazing Grace” the second.

“Long Haired Lover” is something else entirely. It’s a bad record, and what’s more it’s a deliberately bad record: a record whose badness has been specifically calibrated to appeal to people who find the idea of a small child making a record endearing, but only if said child makes something this toothily, winsomely, perkily, grotesquely, exploitatively bad. To be fair there is also a market for spookily competent children as well as angelically rubbish ones – recent show Britain’s Got Talent had one of each in its final as far as I could see, though both were beaten by an opera singer. A child performer as bouncily horrible as Little Jimmy, though, manages to shame even this ignoble variety tradition, as well as being a poisonous force in pop. Poisonous because this stuff sold and taught promoters that you didn’t even need the veneer of songcraft or production quality of a “Grandad” to make a smash. Five weeks, for mercy’s sakes – and only the first of them at Xmas, so that’s almost a MONTH of Little Jimmy souring the already bleak midwinter.

(Of course, “Mouldy Old Dough” can also be taken (wrongly) as a deliberately bad novelty hit, designed to appeal to people who thought it was great that an old granny with a piano could get into the charts, a set of people which plainly includes me. So it’s not that I find the appeal of Little Jimmy inexplicable – just intolerable.)

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Lena on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Meanwhile, the US #1s were “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul and “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. Was this single even released in the US?

  2. 2
    Erithian on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Funnily enough, Tom, I was thinking about “Britain’s Got Talent” as I read your first paragraph. I only caught a few bits of it but saw Piers Morgan telling Connie she was the best six-year-old singer in the world. Not the best, more like the one who speaks “X-Factorese” the best, and a direct line back to Little Jimmy. (And I wonder if she knew that “Ben” was about a homicidal rat?)

    And look at the two records he held off at Number 2 – “Solid Gold Easy Action” by T. Rex, and Bowie’s “Jean Genie”, which was the first single I ever went out and bought for myself. Cracking number 1s they would have made.

  3. 3
    Waldo on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Good to see Rosie back.

    This thing was beyond contempt and as Erithian points out, it kept “Jean Genie” off the top, which was monstrous. Tom is absolutly right in agonising over who exactly would have bought this and for what reason (the same surely would apply later to “One Day At A Time”). I can only suggest that it was because the lothsome brat had brothers very visably “accompany” him in the background and thus obligated Donny fans to buy this pig of a record. It’s not even charming.

    Lena – I’m certain that LHLFL was never released as a single in the United States. It was designed entirely for the gullible UK market and let’s be honest, it worked in spades. The offerings from Billy Paul and Carly Simon were both cracking, of course.

  4. 4
    Rosie on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Why, thank you Waldo!

    I’m not even going to try to download this one. I remember it all too well and it’s the worst thing to have figured in this exercise by a long chalk. It makes I See The Moon sound sophisticated, for chrissake. Mind you, there’s worse to come…

    Meanwhile, Jean Genie is my enduring memory of that Christmas, and doubtless I spent January wallowing in ELP and Floyd

  5. 5
    Tom on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Incidentally, the mark on this record should be taken as confirmation that the scale on Popular is 1-10, not 0-10.

  6. 6
    jeff w on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Will no one stick up for ‘Little’ Jimmy? I honestly don’t mind this. Would probably give it 5 out of 10. This may be something to do with the fact that LJO is around my age – he was 9 when this hit, I was 7. There’s a degree of identification then that I didn’t have with Donny.

    For all that Tom may be right that this was a new kind of novelty hit, it sounds very old fashioned (even more so than e.g. ‘Grandad’) – the rinky-dink saloon-bar piano accompaniment, the Mike Sammes-singers-alikes on backing vox. It sounded more appropriate to music hall TV show The Good Old Days than Top Of The Tops. And yes, I watched both at the time.

    My overriding memory of this song is the promo film, possibly lifted from an Andy Williams’ Show Christmas TV special, featuring log fires, Jimmy sitting on a horse-drawn sleigh, dashing through the snow and other such winter paraphernalia.

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Jun 2007 #

    The conundrum of the Mike Curb Congregation at number one in 1972:

    America – “Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr, not a hit at all in the UK.
    UK – “LHLFL,” not even a single (or an album track?) in the States.

    In Neil Reid’s defence, even though “Mother Of Mine” came out of Opportunity Knocks and nearly made number one at the other end of ’72 (though listening to the record you’d think it was still 1952), at least there was an attempt at some artistic “quality” however Mother’s Day minor (and also NR did a great cover of Roy Wood’s “Songs Of Praise” a couple of years later, after his voice broke).

    What this record indicates to me, more than the exploitative/exploitable kiddie market, is the advent of the recording act as brand; i.e. the many faces of the Osmond brand, designed to appeal to all possible demographics.

    On a personal level, both this and Neil Reid made my eight-year-old life intolerable since I was supposed to be a “child prodigy” and the fact that kids my age were having number one hits bounced back to me on the basis of “well, why aren’t YOU famous yet?” It wasn’t pleasant.

  8. 8
    Tom on 20 Jun 2007 #

    It’s odd, in a way, that nobody much has tried that “family” branding in the last 20 years – “a member for every demographic”, the Spice Girls I suppose but that was more strands within the same demog.

  9. 9
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Jun 2007 #

    Or indeed the Menudo brand of renewable membership; S Club Juniors didn’t come to much, and I suppose the Sugababes might yet prove the exception but that’s not really the same thing.

  10. 10
    jeff w on 20 Jun 2007 #

    ah yes, Mike CURB not Mike Sammes (tho’ same diff sorta).

    ’72 was also the year the Mike Curb Congregation recorded the theme song for the re-elect Nixon campaign!

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 20 Jun 2007 #

    I’d slightly rather hear this than Mother of Mine, but obviously I’d rather not hear either. The one point in it’s favour is that I can imagine the lines “I’ll be your clown or your puppet or your April Fool. Cut my hair. I’ll even wear a mask.” being quite startling in another song sung by a different singer.

  12. 12
    intothefireuk on 21 Jun 2007 #

    Hideous just hideous ! Like fingernails down a blackboard. I would wager that it would not be easy to locate anyone who would actually admit to buying this. It started (or possibly continued) a tradition of novelty records regularly topping the chart at Xmas and I am not sure why. Is it the Christmas party season booze addling record buyers brains or perhaps the general seasonal over-dose on sentimentality & kids spilling into the pop charts ? Of course if there was any justice, which in the charts there never is, John Lennon & Yoko would have been the Xmas no.1 of choice. This then would given way to Bowie’s Jean Genie in the New Year. Unfotunately it wasn’t to be. The more staggering fact is that he released further singles (Tweedle Dee anyone ? ) which also sold in huge quantities (thankfully though not enough to blight the number one spot again).

  13. 13

    the other scary thing to contemplate is that OSMONDCORP was consciously moving in on how it saw the jacksons racket — that jimmy was in other words their “answer” to michael

    (if evil memory serves me right, the two singing families actually reached exact interchangeable parity in the world of cartoons — if you stopped yr ears, anyway)

  14. 14
    Tom on 21 Jun 2007 #

    John & Yoko’s Xmas record is poor! (Though a galaxy better than Little Jimmy obv). Jean Genie is ace though, in fact probably better than any of Bowie’s actual #1s :(

  15. 15
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Jun 2007 #

    Jean Genie is the most boring hit single ever. The next Popular entry, which ripped off the same Yardbirds riff, was 250,000 billion times better!

  16. 16
    Tom on 21 Jun 2007 #

    Maybe 250 times.

  17. 17

    (JG is bowie’s inspired swerve thru “funeral rites”: i think the sekrit weight it’s carrying is what makes it a bit laboured) (i am pro it in a YAY-TORCHWOOD stylee but this merely reflects my current wolfish* mood)

    *©j.kortbein

  18. 18
    grange85 on 21 Jun 2007 #

    I’d have been eight and I think that jeff w’s earlier comment pretty much applies to me – so maybe the target audience was little boys before sexual awakening – but jealous of their younger sister’s affection for Donny and their older brother’s affection for (whatever crap my brother was listening to).

    But what’s most exciting to me is that I can now accurately pinpoint my musical coming of age because “the next Popular entry” is the first song of “my own” from my childhood…

  19. 19
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Jun 2007 #

    (sinker xpost)

    Trouble is, JG has insufficient swerve and a surfeit of plod…Woody “Woody Woodmansey’s U-Boat” Woodmansey + that damned harmonica > (personal end of ’72 life-affecting level) Lynsey de Paul + “Sugar me my baby” + whip + Fred Frith on viola.

    (however, if Tom is SUPER-SCRUPULOUS with double/triple A-sides, Popular will get to “Velvet Goldmine”…)

  20. 20
    Brian on 21 Jun 2007 #

    In answer to Lena – no I don’t think it was issued in North America. Like alot of the UK ” novelty ” songs – they just didn’t translate over ‘ ere…..

    I only know number because it occasinally pops up when all my Liverpool FC budddies get together and after too much ale – break into song. YNWA

  21. 21
    Erithian on 21 Jun 2007 #

    Given that three of the last four number ones have been novelties, I sense an eager anticipation to get on to the next one (since most of us are already going on about Bowie).

    Brian – needless to say, this isn’t a UK novelty song that didn’t translate “over there”… more an early case of social dumping.

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Jun 2007 #

    Wasn’t the “Liverpool” tag meant to signify a long-past Beatles subtext?

    Anyway it pales beside Billy Connolly’s contemporaneous “Short Haired Police Cadet From Maryhill.”

  23. 23
    Brian on 21 Jun 2007 #

    It’s always interested me that “novelty” songs were capable if making it # 1 in the UK.

    It’s not that we are too serious over ‘ere , it’s more that we have no shared sense of humour on North American soil.

    I’ve been all over Canada & the States and what people think is funny changes alot from place to place. I think the distinctions are more marked in the USA than Canada.

    It’s also probably due to the fact that the UK has the BBC , acting as a shared outlet for songs or shows that make everbody laugh. Likewise, Canada has the CBC , but I’m pretty sure that broadcasting in the USA is not as homogeneous.

    Phew, that’s enough thought for 1 day.

  24. 24
    wwolfe on 21 Jun 2007 #

    I don’t know if this was ever released as a single in America, but I do know I never heard it on the radio – this at a time when I was listening to the radio about 12 hours a day.

    However, I’ve seen the album that contains the single in about a million used record racks over the past three decades. There’s always a sticker on the cover that says, “Contains the hit ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’!” And I always wonder where exactly it was a hit. Now I know!

    I think it was ’73 when sister Marie had her first hit with a re-make of “Paper Roses.” For a while there in the early ’70s, the sun never set on the Osmond Empire. Out of all their works, I enjoy “One Bad Apple” and “Down by the Lazy River.” That might be the worst ratio of effort to (artistic) success there’s been.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 22 Jun 2007 #

    Brian – no novelty number ones (apart from Chuck) in the US and Canada, but surely they were around lower down? In the States this was the era of Cheech and Chong, Ray Stevens, and a few years later Steve Martin’s “King Tut”. Any Canadian equivalent?

    Wwolfe – oddly enough Radcliffe and Maconie played “Crazy Horses” last night on Radio 2, and surely that has to stand out among the Osmonds oeuvre? Ohhh God, those awful family gatherings where everyone sang along to “Paper Roses” (or “Snotty Noses” as we called it) – glad Marie won’t be troubling this series!

  26. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Jun 2007 #

    “Crazy Horses” a little overexposed now I think.

    “Let Me In” is an absolute classic though, had it been the Beach Boys, etc.

  27. 27
    Brian on 22 Jun 2007 #

    Erithian – I just did a quick look of the ” CHUM” chart which was the Toronto based barometer of # 1’s and LHLFL was no where in sight. And I , like Wwolfe, was listeening to the radio alot in those days. There was certainly no Mouldy Old Dough and ” Ding-a- Ling” had not charted at this time either.

    It was however a good time for Canadian based bands with Lighthouse ( Sunny Day ) , Edward Bear ( The Last Song ) & Foot in Cold Water (In My Life ) and The Guess Who ( Running Back to Saskatoon ) in the charts.

    The Guess Who’s ” Running Back to Saskatoon ” – should be enough of an oxymoron to keep anybody laughing – if you have ever been there – most folk I know run away from it.

  28. 28
    Waldo on 22 Jun 2007 #

    Hey there, Brian and Erithian, “The Streak” was #1 in the United States as well as here. And surely “No Charge” was a novelty record by a Canadian artist. Did either of these get to the top in Canada? Futhermore, “The Stripper” by David Rose was another stateside chart-topper. The precedents are in fact there.

  29. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Jun 2007 #

    Wasn’t JJ Barrie from oop North somewhere? I seem to remember him as a regular on the James Whale Show and he didn’t sound remotely Canadian.

    But more about that/him when Popular reaches the golden year of 1976…

  30. 30
    Waldo on 22 Jun 2007 #

    No, Barrie’s definitely a hoser. Interesting guy but, yes, we’ll save it all for the drought, Marcello

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