Sep 07


FT + Popular69 comments • 3,987 views

#336, 25th August 1973

Once a teen idol has reached the peak phase of his career, the question becomes – how to stay there? Building a profile is no longer so important – any given single release has a good chance of topping the charts, or close to it, so it’s a matter of selecting songs that either confirm or extend a singer’s image. Both have their risks. A pop idol is playing a role, and can be typecast like any other performer: gradually people lose interest, and the star becomes stranded. But attempting to contradict or develop an image often involves gambling that you understand your audience’s desires better than they do themselves – when in fact their withdrawal of assent (in the form of sales) leaves your rebranding as a ‘mature’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘rebellious’ performer looking inept and chumpish.

Later we’ll meet performers who’ve mastered each strategy – for now here’s Donny Osmond, playing it safe with a cover of a smash from the previous great era of teen stars. His “Young Love” is more unctious than Tab Hunter’s, maybe less sincere, but also a little more winning – Donny can carry off chocolate and candyfloss and his spoken-word interlude here has a pulpy romantic charge for all its corn. The musicians do a creditable job; everyone departs happy and the compact is remade for another record at least.



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  1. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Works just as well with “Wand’rin’ Star” though.

    Yes, Barry Blue, Lynsey’s songwriting “other half” who seems to have evaded the radar of the C4/Guilty Pleasures TM industry, probably because his career as a performer wasn’t that long and he has tended to concentrate on writing, arranging and producing for other artists. But his hits only tell a tiny fraction of the story; check out his 2CD Dancing On A Saturday Night compilation for some seriously experimental seventies metapop with the occasional MoR backslide and unexpected late-period eighties Britfunk (“Pay At The Gate” for example is utterly mindboggling).

  2. 32
    Matthew H on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Madeline Smith? Wasn’t she on Jigsaw with Mr Noseybonk?

    I imagine we’re digressing here.

  3. 33
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Ah no, that was Janet Ellis. Unless Madeline was Biggum.

  4. 34
    Matthew H on 13 Sep 2007 #

    I mean Eureka, of course. Now I’ve looked.

  5. 35
    Waldo on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Janet Ellis. Mmmm! Clodagh Rodgers moment for Waldo…

    Richard Wattis and Colin Gordon were clearly from the same egg, Colin of course turning up as a Number Two twice and getting turned over on both watches. Wattis tended to play a buffoon, whereas Gordon was the annoying middle manager, officious pillock with the sense of humour of a dressing table. But I would say that both actors were pretty much interchangeable and their work portfolios were considerable.

  6. 36
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Sep 2007 #

    CG’s Number 2 was a brilliant portrait of middle management duplicity:

    To his subordinates: “Just get it right or I’ll see that it’s tested on you.”

    To his superiors: “Yes sir, I know I’m not…indispensable” (reaches for nineteenth glass of milk).

  7. 37
    Waldo on 13 Sep 2007 #

    You’re right on the money, Marcello. Just like the Cargill Number Two, CG swotted subordinates like flies but was terrified of the people above him. The difference was PG was truly a monster, without question the most unpleasant occupant of the Green Dome and simply had to be destroyed for decency’s sake, whereas CG was at least civil. But then milk does create good temper…

  8. 38
    Brian on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Number one in Canada at this time was ” The Monster Mash ” by Bobby ” Boris ” Pickett.

    What I can’t figure out is why it was so in advance of Halloween. And I said Canadians don’t have a sense of humour.

    But I don’t think the UK even had Halloween , at ths time , did they ?

  9. 39
    Waldo on 13 Sep 2007 #

    The sense of humour or lack of it of Canadians will no doubt be discussed at length when we get to one of the most anticipated entries of this marathon in the spring of 1974.

    As for Halloween, Brian, you are quite right. The UK paid very scant attention to marking this as an event until quite recently when “Trick or Treating” arrived on these shores from across the pond. Perhaps the less said about that alien lunacy the better. Halloween, btw, occurs less than a week before a uniquely British event, Bonfire Night on 5th November, marking the attempted destruction of Parliament in 1605. Even though 5th November is nowhere near as ardently observed as it was when I was a child in the sixties, there are still some magnificent events, none bigger than the display in Lewes, Sussex.

  10. 40

    waldo that’s simply not true: trick-or-treat is a (mild and somewhat infant-school-ised) US descendent of the extremely traditional (ie pagan) UK mischief night, which was generally on or around halloween — viz on oct 31 generally, also known as all hallow’s eve, nov 1 is all saints day, nov 2 is all souls day, nov 3 seems to be a rest, nov 4 is mischief night (yorkshire only), and then it’s bonfire night!

    here’s a nice page by kent schoolkids abt the start of november: note that “souling” is basically trick-or-treating without the menaces

    also: don’t say POND when you mean OCEAN — it’s REALLY ANNOYING (to me) (for some reason)

  11. 41
    Lena on 13 Sep 2007 #

    Having flown across it several times, I can assure you that’s no POND.

    When I was a girl I read Paddington thoroughly and loved the idea of Guy Fawkes and ‘penny for the guy’ and fireworks and so on in dreary November. I hope to see it in person this year!

    Canadians have a very good sense of humor, but I will talk about that more when we get to that particular song…

  12. 42
    Marcello Carlin on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Hallowe’en 1973 was the sole occasion when my parents allowed me to go trick or treating, along with various of my classmates (it was largely at my instigation because I was a big Peanuts/Charlie Brown fan at the time). Up and down the Bellshill Road knocking on doors and everybody knew everybody else and you weren’t afraid of strangers nor they of you *fade into sepia*.

    “Monster Mash” also became a very belated top five hit in the UK at around this time, with one of Pan’s People’s most mindboggling dance routines to accompany it on TOTP. I think Noel Edmonds had something to do with this.

    I love Guy Fawkes time and always have…makes me think also of the smell of roasted chestnuts (mmmm hmmmm)…I’m quite fortunate since my kitchen window looks out onto the North Downs (and, er, Croydon, but you never heard that, right?) so we get a pretty spectacular view of the various firework displays going on there…

  13. 43
    Waldo on 14 Sep 2007 #

    You learn something every day. I had never heard of “Mischief Night” before. As with Marcello, “Trick or Treating” first appeared on my own radar courtesy of “Peanuts”. But I still maintain that it really did not feature as part of mainstream Halloween celebrations here in the UK until a few years ago. I am certainly grateful that it did not hit the streets of Stockwell when I was living there. I can assure “pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør” that what we would have seen would not have been the charming “mild and somewhat infant-school-ised” high jinks that he/she portrays.

    Lena – The concept of “Penny for the Guy” is (certainly in my experience) a dying art here, if not an already dead one. It was extremely widespread when I was growing up but I really can’t recall the last time I saw any kids “guying”. The idea, btw, of this socially acceptable form of begging was that the “children” would use the money donated by passers-by “to buy fireworks”… On a very personal note, my paternal grandmother had her birthday on November 5th and we used to visit her. My old man set up a firework display and I was allowed to hold onto a sparkler. We also torched a guy for good measure, whilst digging into jacket spuds. Weird but wonderful memories.

    Can’t quite understand objections to the use of the widespread euphemism “pond” when referring to the Atlantic. It’s a tragedy of modern times that you really don’t have to do much to offend folk these days.

  14. 44

    haha i think the meat of the objection is entirely summed up in the phrase “widespread euphemism”! how could such a thing be good?

    waldo i am a professional sub editor so my dayjob is killing cliches, basically, and “pond” in this sense is one i wd instantly stomp on in anything i wz editing — and sometimes i find myself taking my work home w/me :D

    i’m not even sure that there WERE what could be called mainstream halloween celebrations even 20 years ago — i think rather there was lots of regional variations (one good source is the iona and peter opie book “the lore and language of schoolchildren”, which everyone shd read anyway… an awesome and fascinating bit of late 50s sociology abt schoolyard traditions; i’d love to know how much cultural globalisation has affected matters a half century later)

  15. 45

    last time i saw guying was abt five-six years ago, in hackney, i would guess

    but when i was a student in oxford in the early 80s i was once accosted by a kid whose “guy” consisted of a pair of neatly folded jeans in a cardboard box — i told him that when *i* was young we had at least waited till we MADE the guy before asking for money, and he replied (i’m delighted to be able to report) “THAT WAS THE OLDEN DAYS!”

  16. 46
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2007 #

    Fireworks for all kinds of celebrations are of course going strong – you get them pretty much from the start of October these days, and lots go off for Diwali. But Guy Fawkes night itself and “pennies for the guy” do seem to be dying out – and given that it celebrates burning Catholics, maybe it’s not such a bad thing!

    Hallowe’en traditions of all kinds go back centuries in Britain and all over Europe, but the Americans make more of it than we do and have commercialised it enormously. I always used to wonder why the Roseanne show made such a big deal of it every season.

    Isn’t it great how far we’ve strayed from poor old Donny?!

  17. 47
    Waldo on 14 Sep 2007 #

    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør – “waldo i am a professional sub editor so my dayjob is killing cliches, basically, and “pond” in this sense is one i wd instantly stomp on in anything i wz editing — and sometimes i find myself taking my work home w/me :D”

    Professional sub editor, huh? Does this explain why your prose is in the style of texed messages, something which, believe you me, would appear far more irritating and anodyne to people than the crime for which I stand condemned. Not me, however. But then I’m chilled.

    Can I say that…”chilled”?

  18. 48
    Brian on 14 Sep 2007 #

    not euphemistically.

  19. 49
    Waldo on 14 Sep 2007 #

    That’s it. And in fact our Professional sub editor friend should not, by his own rules, use the term “killing cliches”, since he is no more putting the abstract cliches to death than the Atlantic Ocean is a pond.

    I’ve had enough of this. It’s Friday night. Time to make a beeline for the alehouse, I think.

  20. 50
    Lena on 14 Sep 2007 #

    I’d rather call it a puddle.

  21. 51

    Does this explain…

    waldo yes it does! i spend a lot of worktime gettin other people’s writin better so therefore by the logic of whim choose to waste NONE ON MY OWN qed

    in other (curiously greekly) news: euphemism isn’t a synonym for metaphor (i like metaphors, it’s over-worn coin i’m agin); and “irritating and anodyne” is a very nearly a very lovely example of oxymoron (i think to be an oxymoron proper it wd have to be “irritatingly anodyne”)

    anyway don’t worry about it, and write as you will and have: “pond” is no more than a pet bugbear i am determined to end worldwide, and shall

  22. 52
    Tim on 16 Sep 2007 #

    I had a pet bugbear once. It was cute when it was a baby but it ate too much and grew too big and I had to kill it with a brick.

  23. 53
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Bit laboured that one. You should have kept it to the original tag of “but the vet had to put him down” as immortalised by Billy Dainty on ATV’s Saturday Variety show in September 1973.

  24. 54
    intothefireuk on 17 Sep 2007 #

    So ……….Donny Osmond then. Young Love – not really a great fan of this then or now. A very tepid re-tread of the old 60s tune which doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. I can see why we wondered off here.

    Also in the charts around this time were a bunch of old timers enjoying renewed succes either with new releases or re-issues – Al Martino, Elvis, Perry Como, Bobby Pickett, The Goons, Neil Sedaka – any particular reason for this ? Again, in Bobby Boris Pickets case why was Monster Mash a hit at all ? (apart from the fact that it is an excellent record). Halloween was still a month away.

    Talking of which my ‘guying’ days ended abruptly when I carelessly donated some of my old clothes to the cause. I was later horrified to see a life size paper efigy of myself being burnt on the fire. Very unsettling I can tell you.

    Madeline Smith best remembered for her ample features starring alongside the lovely Ingrid Pitt in the Hammer Horror ‘The Vampire Lovers’. She also used to feature regularly in Bruce’s Generation Game mini-plays.

  25. 55
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Sep 2007 #

    In order:

    Al Martino – combination of Radio 2 play and Godfather-assisted comeback.
    Elvis – Always On My Mind, Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite, not dead yet.
    Perry Como – Fluff Freeman responsible for breaking It’s Impossible in ’71 and ergo subsequent UK comeback.
    Bobby “Boris” Pickett – as conjectured above, probably something to do with Noel Edmonds.
    Goons – major revival of interest following previous year’s Last Goon Show Of All, publication of Goon Show Scripts etc. coinciding with Sellers’ comeback as Clouseau and commencement of Milligan’s war memoirs.
    Neil Sedaka – actual proper comeback a la ex-Other Carole King with assistance of 10cc (fact!).

  26. 56
    Caledonianne on 17 Sep 2007 #

    Just back from hols, so coming to this late.

    Re Hallowe’en. It’s definitely inaccurate to say that said festival was not observed “in the UK” until recently. It may not have penetrated London, or south of the Watford Gap, or the Wash, or whatever, but it was joyously and vibrantly celebrated in the Greater Glasgow of 40 years ago, and (I believe) throughout Scotland apart from the most anally retentive Wee Free fiefdoms in the Western Isles. I certainly have a photograph of myself at a Brownie Hallowe’en party in 1968, and can remember dookin’ for apples at home-based parties from the age of five upwards.

    As for this Donny offering. Pretty insipid, and I concur with the nomination of this as his least memorable platter.

    When his career was in its early 80s doldrum, Janis Ian was asked to write an adult, self-analysing song that could become a career-defining anthem for him, as At Seventeen had been for her. The resulting song “Childhood Hero” was too much strong meat for Donny’s management who ran a mile. The songwriter’s own version is on the Janis album “Unreleased 2: Take no Prisoners”

    (Janis Ian)
    I can’t believe so much could go so wrong
    It seems like every door is closed to me
    I wake every morning resolved to be strong
    I tell myself I keep good company

    I can’t believe that this is my life

    There’s always been someone to shelter me
    Now I’m out there on the streets without a knife
    being told I’m ancient history

    The doors that close once opened wide
    I try to take it all in stride
    and hold my head up to the sky
    But now they slam right in my face
    with unseen hands that can’t be traced
    and leave a bruise that even you cannot erase

    They say that art’s become an industry
    and that I’ve been away too long this time
    They say I’ve taken too much liberty
    Well what kind of punishment fits that crime?

    They say success came much too fast
    I never learned to suffer or to beg
    Just look at the bruises I’ve amassed
    I’ve paid my dues now – can we start again

    The doors that close once opened wide
    I try to take it all in stride
    and think of better times gone by
    But I’ve heard everyone’s excuse
    It’s no longer any use

    I might have been your childhood hero
    I might have been your native son
    but I was grounded close to zero
    Now that rocket ride is done

    And if I never reach Orion
    And if I never fly that far
    Still, there’s no harm in trying
    to go walking on a star

  27. 57
    intothefireuk on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Yes I can also confirm that Hallowe’en was celebrated in the 60s & 70s in London’s leafy suburbs. I remember making masks, window hangers etc at school as well. Trick or treating wasn’t much in evidence then and that has become the norm now. Schools of course have long since given it a PC wide berth.

  28. 58
    Mark M on 18 Sep 2007 #

    My impression is that trick or treating here peaked in the early 90s. Every year I buy some sweets just in case, but nobody ever comes by. And it’s not that kids in my building aren’t allowed to knock on people’s doors – they come round asking to wash the car or raising money for a school trip or whatever. Maybe in south London they’re all about the cash money and Halloween doesn’t cut it. I remember it being big in Leeds, but maybe that was just another excuse for the local 12-year-olds to terrorise the students.

  29. 59
    Mark G on 18 Sep 2007 #

    Xpost to the Janis Ian song.

    ha, I wrote one for David Bowie once. He didn’t use that either…

  30. 60
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Sep 2007 #

    It wasn’t the one he did in Extras was it?

  31. 61
    Waldo on 19 Sep 2007 #

    Just back from a mini break in Madrid. Magnificent. And I certainly didn’t confine myself to “Frozen Orange Juice”, I promise y’all…

    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør – I agree with and accept everything you say with regards the wonderful world of euphemisms, metaphors and oxymorons, as we cordially draw a line under the “pond” debate. I remember once an exchange between myself and a Glaswegian colleague, who was in the TA. I suggested to him that “military intelligence” was an oxymoron, which displeased him to say the least. Somebody walking past patted me on the shoulder and said “Brilliant, Waldo!” This, alas, enabled the TA bloke to fix me with a hateful glare and practically spit out “THAT’S a f***ing oxymoron for you, pal!”

  32. 62
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Sep 2007 #

    James “1973” Blunt to thread.

  33. 63
    mike on 21 Sep 2007 #

    Oh, is this blog up and running again, then? Big whoops… but better late than never.

    In which case, I have to be the voice of dissent, as “Young Love” is my favourite solo Donny hit. The pre-pubsecent songs were too strained and pleading for me, whereas DO seems a lot more relaxed and at ease here, stretching back and enjoying the peak of his success. The clippety-cloppity Windy-Miller-style “ambling gait” is also a key factor.

    But then, I lived in an Osmonds World. My younger sister was in the official fan club and adored them without reservation, and so they were pretty much inescapable during the second half of 1973. The brothers’ finest hour was of course The Plan, their splendidly wonky attempt at a deep and meaningful concept album, which – although we didn’t know it at the time – under-performed badly in the US, causing the brothers to retreat into showbiz, abandoning any further rock-oriented aspirations forthwith.

    Key memory of “Young Love”: at the presenter’s suggestion, turning down the brightness control during the video clip on TOTP, so that only the waggling teeth remained.

  34. 64
    richard thompson on 9 Jun 2008 #

    Didn’t Donnys voice break at this time?

  35. 65
    Brooksie on 8 Feb 2010 #

    Least favourite Donny song. Loping and lumpen. I also don’t like his vocals; “Feeeeled with deep devooooshan.”

  36. 66
    Auntie Beryl on 27 Mar 2013 #

    Donny Osmond’s Soldier Of Love written by Peter Gabriel? Not in this universe.

    (Six year late nitpick, there.)

  37. 67
    Lena on 6 Aug 2013 #

    Radio as time machine: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/when-i-was-young-carpenters-yesterday.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  38. 68
    Lena on 22 Aug 2013 #

    Dancing to a pan-European pop: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/hold-her-tight-barry-blue-dancin-on.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  39. 69
    lonepilgrim on 5 Oct 2019 #

    ghastly and dull – then and now

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