Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Christmas Double Shot (Part 1)



I've been slacking off, and I plan on slacking off even more over the Christmas period, but since there wasn't an MP3 of the Week last week, I'm doubling up this week and throwing in an extra treat for Christmas.

In the spirit of the season, me and a few fellow internerds recently did a seasonal CD pool, whereby we divided ourselves up into groups and each person made a compilation for everyone in their respective group. In some cases (mine, for instance) it wasn't so much "seasonal" as "seasonally affected disorder", but it was interesting to learn a bit more about some of my friends' musical tastes, and it was fascinating to see where and how often they overlapped with my own. Not only that, I ended up with a lot of good music I mightn't have otherwise heard, and, all things being equal, hopefully they did too.

Anyway, although she wasn't in my group for the purposes of this lark, my friend Niki posted her compilation up on the net. Now Niki is an amazing woman, one of the most remarkable people I know; strong, fiercely intelligent, with a mind as big as God, and a heart to match. However, like many people when in the company of hardcore music geeks, she sometimes feels as if she needs to apologise for not having especially esoteric tastes. This is no big deal as far as I'm concerned, because I know she has good taste anyway, and one of the best things about this whole "make a CD for a few random friends" idea are those moments when you hear something you hadn't heard in years, in a way you'd never heard it before. So it was courtesy of Niki that, while wandering through the Covent Garden Xmas shopping chaos last weekend, "Let Me In" by the Osmonds came up on the iPod, and I really wasn't expecting it to have the kind of effect upon me that it did. I hesitate to use terms like "Proustian" to describe my reaction, but as I heard the song's opening line, followed by the strings playing a slow falling arpeggio with a warmth and richness worthy of Van Dyke Parks, I suddenly became...a little overwhelmed, shall we say. I was 13 again, and back in a world of unspoken teenage crushes, long summers and somewhat simpler (if occasionally guilty) pleasures.

The Osmonds got a bit of a raw deal in the 1970s. Even though they were enormously successful, and adored by countless teenage girls, it was clear they longed to be taken seriously as musicians and to receive the kind of critical plaudits that their immediate peers, the Jackson Five, were already enjoying. "Let Me In" was the lead single from "The Plan", a somewhat misfiring attempt at a prog-rock concept album, and was a much bigger hit in the UK than in the States, where their popularity had perhaps reached a plateau. When I hear it now, and its chorus swells to its gorgeous, heart-bursting peak, I no longer think about how fatally uncool it would have been at the time for a teenage boy to admit liking a song by the Osmonds, nor do I give any thought to what was then the hipster consensus, that it was all just saccharine MOR schmaltz. Instead, I hear something which doesn't contain the faintest trace of cynicism, and which wears its heart on its sleeve in a way that pop music rarely dares to do anymore. A little gem, in fact.

The Osmonds: Let Me In (The Plan 1973)

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