Those of us old enough to recall the days when the Osmonds were titans of pop have probably blocked from our memories most of the mawkish drivel with which they assaulted the charts. One song, however, remains indelibly lodged in our brains. I speak of course of “Crazy Horses”, an unhinged classic unlike anything else they ever recorded. The circumstances of its composition make for an intriguing story, the details of which I have been able to exhume through a process which I am afraid I really should not tell you about.
It is New Year’s Day 1972. In the White House, President Nixon is having breakfast with the First Lady, the saintly Pat. In New York, the ex-Nazi officer Kurt Waldheim is preparing to take the reins of the United Nations, succeeding U Thant as the new Secretary General. Also in New York, a gang of half a dozen ne’er-do-wells is making final preparations for the Pierre Hotel Heist, which will net them approximately four million dollars from the hotel’s safety deposit boxes. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Paris, the capital city of France, the entertainer Maurice Chevalier is facing his last hours. He will not see the morrow.
Meanwhile, at the Osmond family homestead, the Osmond family is gathered around in a conclave. Pa and Ma Osmond are sitting at either end of the table. On one side sit Alan, 22, Wayne, 20, and Merrill, 18. Facing them on the other side are Jay, 16, Donny, 14, and Marie, 12. The runt of the litter, Little Jimmy, 8, is squashed in at a corner between Marie and Ma Osmond. All the males are wearing their Mormon underpants, as you would expect. Pa Osmond has just finished reciting aloud a sensible and inspiring passage from The Book Of Mormon. The mood around the table is equally sensible and inspiring, yet also solemn.
“Well titans of pop,” says Pa Osmond, “What are your plans for today?”
Alan pipes up.
“Well sir, I was thinking it would be fun if I took Wayne and Merrill and Jay and Donny and Marie and Little Jimmy over to the paddock.”
“What is this paddock of which you speak, son?” asks Pa.
“Well sir, I have heard tell that over beyond the salt flats past the temple there is a paddock. It might be fun for us to go and investigate, to see what the paddockist keeps in his paddock.”
Pa Osmond rubs his chin thoughtfully.
“This paddockist, who is he?”
“That I don’t rightly know, sir,” says Alan, blushing slightly, “But perhaps while Wayne and Merrill and Jay and I look into the paddock, Donny and Marie and Little Jimmy can question the paddockist as to his bona fides.”
At this, Ma Osmond interjects.
“I would have thought it more appropriate that you older boys interrogate the paddockist and let the younger ones frolic in the paddock.”
“If you say so, Ma,” says Alan.
Pa Osmond thumps his fist on the table.
“No,” he says, like the forceful patriarch he is, “You should all interrogate the paddockist together, each firing at him one judicious question chosen to winkle out of him his bona fides. Then you can all go to the paddock together, to see what is in there.”
“Yes sir!” says Alan.
But Ma Osmond throws a spanner in the works.
“I like the plan as far as it goes,” she says, “But what if, upon their arrival, Alan and Wayne and Merrill and Jay and Donny and Marie and Little Jimmy find that the paddockist is already in the paddock? Then they will not be able to separate out the questioning from the seeing. And I would aver that he is very likely to be in the paddock. If I had a paddock out beyond the salt flats past the temple, that’s where I would be, and no mistake.”
“Good point, Ma,” says Pa Osmond, “This is something of a pickle.”
“I have an idea,” says Alan, his brow furrowing as he thinks, “What if… what if we lured the paddockist out of the paddock? Then we could fire our questions at him, establish his bona fides, and, having done so, we could enter the paddock to see what he keeps in it.”
Ma and Pa Osmond look at each other from either end of the table. Long years of Mormon marriage mean they are able to communicate without speaking. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they agree that Alan’s suggestion is flawless.
“Off you go then,” says Pa, “And we shall gather in conclave around this table upon your return, so you can tell Ma and I who the paddockist is and what is in his paddock.”
Later that evening, the Osmonds regather just as Pa decreed. This time Little Jimmy sits scrunched in a corner between Pa and Jay. All the males are still wearing their Mormon underpants, as you would expect.
“Tell me first of the paddockist’s bona fides,” says Pa.
“Well sir,” says Alan, “On our way to the paddock out beyond the salt flats past the temple we devised the questions we would ask the paddockist. Shall we run through them, each asking his, or in Marie’s case, her, question?”
“I think that would be a fine idea,” says Pa. Ma nods her assent too.
“OK, me first then,” says Alan, “Hello there, paddockist, what is your name?”
“Are you a Mormon?” says Wayne.
“Are you aware we are titans of pop?” says Merrill.
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” says Jay.
“What brings you to these parts, stranger?” says Donny.
“Are you mad and bad and dangerous to know?” says Marie.
“What is that unholy and terrifying whinnying and snorting we can hear from within the paddock?” says Little Jimmy.
“A well-chosen set of questions designed to elicit replies sure to establish his bona fides,” says Pa Osmond, “What were those replies?”
“We could not hear them sir,” says Alan, “For he was a soft-spoken paddockist and was drowned out by the unholy and terrifying whinnying and snorting we could hear from within the paddock.”
“And did you enter the paddock to find out what it was that was making such a deafening din” asks Ma Osmond.
“No, Ma,” says Alan, “We ran away as fast as our feet could carry us.”
“All well and good,” says Pa, “Well, that’s New Year’s Day over and done with. It is bedtime. Don’t forget to include President Nixon and the saintly Pat in your prayers.”
And the Osmonds troop upstairs one by one to bed. And in the night, while Ma and Pa sleep soundly, Alan and Wayne and Merrill and Jay and Donny and Marie and Little Jimmy toss and turn in the grip of terrible dreams, dreams that will surely do cataclysmic and irreparable damage to their fragile young psyches . . . unless, when they wake the next morning, they can parlay those terrors into a pop song.