Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 28

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If any one act dominated the British charts at the end of 1972, it was the Osmonds. For six months, the toothy siblings had been marching up the polls with a string of unforgettable teendream jingles, but not until Christmas did they unleash all their major guns at once. First came Donny, with the simpering "Why"; then came the big brothers with the ecological rocker "Crazy Horses"; and finally, there was little Jimmy, eight years old and already a veteran trouper. His "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool" would end up topping the chart for a full month, over Christmas and into the new year -- and, of course, the Top of the Pops team had to get their own teeth into it. They'd already perfected the Donny sound, by the simple expedient of double-tracking vocalists John Perry and Martha Smith; they recaptured the thrust of the Osmonds by amping up the electronic organ and letting the nags go even nuttier than the original. But Jimmy remains the pièce de résistance, as series mainstay Tony Rivers introduced his own son, Anthony, to the fray, and had him turn in a vocal performance that is even chirpier than the dreaded Osbros original. In an age when pop stars were getting younger and more precocious by the day, little Anthony Rivers could have proved the biggest homegrown sensation since Neil Reid. Instead, his reward for a stunning performance was to stand up in front of his entire school, to tell them about his day in the studio.

The Osmond clan so dominates Top of the Pops, Vol. 28 that it's hard to believe there could be room for any other teen idols -- but, of course, there was, as the young Michael Jackson is aped across "Ben," the sweet soundtrack theme to a movie about killer rats. And they so dominate the best-selling lists that it's impossible to imagine anything actually outselling them -- but, of course, there was. Out of nowhere, Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" not only spent four weeks of its own at number one, it was also the recipient of a highly publicized television ban after media watchdog Mary Whitehouse protested not about the song's lyric (what is wrong, after all, with a simple ditty about ringing a bell?), but at the hand gestures with which Berry accompanied his recitation. The Top of the Pops version, needless to say, is wholesomely free of such filthy fist-waving. But you do still wonder how such a smutty lyric ever crept by the censors. The remainder of Vol. 28 races past in a joyful blur of T. Rex, Slade, and Rod Stewart & the Faces -- all the year's usual suspects. But, lest Christmas be forgotten, the collection is wrapped up with a lovely "Little Drummer Boy," as bagpiped to glory by the unlikeliest stars of the entire year, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Back in the spring, their haunting rendition of "Amazing Grace" topped the chart and wound up the biggest-selling British single of the year. This equally stirring festive offering got to number 13, and one can't help but wonder what might have happened if the military combo had only maintained the pressure? They could have been ever bigger than the Osmonds -- and the next Top of the Pops could have come with free haggis.

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