Jill and I are moving house. I’m an author and she’s an editor which means we have a lot of heavy boxes of books to carry up and down stairs.
There are also a lot of heavy boxes of records, too, but these belong mostly to me.
As we are lugging my precious vinyl collection up the stairs, Jill questions why I even bother keeping any of it when I have most of the music on CD now anyway.
Jill likes music but not as intensely or as obsessively as I do. If she did she could never have asked that question—but I’m a patient man so I try to answer by explaining that every record has a memory or a story attached to it. I pull a 45-inch single out of the box at random. ‘For example,’ I say. ‘Look at this—this is the first single I ever bought. I was eleven years old. It’s by Little Jimmy Osmond.’
‘I’m not saying I’m proud of it. I’m not saying it’s good. All I’m saying is that you’ve got to start somewhere and this is a part of my listening history and as such must be honoured and this single must never be parted with.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work of Little Jimmy Osmond, I’ll just tell you that that I wasn’t his only fan. This single topped the Australian and UK charts in 1972, and went like this:
My first ever record, that, tragically I bought with my own pocket money. In my defence, I would like to say, I was only eleven years old and in Little Jimmy’s defence, well, he was only nine.
Jill says, ‘Wow, that’s a co-incidence because I also got my first record when I was eleven and it was by the Osmonds as well. It was called ‘Crazy horses’.
Jill explains that her friend Elaine Vermass, whose dad worked for MGM records, brought a little stack of them to school and gave them away to all her friends. Jill was really excited because all her teenage brothers and sisters were always buying and playing records but Jill who always blew her pocket money on lollies and animal ornaments had never had a record of her very own before. When she got home, she showed it off proudly and put it on the record player only to have her siblings dissolve into fits of laughter.
‘What was so funny about it?’ I say.
‘Because it sounded like this, she says. “CRA-ZEE HOR-SES! A-REE! A-REE! CRA-ZEE HOR-SES! A-REE! A-REE!”
I’m just standing there looking at her. ‘Are you making this up?’ I say. ‘That doesn’t sound like the Osmonds to me.’
‘I know, she says, ‘but it is the Osmonds and I’m not making it up—it’s real.’
I suspect that she’s remembering it wrong or exaggerating so I look the song up on Youtube and she’s right it really is the Osmonds and it really does sound, well, crazy.
OMG! WTF? OTT!
There are not enough 3-letter abbreviations in the English language to describe just how deranged this song is. Once heard, never forgotten.
In comparison Long haired lover from Liverpool is an even more embarrassing skeleton in my musical closet.
Crazy horses is heavy with a capital H. It’s acid rock meets Broadway. It’s an unholy hybrid of glam and heavy metal … before heavy metal was even properly invented.
And the icing on the cake, of course, is that chorus: A-REE! A-REE!
I mean, what even is that?
Is that the sound that horses make when they go crazy? Is it some sort of alarm that the crazy horses have triggered with their crazy behaviour? Or is it the sirens of the first responders? Who can tell?
All I know is that my part in the house-move is temporarily halted as I sit on the stairs and listen over and over to this inspired piece of one-off genius from the Osmond family. As I listen I feel overwhelming gratitude to Jill and Elaine Vermass and Elaine Vermass’s Dad for being the means by which this song has finally—at last—entered and enriched my musical life.
But with every repeated listen, these warm feelings begin to cool—and harden—into feelings of anger and resentment towards a universe so cruel and indifferent that I—a lifelong music lover and collector—gets for my first record—Long Haired Lover from Liverpool—whereas Jill—who doesn’t really care about music—I mean her idea of a good time is listening to show-tunes or the Carpenters—gets for her first record, Crazy Horses—it’s just dropped into her lap —and she’s so unaware of the gift she’s been given she doesn’t even bother keeping it or even telling me about it until now and we’ve been married for twenty years! I mean, I had to buy the damn thing afterwards on eBay at a really inflated non-1972 price!
Life can be so unfair—it’s enough to make you crazy—as crazy a crazy horse running everywhere … A-REE! A-REE!
Andy and The Stereo Stories Band performed this story at the Williamstown Literary Festival and the Glen Eira Story Telling Festival, both in June 2018.