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The Osmonds and fans make comeback

Monday, 14 July, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The Osmonds, the US family who became pop heartthrobs in the 1970s, are back in the spotlight after their Ultimate Collection entered the UK top five on Sunday.

It has been almost three decades since The Osmonds had their last UK hit single - but pop fans are nothing if not devoted.

When lead singer Merrill Osmond touched down in London on Wednesday to promote the CD, he was ambushed by 60 screaming women at the airport.

In their late 30s, they followed him to his hotel and were there again at 0600 when he left to go to a TV studio. At every appearance during his brief visit, they were there.

"We're talking hardcore fans," a band spokeswoman said. "Their following is still huge."

By the standards of younger pop bands - who have shelf lives of just a few years - the Osmonds' hold on fans seems mesmeric.

They may not have been fashionable since 1975, but the world's most famous Mormons have never completely gone away.
One of them pops up on stage or TV often enough to keep fans interested and - as a wholesome, clean-cut clan - they have never gone off the rails or given fans any reasons to dislike them.

Although some are greying around the edges, others have aged well and still look almost as fresh-faced as when they sung Crazy Horses on Top of the Pops. Almost.

The Ultimate Collection has been so popular that the original Osmond brothers are planning a one-off UK reunion show in 2004 - possibly with the Jackson Five.

The two musical dynasties have been negotiating for eight months but the Osmonds are holding a family meeting this week to finalise proposals - and make sure Michael will be on board.

"England has always held The Osmonds quite fondly in their hearts," the spokeswoman said. "For them, this has always been their biggest country."

The original line-up of Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Donny disbanded in 1980 after five UK top five hits.

Donny had greater solo success - plus hits with sister Marie - while "Little" Jimmy's legacy is seared on the nation's memory.

Since disbanding, Donny has continued to be the most popular, with a mainstream rock comeback, a healthy stint in stage musicals and a hit TV game show.

Jay, Merrill and Wayne have carried on as The Osmond Brothers, and The Osmond Family Theater in Branson, Missouri, which opened in 1992, provided a stage for a range of family members.

Younger brother Jimmy, meanwhile, has become an entrepreneur and property magnate, living by the principles of "integrity, wholesome entertainment, and hard work".

Alan, the eldest of the original five brothers, has gone behind the scenes, battling multiple sclerosis, writing wholesome children's books and founding a charity to help strengthen families.

He has also guided his eight sons, who have become The Osmonds - Second Generation.

Their latest album, I Love America, includes songs like Everyday Heroes, America United and God Bless Our Home and Families.

But today's teen pop fans have probably not played a very big part in propelling the new CD up the chart, the spokeswoman said.

And neither generation of the Osmonds - definitely not to be confused with The Osbournes - is likely to get MTV credibility.

"I'm not sure if the younger generation would go and get the album just to see what the fuss was about," she said.

"I would probably say it's hardcore fans - there's just a lot of them out there and as they've grown older, it's just a chance to reminisce about when they were young."

Copyright © 2003, BBC