Crazy Horses is a 1972 hit by The Osmonds.
The Osmonds are an American family music group with a long and varied career. They are a barbershop quartet consisting of brothers Alan Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Merrill Osmond, Jay Osmond, Donny Osmond, Ronnie Osmond, Johnny Osmond, Tommy Osmond, Jimmy Osmond and Marie Osmond. The Osmonds are Mormons, so they wear special underpants and are not allowed to drink tea.
This song was originally banned in Denmark because “horses” is a slang term for parsley there, so “crazy horses” was thought to be referring to “mad herbs” (drugs). The song is a protest song about the pollution created by cars. Forty years might have elapsed but pollution from cars and factories is still a big problem as you can see from the photo below.
Crazy Horses is one of The Osmonds best known hits and has been covered by numerous other bands including Electric Six, Lana Del Rey, The Prodigy, Adele, Kate Bush, Gary Numan, Cliff Richard, Aerosmith, Leonard Cohen and Genesis.
In this video, the Osmonds have dressed up in shire horses outfits specially for the song.
The Parsnip’s take
I approached this as a straight cover version of the track. I wanted to see if I could get some of the drive and power of the original into my mix. Once again Propellerhead Reason was been used but with some real instruments this time. Guitar and Bass are real. In place of the Theremin-style screaming Yamaha YC-45D combo organ from the original, I’ve used the NN-XT Frankie Howerd lead from Loopmasters “Titter Ye Not” sample CD.
Gratuitous plot exposition at the start appears courtesy of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers. An everyday tale of country bumpkins.
West Country vocals were a natural fit supplied by Grundys and the Scrumpy and Western Male Voice Choir.
Incidental vox, innit, by emerging talent Simon Howells (https://twitter.com/arr_ooh)
David Bowie used a Stylophone in A Space Oddity but I didn’t know that when I decided to use one. The lead solo was given a tasteful bit of fuzz with a Scream distortion effect.
Drums were a couple of Kong’s played live and then tidied up and augmented with fills.
The main lesson from this track was the surprisingly full sound that can be obtained from a small number of instruments and tracks. A couple of the guitar parts are doubled but mostly guitar and bass are on their own. The accordion and electric guitar were battling for frequencies so I had to carve the EQ of both to give them their own space. As usual, the bass needed a decent bit of room.
“It’s a West Country sound”
Wow! (as Kate Bush might sing…) It seems like an age since the last post, mainly because it is! This has been a weird episode for me. It started off in a really promising way.
After consulting Wikipedia and finding out about the thinking behind the song I decided that a protest song about cars and pollution focused around a yet to be chosen animal was probably the way to go. I wanted to make an attempt at writing a complete song, something I’ve rarely managed to do. I have a huge back catalogue of musical snippets and catchy little riffs that hardly anyone, except my neighbours, has ever heard. I wasn’t really concerned about the style of the song but I had a vague idea that I might have some sound that was the equivalent of the crazy revving synth/theremin sound which I’d only realised very recently represented the thoroughbred automobile. I thought that I might do a very quiet song with a very subtle relaxed engine. A 300ml maybe…
As is often the case my subsequent approach involved improvisation. Vocals and piano at the same time was the chosen route. I needed an animal and very early on I plumped for the Armadillo. To me it was the animal closest to a car with it’s armour-like skin and it reminded me of the Merry Hell song ‘The War Between Ourselves‘ which refers to the car as ‘Your shiny metal armour,’ a line I really liked.
So I improvised and sang any old rubbish as I was doing it. This is a technique often used to great effect by Phil Collins. A verse and chorus emerged incredibly quickly and surprisingly easily. So quickly in fact that I was overcome by adrenalin and became convinced that I was the new John Lennon, having written something worthy of gracing any of his solo albums. Usually this feeling drifts away very quickly and this time it did too but at least it was something that was vaguely song-like. Over a couple of nights of endless repetition a few lines of words emerged.
Initially they were quite car-oriented. I had the words, ‘Pale orange glow,’ that reminded me of street lights and something about spending the rest of our lives queueing in traffic. The more I did this, however, the more I got diverted down side streets and the odd bit of lyric became influenced by things in the news like the shooting down of the passenger jet in the Ukraine where reporters were picking up the belongings of unknown victims. The lyrics became less and less focused but there was something enigmatic about them and the, very rough, recording, complete with percussive treated traffic sounds recorded by pointing a mic out of my window and hoping my neighbours didn’t notice, had a bit of atmosphere. This initial recording is here:
The SoundCloud image I’ve used is courtesy of Emily Bryant. I don’t really know who she is and I haven’t asked her permission. I hope she doesn’t mind. It’s a nice doodle. Check out her art. It might be good.
Now I just had the, not insignificant, task of turning the initial idea into a polished Steve Lillywhite-style production. I tried (oh how I tried) and failed dismally. It’s often the case that the germ of an idea that has a bit of something about it initially dissolves into nothingness as part of this process. This didn’t happen totally in this case, but as you’ll hear below the bit that’s left is like a small chunk of Paracodol that refuses to submit to the water and is difficult to swallow.
There are a few nice moments in it though that I quite like and that might be reusable. In particular the end. I didn’t bother refining the mix so Steve Lillywhite really doesn’t have anything to worry about. I changed part of the melody because it was a bit repetitive and that didn’t help. I’ve agonised over this song for ages now under the misconception that there might be something really special lurking under the surface that might be destroyed by one rogue chisel stroke.
In the end I tried to come up with some new bits and wrote a completely different song with an initial idea that came just as easily. A colleague of mine and moustache enthusiast who goes by the stage name, Nil.l.an and can be seen strutting his stuff below, has compared all my ideas for this episode to Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel. I can’t see it myself
You can hear the ‘song’ (if you want to) below. Bizarrely I’ve just searched for the terms Bright Eyes Armadillo and Amazon sell one. You can buy it here. It’s achieved 5 star ratings and one lucky purchaser gave it the following glowing review:
My oldest son had been asking for a stuffed animal armadillo for months. This is the exact one he had seen in a gift shop and wanted. The price I paid on Amazon was considerably lower than it would have been at the gift shop
I hope his son appreciated it and that he wasn’t TOO old. In recognition of this fact I’ve used one as the SoundCloud image. Again I hope they don’t mind. It’s nice to have official merchandise out there even if we don’t receive any income from it.
The recording is very rough and I’ve even left in my footsteps and jangling change. I realise the connection with the original brief is pretty tenuous but I like the idea that the brief is really just a starting point for the evolution of some kind of music. The more we do the more chance there is of coming up with something worthwhile.
It’s highly probable that’ll I’ll do a much richer version of this track with full orchestra and better words if anyone’s interested but I really couldn’t delay posting this episode any longer so keep your bright eyes peeled and I’ll try to let you know when it’s up. We’re also hoping we’ll get an extra special guest star for an upcoming episode… Now on to the next.