Donny Osmond Unapologetically Takes Fans Down Memory Lane
by John Soeder
August 31, 2011
|Before Justin Bieber, there was Donny Osmond. The former teen heartthrob is making the rounds with a multimedia solo show, taking a working holiday from his long-running engagement with sister Marie at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. The siblings released a new album, "Donny & Marie," in May. Osmond, 53, gave us a ring last week from a tour stop in New York City.
Is your concert an unapologetic nostalgia trip?
Right from the get-go.
I was trying to make a huge image change [in 1989] with "Soldier of Love." Once, when the audience requested "Puppy Love," I did it for them, but I was making fun of it.
After the show, this lady stopped me and said, "Why did you make fun of 'Puppy Love'?"
Sarcastically, I said, "It's my song -- I can do whatever I want to it."
Then she said something that changed my perspective of my entire career, in an instant. She said, "You may have had a hit with it, but it was a big part of my childhood memory. And you have no right to mess with my memory."
From that point on, I realized I alone don't own these songs. They belong to a lot of other people.
So there are no apologies anymore.
We pass out cards before the show, and you can request anything, from the beginning of my career to the present.
When I interviewed Joe Elliott from Def Leppard a few years ago, he told me how much he liked "Crazy Horses" by the Osmonds. He said you rocked harder than some rock bands.
In certain pockets of the industry, people were big into what we were doing as a band back in the early '70s. They got it. Even Ozzy Osbourne told me, during my reign on "Dancing With the Stars," that "Crazy Horses" was one of his favorite rock 'n' roll songs.
My teeny-bopper career back in the '70s kind of squashed any of the rock 'n' roll stuff we were doing as a band.
There's an album we did [in 1973] called "The Plan." It didn't really do anything here, but it was a pretty big hit for us over in the U.K.
Interestingly enough, my brother Alan white-labeled the album, took it into a heavy-rock station and played a couple of tracks. The program director said, "Man, I've got to start playing this stuff! What's the name of the band?"
Alan said, "Actually, it's the Osmonds."
The program director said, "Oh. I can't play it."
Any truth to those rumors about you making a new solo album with Todd Rundgren?
Yeah. The problem is, my schedule is just so ridiculous right now. So Todd and I had to put it on the back burner.
Todd is a very talented writer and producer. . . . It would've been a cool thing. Maybe it will happen one of these days. We'll see.
What compelled Marie and you to sing together again?
We always knew that we'd do something together, but we just didn't know exactly when or how or why.
We had 10 test shows in Las Vegas back in 2008. They sold out eight months before the gigs. We thought, "Maybe we've got something here."
And here we are, going on our fourth year.
It's a lot of water under the bridge since the "little bit country, little bit rock 'n' roll" days. How has the chemistry between Marie and you changed?
We're a lot older! [laughs]
It really hasn't changed. When we did those test shows, we had the best writers in the industry writing the script, trying to get the old "Donny & Marie" attitude.
It didn't work very well opening night. I remember walking into Marie's dressing room and throwing the script in the garbage. I said, "Let's just do it the way we want to do it."
You've got to leave yourself a little elbow room to make it real.
To what extent could you be yourselves on the old "Donny & Marie" television show?
We had a 300-page page script to memorize every week. It was tough, but our writers did have our voices, because they studied the way we worked.
I go back and watch these old "Donny & Marie" shows. I've been trying to get them back on the air, but the residual load is so high. I know those shows like the back of my hand.
Some of the comedy is just downright -- well, you need an insulin shot after you watch one of those shows. They're so sugary-sweet.
When they allowed us to be ourselves [in] the concert spots, with some of the dialogue in there, there was room to be ourselves. Those were the best parts.
Now I'm crossing my fingers that CBS is going to pick up this pilot I just did for them. It's a cross between "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Deal or No Deal."
They're testing it right now with focus groups. The network should make a decision in the next week or two. It could be on the air as early as November, for sure by January.