As the pop music scene matured in the early 70s, so its audience widened to a younger age group – the Teenyboppers. No longer the strict domain of the teenager, pop music was now often specifically targeted to much younger audiences – and largely female.
The hormonal structure of women tends to send their emotions and moods slightly berserk at the best of times, but at no time more so than in the turbulent time of adolescence and puberty when they are just beginning to develop both physically and sexually. Enter the Teenybopper.
David Cassidy appeared in The Partridge Family (1970 – 1974) and had a number of hits with the teenybopper market, such as How Can I Be Sure? (1972). The Osmonds, a Mormon family from Utah, scored highly in teenybop popularity stakes.
After their joint smash hit Crazy Horses, heart-throb Donny recorded the hit Puppy Love, and Little Jimmy – aged nine – triumphed with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Britain’s own teen idol was David Essex who had played Jesus in the rock musical Godspell and starred in the film That’ll Be The Day (1974).
Meanwhile in Scotland, a band chose their name by sticking a pin in a map of America, and The Bay City Rollers were born. The height of ‘Rollermania’, with its tartan outfits and other souvenirs, came in 1974 with #1 hits Bye Bye Baby and Give A Little Love.
Mass hysteria and idol worship prompted teenage fans to write letters to their favourite pop stars professing undying love . . . “I would die for you!”. And at times it was quite conceivable that she just might die for him because a massed auditorium full of rabid teenyboppers lost all sense of reason and proportion.
On one occasion during a David Cassidy tour of Britain, his fans found out where he was staying and hundreds of teenyboppers climbed on to a 60-foot high roof, dangled their feet dangerously over the edge and refused to come down until he appeared. Later they plunged fully-clothed into the swimming pool in the hope that they would be invited in to dry off.
Donny Osmond attracted over 600 teenyboppers when he arrived at London Airport. They invaded the roof garden, broke through into ‘no access’ areas, overturned benches and rubbish bins, and scrambled up scaffolding. They wept on each other’s shoulders, fainted with grief, and screamed themselves into a hysterical frenzy.
Airport officials later summed it all up by saying they were alarmed “because the hysterical fans simply don’t know how to look after themselves and are quite incapable of spotting dangerous situations”.
Helen White, a 13-year-old who fasted for three days before a pilgrimage to see David Cassidy summed up a teenybopper’s dangerous dedication to her idol;
“One day I’m going to be Mrs David Cassidy,” she said at the time, “I just know it. You can laugh but it won’t stop me believing it. I think if he ever met someone else I’d kill myself. I won’t even hold hands with another boy now because I want to be faithful to him. When he sings I feel as if he’s speaking only to me. It’s as if no other woman exists in his life – only me”.
Which is all very well when spoken calmly to a reporter, but carry this attitude with you into a crowded emotional theatre or concert hall and anything could happen . . .
Thousands of teenyboppers injured themselves at concerts during the 1970s, and hospitals were usually alerted when a particularly famous singer or group were appearing in the area because inevitably girls would need treatment for cuts, bruises, heat-exhaustion or fainting.