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You and Me, Cassidy

The first time I ever heard the words "Grateful Dead" were in the same breadth as Workingman's Dead. I was a nerdy nine or ten year old but curious and quizzical with a tendency to ask others older than me what they liked. Maybe I was out of my element and crossed some social line talking to others older than me. “Do you like music?” I'd ask awkwardly which would often get stares and retorts from teenagers who would want to know why I was asking in the first place.

Scott, who was slightly older, was trying to answer my question. He was Cathy Hurley’s boyfriend from Oregon, which seemed to a kid from the colonial war town of Ridgefield, CT, a long ways away. I didn't quite understand what he was saying but he said it with authority. What was this language he spoke? Which was the artist?. It all seemed mysterious but I filed it away and it later became more clear when a junior high math teacher brought in albums called The Band and American Beauty and suggested I borrow them.

I owed a debt of gratitude to Cathy that I couldn't quite acknowledge. For several years, her younger sister Patty snuck out her Beatles albums while babysitting my sisters and me. I would play them and tape them on my dad's Norelco cassette recorder which I had figured out how to connect to his Scott amplifier. I didn’t quite know why John and Paul’s faces looked distorted on the cover of Rubber Soul but I loved the sparse guitars and melodies. Not quite seven, I asked my grandfather if he could get me the new Beatles album. He managed to buy it but it came with a stern lecture about how I had made him look foolish by telling him to ask for “Dr. Pepper’s.”

I was, in the words of Shaun Cassidy, whose half brother David Cassidy died this week, “born late.” I was about ten years late to some of the greatest cultural events of history, seemingly forever young and always one step behind those who were living it.

My gateway to the larger world had begun with a transistor radio, I soon began anticipating the top forty countdown on New York’s premier station WABC. I started making my way to Discobulous Records down on Main Street. There  lay behind the counter the mystery of the seven minutes of “Layla,” the drama of  “Maggie May," the steaminess of "Brown Sugar"….and “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family.

It seems incongruous to mention the records in the same sentence. But for my friends and I, it all started on Friday night. There was the Partridge Family Show to watch, the sitcom about the rock and roll family, the one who “toured” on an old school bus and was fronted by one David Cassidy, known to the world as Keith Partridge. By Monday morning we were talking at the bus stop about the new songs they debuted like “Point Me In The Direction of Albuquerque” and “Umbrella Man.”

I was starting to slowly build an album collection and went over to show my old babysitter Patty. She quickly flipped past the red album on Bell Records, the one simply called The Partridge Family.  When I asked her why she was frowning, she shot back: “We don't like them in high school.”

I was quickly learning the ropes. But had I known what I knew now, I could have challenged her. I might have said, “Well you know Hal Blaine is on drums and he played on Pet Sounds so if he's cool enough for a Brian Wilson...” Or that Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil who co-wrote “You Lost That Loving Feeling” had written several songs as did producer Wes Farrell, the co-author of “Boys” and “Hang On Sloopy.”

As much as it was antithetical to have your mother in a rock band, there was a kind of DIY mentality that permeated through the Partridge Family. I could overlook that the young Chris on drums really wasn't even trying to play,  turning my eyes instead to the mysterious Lori (Susan Dey) as she lowered her eyes down to her keys. And for someone who knew the names Brian Epstein and Alan Klein, I could now add Reuben Kincaid to the list of famous rock and roll managers.

Maybe the Partridge Family wasn't a real band like my beloved Monkees but they had those catchy melodies, fronted by singer Cassidy whose teen fandom soon invoked mania. The closest that it came to my house was a basement concert on a Sunday afternoon when my younger sisters and I dimmed the lights and performed “I Think I Love You” for my parents and grandparents. Cassidy's fame would consume him and a few years later the cycle would start all over when the Bay City Rollers came on the scene. My sister came home declaring that they were going to be bigger than the Beatles based on all the talk she heard in the girls locker room of our junior high. I got into a heated argument and went back to playing my Bad Company records.

I could separate Cassidy as the teen heartthrob from the gifted singer and performer he was, seeing him many years later onstage in a music in Las Vegas. He got me into the record store as much as anyone. And once there, my world expanded in unexpected ways.

On one of those visits I was looking at a cover of a man sitting with his guitar on a bench in the snow.

“I love that guy,” said Janis, the Discobulous clerk and daughter of the store’s owner. She was actually talking to me and giving me important information.  I turned over the cover of a record that simply said Stephen Stills. On it was an extensive set of credits. I was starting to become a voracious lover of liner notes and here was a plethora of names to be researched.  Names like Rita Coolidge, Booker T. Jones and Jimi Hendrix.

It’s expansive sound sounded larger than life. On summer nights I used to close my bedroom door, open my windows and sit out on the rock in front of my house mesmerized by the organ fills and the guitar solos of Hendrix on “Old Times Good Times” and Clapton on “Go Back Home.” The sounds always were best after they richocheted off of my walls before reaching me.

As I write this, the sounds are as clear  in my mind all these years later. And maybe as much as reimagining the voice of David Cassidy coming out of a tinny transistor radio.

   

Nice piece Steve...you get led to the good music all kinds of ways, and usually you like some that is either not as good, or isn't aiming as high,that's trying to be a hit record, like that is necessarily a bad thing...the important thing is that you get to the good stuff...The Cowsills were by most accounts the band that inspired the show, and despite the fact that they had a controlling father and producers who kept them recording assembly line tracks by "professional" hit writers, they were very talented, and continue to make great music in various iterations to this day, though a couple of memebers of that family fell victim to the excesses that fame of some level produces ...and as you noted, the Wrecking Crew played and some of the great pop music writers contributed...Cassidy was a talented man, performed all his life stage and screen, yet it was all colored and probably tainted by having been Keith Partridge for a couple of years...

You cranked this out pretty quickly obviously, and ND has no editors it would seem, so there is a "who's" in the 4th paragraph you'd probably want to change, and in the 7th paragraph the phrase "When I asked her why she was frowning" appears twice...but this is a damned good piece of writing I think...well done!

Jim thanks very much as always

Nice remembrance of childhood musical experiences, Steve.

I heard the Partridge Family's music before seeing the show. To my 10 year old ears it was impossibly infectious, truth be told it still brings a smile to my face when I occasionally hear one of their songs. I too read liner notes at a young age and was later astounded at just who those names I'd read as a kid were. When I was 11, my family lived on campus at USC for 6 weeks while my dad and various coworkers took the 6 week business program sponsored by his company. One morning we heard that the Partridge Family was filming an episode at Alumni Park (I had to look up a campus map to see what the name of the park was, unsure if that is what it was called in 1971).  Couldn't have been more excited to see Susan Dey and ran as fast as I could across campus. To my disappointment, no Susan or David Cassidy, it was just Shirley Jones. I have a picture of me with her somewhere. They were filming an episode in which she returned to college and a younger male student took a shine to her.  I met the actor playing that student and asked for an autograph, he smiled, laughed and said " you don't need my autograph" as he signed a piece of paper. I guess David and that role were inextricably linked, becoming a blessing and curse to someone who'd grown up among famous people and had to make the transition from child to adult celebrity. But that music was sure great stuff for kids who loved music early in life.

Amen Jack...artists you hear as a kid or young adult you always feel strongly about, even if they ended up being uncool...I loved the Raspberries when they came out, sounded like the Beatles meets the Who to me, and they were great live, and sounded incredible coming out of a car radio...Eric Carmen wrote "ear candy" songs...he's a gifted songwriter who can venture into maudlin...I remember when Shaun Cassidy had a hit called "Hey Deanie"...Carmen wrote that and his version is a bit harder edged...it's a fine rock/pop song, by a guy who could really write "earworms"...I get a kick out of hearing the Raspberries still, and some of Carmen's solo stuff as well...yet he's definitely AOR and uncool elevator music to a lot of people...so I get that at 10, it's infectious, and it remains a fond memory all your life...had many experiences just like that myself...

And then there was always the Laurie Partridge or Marcia Brady conundrum.  I was in the Laurie camp.

Did you ever see the movie "First Love"?...late 70's, Susan Dey, William Katt...you will remain forever in the Laurie camp...

Can I like them both?

Good God, I coulda written this! Talk abou memory lane (although, I have to admit, I reallly did hate the Partridge Family... them and their ilk posed a clear and present danger my ability to woo eighth-grade honeys with my Vanilla Fudge and Steppenwolf).

Incredibly fabulous story and the best headline grab of the year. A few unrelated thoughts: the producer of both Eric Carmen and the Bay City Rollers lives only a short distance away from Ridgefield CT., my cousin signed The Cowsills to MGM Records and I worked a Cassidy comeback record in the early nineties and he looked great and was quite kind to the office staff. Oh...I’ve always loved Susan Dey. 

Ed...I love when your record business days intertwine with the articles out here...Jimmy Ienner was a fine producer, the songs (Carmen wrote all the hits) sounded great coming out of a car radio...Raspberries 3rd album, "Side 3" had a drum sound that was so out front, like Keith Moon was in the Who's mix (Glyn Johns)...my recollection is that Ienner also produced or had a management company with 3 Dog Night...I know he was the executive producer and music advisor for "Dirty Dancing", and that soundtrack album sold a ridiculous number of copies, which no one was expecting...he got Carmen involved with that record, a comeback hit...some restaurant is using "Hungry Eyes" in their commercials as we speak...

Not sure what your cousin actually thought of the Cowsills...would have been interesting to know what he thought about the father Bud...that Cowsills documentary pretty much made him out to be about as bad as a human being as he could possibly be, and it's his kid's reminiscenses that really make you sick, he was every bit as bad as the Jackson's dad...Susan, and the oldest son in particular, and the son who wasn't as musically talented as the rest, just have horrible experineces to relate...it's a painful but fascinating film..."Family Band, the Cowsills Story"...I saw them once live, vocally they were terrific, and the sound in that venue was awful truthfully...they were at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum as an opening act with Rowan and Martin, who were riding the "Laugh-In" wave at the time...mom and dad went for Rowan and Martin, but my dad in particular, who was a jazz buff, was impressed with them and so was I, though I was old enough to realize I wasn't supposed to be a fan, as they were not cool...I didn't cop to liking them, but being that Barry and John were just kids and in a band that toured, I really was envious... 

I was in the Coliseum restroom after the Cowsills finished and Rowan and Martin entered and Rowan stood next to me at the urinal and said "Hi son!"...never occurred to me they had to go before they went on till then, or that they didn't have a separate bathroom for them...I thought, "that's a good idea, no one wants to get on stage and then realize they should have stopped at the john"...I have followed that good example my entire life...always go before you hit the stage...

Cassidy was actually quite talented, and I guess he should have been, his genetics were mighty good, his parents were both stage actors/singers as well as film...you don't do Broadway with out being pretty damned good...

As for Susan Dey, always a fan myself, though I didn't watch the Partridge Family to speak of...but I did see "First Love"...can't tell you a whole lot about the movie, but I remember wishing I was William Katt while I was watching it...

 

Thanks for sharing that. I’m going to hunt down the Cowsills film ASAP. Jimmy Ienner’s son and I work together these days, and I found the first Eric Carmen vinyl (Arista 4057) in an old pile of records at a thrift shop last May and bought it for Jimmy Jr. to give to Sr. for Father’s Day.                                          

I bought that Eric Carmen record when it came out, had heard Sunrise on the radio and it caught my ear, turned out the rest of it didn’t. Still have it. The cover had a strange copper color tinting to it, I wondered who thought that looked good.

While peeling potatoes yesterday ahead of dinner my wife and I were talking about David Cassidy passing away. My little Bose bluetooth speaker was on the counter so I googled Partidge Family and found their entire greatest hits record on You Tube. Played it start to finish. Just light and breezy nicely crafted pop confections. David could really sing, he sounded great. Made for a very nice 48 minutes of nostalgia.

The Cowsills film you should look up, Ed...for someone that was as close to the business as you were, I think you will find it well worth the time, and it is strangely uplifting in spite of the dark moments...I'd sum it up as the music bonds them in ways that makes them incredibly close, and yet, some aspects of it tore them apart, and maybe continues to in some ways, there's some stuff they can't get past, but the are trying...the second oldest brother (Bob) is the Narrator, and he's the rudder, and just trying to get the family story told...the oldest brother (Bill) has lots of stories to tell, some involve the session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who was his best friend and a champion of Bill's musical acumen, and about the dynamics between his dad and him...brother Barry has relocated to New Orleans, and is a working musician there, made a solo record that is quite good...family is all in touch with each other partly due to this documentary being filmed...there's several crazy "life happens" turns, as it was filmed over a number of years...Katrina hits in New Orleans and they lose touch with Barry (that's not a spoiler as there are several developments after that)....the brother that wasn't in the band (and did 2-3 tours of Viet Nam while they were at the height of their popularity) reunites with them, and all the awkward dynamics that entails...their family story is really plenty enough to make a fascinating film about, and then all this other stuff happens during the filming of the documentary...I've watched it 3-4 times...there's a song called "Some Good Years" that they recorded for the record "Global" that plays at the end of the film that got stuck in my head for days, I had to buy the record just for that song...just excellent, it's as complex harmonically as any Beach Boys song...they can really sing.

Nice touch on the Eric Carmen vinyl, I'm sure he will appreciate that...like Jack, I also found the copper tint on the cover a bit off putting, but I thought the record itself had it's moments, of his solo stuff I liked "Change of Heart" the best, and "Boats Against the Current" had some really good stuff, all of his solo records have a song or two where you go "yep, he's still got it"...one of my friends is a professional musician and songwriter (and a playwright, minister, and in general, Renaissance Man who's talent and energy are almost discouraging), he writes mostly contemporary gospel stuff (he's been covered by many of the biggest artists in that field), but he is a great fan of secular music too, and writes musicals, plays, and some songs that have no spritual leaning, Great American Songbook type stuff...he loves many contemporary songwriters, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, but also people who could really turn a catchy pop song like Paul Williams...Eric Carmen is one of his favorites...he did a show with our local symphony orchestra here a few years ago, and one of the songs he performed was Carmen's "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again" from that album...I never really thought that was one of Carmen's best songs though it was a hit, but it's actually a really creative piece of songwriting when it is broken down...

Carmen for his part, came off as pretty bitter in interviews, like say, Alex Chilton...Raspberries were ripped off in business dealings, and I recall even as a solo artist, he felt like Clive took advantage...there used to be a You Tube of a DUI arrest several years ago...not his best moment, nice that they would put that out there for public consumption since he used to be famous, but I guess they do that...he's apparently had his moments with the bottle...

My wife shed a tear at his passing.   She was a charter member of the David Cassidy fan club.   

“I Think I love You” peaked at #48 on WABC’s Top 100 of the Year in 1971 after being #56 in 1970.   Interestingly, there was also another Partridge Family song on the WABC Top 100 in 1971 that I had to play on Youtube to remember – “Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted”.   That came in at # 30, beating “Family Affair” at #33, “Brown Sugar” at #38 and “Imagine” at #39.  

I got to see and meet the Cowsills a couple years ago when the Rochester Music Hall of Fame inducted James Rado, the composer of “Hair”, and they came in to perform at the concert.    Bob, Paul and Susan were in town and they talked about the Partridge Family.   They said that without the Cowsills there would be no Partridge Family but the Partridge Family success kept the Cowsills visible because they mentioned them at every interview.   Susan called it a “reciprocal relationship”.   And then they sang an impromptu “I Think I Love You”.   A very nice and accommodating family.