In Memoriam: David Cassidy

Like any number of kids around my age, I watched The Partridge Family on TV for some period of time in the early 70s (and likely caught reruns in syndication later). While the eight-year-old in me thinks the most memorable characters were Rueben Kincaid and Danny Partridge, the show was a star-maker for the guy who played Keith Partridge.

I certainly didn’t idolize David Cassidy in his heyday, nor did I particularly follow his fits and starts over the ensuing decades. In reading about him last night and today, I see the chafing over the image created for him and the short- and long-term toll that substance abuse took.  He wanted his own musical (rock?) career, but it seems odd to me that the path he chose toward that included covers of easy-listening hits like “Cherish” and “How Can I Be Sure” (great as the originals are).  I remember “Lyin’ To Myself” from 90; even though I only heard it a few times, it’s a pretty solid number.  But I wonder if that mini-comeback came about in large part because of Donny Osmond’s success the previous year with “Soldier of Love.”

I concede that the Partridge Family was mostly a vehicle for great session musicians to do their thing behind David’s vocals (while not a strong voice, it’s a lot better than that of other 70s teen idols, including his half-brother Shaun, Leif Garrett, and—shudder—John Travolta).  But there is some great bubblegum stuff here.  “I Think I Love You” is legit awesome, totally deserving to be a #1 hit.  I like “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” quite a bit; my favorite, though, is “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted,” perhaps due to its presence on side 1 of a certain K-Tel album.

When Martha and I were cleaning out the basement of her parents’ house five years ago, we came across a few PF albums—she and her sister had been among Cassidy’s legion of fans.  One of the LPs was At Home with Their Greatest Hits, which was also in my house back in the day (making it one of the very few points of intersection in Martha’s and my respective album collections).  My suspicion is that Dad bought it because Amy and I regularly watched the show.  I know I played it some in the first years we had it, but there aren’t many songs outside of their four biggest hits whose titles stir any memories.  The exception is “Echo Valley 2-6809”—I guess I was a numbers guy even back then?  It’s the outro that I really remember—a repeated recitation of the song title followed by, “I shoulda called that number”—although it sounds different when I listen to it today from what I thought I heard forty-plus years ago. (Edited to add: I meant to mention that in looking things up today that I discovered Rupert Holmes co-wrote “Echo Valley.”)

I’m certainly sorry for the demons that he couldn’t conquer.  I hope that ultimately he was able to appreciate his contributions to some really enjoyable tunes.  RIP, Mr. Cassidy.

I know I won’t be the only one to post about him in the next few days; I’ll include links to others as I come across them.

–Here’s jb.

–Here’s Len from 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 2/9/80: Steve Forbert, “Romeo’s Tune”

Before I started this blog, I posted about songs from old AT40s on Facebook, January-July 2017. I’ll be moving them here over time. This entry has been edited slightly from the original.

This was my favorite song over the first three months of 1980, and maybe for the whole year.  It’s a genius piece of songcraft: the lyrics are pure poetry, the chorus is instantly memorable, and, as a bonus, it’s such a happy piece.  Steve Forbert hailed from Mississippi and seems to still be recording every now and again.  This was his only notable hit (#16 here, on its way to #11), though he did catch some attention in the late 80s with the very nice Streets of This Town.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 9: Raisins, “Fear Is Never Boring”

Late in 2016, I posted on Facebook about the contents of a mix tape I put together sometime in early 92.  It’s the only sixty-minute tape of its kind in my collection.  I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.

For a while in early 80s Cincinnati, the Raisins were definitely a thing; they had a locally produced LP and got a fair amount of love on the radio.  Their ship never quite came in, although a few years later most of them teamed up with Adrian Belew for a couple of national releases as the Bears.

I was completely shocked last year when I found an actual (albeit rather low-budget) video for this song–in the comments on YouTube, its poster reveals he did sound work for the Raisins for a period of time.  The Bears also recorded it for their debut disk, but in my book their version lacks the spontaneity, edginess, and downright fun of the original.  Enjoy.

SotD: Paul Simon, “The Obvious Child”

Paul Simon just has a way with describing characters in his songs and their ruminations on the past.  It’s there with the narrator on Saturday’s tune, “My Little Town.” It happens again in the second and third verses of “Slip Slidin’ Away.” Then there’s Sonny in “The Obvious Child,” a guy I relate to better now than when I first heard this in 90.

Speaking as one who takes yearbooks down from shelves, runs his hand through his thinning (formerly) brown hair, and definitely doesn’t expect to sleep through the night, I find myself wandering all too often through days long gone (and it may be getting worse!).  Yet, I’m also meditating on what future I have remaining.  Inertia has always had great power in my life, but I still have hope for making fruitful changes.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/14/87: John Cougar Mellencamp, “Cherry Bomb”

In the late 80s, WPGU, Champaign-Urbana’s album/college rock station, started a new game during their weekday morning show.  It centered around a character called the Lounge Lizard; the selected caller was treated to a twenty-or-so-second snippet of a rock tune sung “lounge style,” and to win one had to correctly identify song and artist.  It was around this time of year in 90 that I got my chance to square off against the LL.

That was the year I had an apartment by myself.  John, my roommate the previous three years, had been dating Ann since the second half of 87.  They got married in July 90, after she graduated from vet school, and moved to Chicago.  In August, when the lease on our place ended, I moved to a one-bedroom somewhat closer to campus.  John kept his teaching assistantship at the U of I, so he’d drive down to C-U Tuesday morning, crash on my couch for two nights, and return home after his Thursday classes were over.

Since John wasn’t a witness, it must have been a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday morning when LL and I did battle (I’d guess Friday).  I imagine the guy who played the Lounge Lizard was a friend of one of the morning jocks.  He was a bit unreliable; he didn’t always show up, and there were times when he literally phoned it in.  You likely wouldn’t be surprised to learn LL was portrayed as having alcohol issues.  I even recall a time when they attempted to kill him off, complete with a plot line that involved him getting shot (probably by an irate husband, with whose wife LL had, uh, consorted).

While I did reasonably well “playing at home,” I by no means got them right anywhere close to all the time—the nightclub affectations really did get in the way, even when lyrics might have sounded familiar.  I was a little worried I’d whiff, but nothing ventured, etc.  I don’t remember trying regularly to take a shot, but I doubt that I was the right caller on my first attempt.

It’s lost to me now which portion of the song LL crooned, but I’d bet on the chorus: “That’s when a sport was a sport, and groovin’ was groovin’…”  It didn’t click at first, and for a second I saw myself going down in flames. They were known to give hints to struggling contestants, and I may have received a nudge. Regardless, all was suddenly revealed.  I gave the required information about today’s song (debuting at #40 here, peaking at #8) and was soon providing my address to them off-air.  I suspect I was pleased enough with myself over this.

My prize was a copy of a recently released CD, one that I actually was happy to receive!  I’ll feature a song from it tomorrow.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/15/75: Simon and Garfunkel, “My Little Town”

Most of my earliest experiences with pop music came from listening to AM radio in the car.  I began paying closer attention around late 73-early 74, just before I turned 10; looking back, it seems that for about a two-year period, all of my musical memories occur while either Mom or Dad is driving me somewhere.  That started changing toward the end of 75.  It must have been around then that I obtained or at least began regularly listening to a transistor radio.

Here’s one of those first tunes (#19, on its way to #9) that wasn’t confined to being heard on a car ride.  Whether or not it’s an actual memory, listening to it causes me see myself looking out my bedroom window on a cold late autumn evening, craning my neck to look west and watch trucks in the distance on I-75. I don’t think I appreciated fully at the time how cool it was to have Paul and Art singing together again.

I know now that WSAI in Cincinnati had started playing AT40 a few weeks earlier, in October.  Less than five months after this broadcast, I had caught the fever and was listening to it close to regularly.  It wasn’t long before music was with me just about all the time.