David Cassidy On Hanging With John Lennon, The Partridge Family, and a Gun-Toting Phil Spector
So spoke David Cassidy during a break in the Partridge Family's second hit single "Doesn't Somebody Want to be Wanted." But he is different. Different from you, who's never appeared working alongside Gary Busey on Celebrity Apprentice. Different than other teen idols of his day who can be neatly divided between pretty boys who couldn't sing, pretty boys who couldn't act or sing, and pretty boys whose voice was in varying stages of fluctuation.
Cassidy had the perfect pop voice, clear and emotive. Witness his vocal on "How Can I Be Sure" which simultaneously achieves the same emotional intensity as The Rascals' original and the sultriness of Dusty Springfield's stellar cover version.
"It's been an albatross," he says of the first impressions the words "teen idol" imply. For this reason, he tends to steer the conversation away from any sentence containing the words "teen" and "idol" toward another gander at his resume. And if those four years of red hot hysteria represent what would be the apogee of most people's careers, he stands by the work he did during that time and won't short shrift anyone heading out to a casino looking to hear "I Woke Up in Love This Morning."
He's recently mounted a retrospective tour that covers all his career hits both Partridge Fam and solo, a smattering of those UK hits like "The Last Kiss" (with George Michael), music that has influenced him and no doubt selections from stage shows he's been in from Blood Brothers to FX-- this from a man who has called show his business for over 40 years.
David Cassidy: Fantastic! Amazing, The weather's been incredible, we've been playing a lot of outdoor places.
Are you getting a lot of storms? Here in Phoenix it's our monsoon season.
I noticed that when I was in Vegas. On the East Coast there was one night where we had to cancel.
Is this show a kind of autobiographical David Cassidy career retrospective?
I would say it is a combination of my hits and the music that inspired my career, which took a different direction from what I was originally intending when I was starting out. My career path took a very different turn from what it was originally going to be. I wanted to be an actor but the same I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, that first appearance, and wanted to play guitar. I used to play in garage bands and I went to see Hendrix and Cream. I saw Hendrix with the Experience and with Band of Gypsys at the Forum [4-25-70]. And I saw him open for the Mamas and the Papas at the Hollywood Bowl [8-18-67].
That was after he opened for the Monkees and quit the tour?
I think it was after The Monkees, I'm not quite sure. [It was: Hendrix opened for the Monkees in July, 1967]. I only remember teenagers crying for Davy. The Mamas and Papas people were not interested in him at all as a performer. And that was right after The Monterey Pop Festival [where they both performed]. I saw Cream at one of their last two performances at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I moved from New York right outside Jersey and saw my dad at the theater which is when I knew I wanted to be an actor. But I was still playing in these garage bands. Nine months after graduating I had my first professional acting job. Someone from CBS Films saw me coming, had me do a screen test. And from the screen test I got cast on Ironside, Adam 12, The Mod Squad, Bonanza, Marcus Welby, Medical Center, all those shows...
The network [execs] all knew I could play and sing but they didn't ask me to audition. But they did ask me to do a filmed screen test. I played a little bit of "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" at the beginning of the scene in the garage. They didn't really care. The network just wanted actors.
-- David Cassidy
Did you always play the juvenile delinquent in those shows?
A lot of times I was the troubled kid or the bully who wasn't really a bully, on that episode of Bonanza that I did with Dan Blocker. Then I got cast in The Partridge Family for the pilot. The network [execs] all knew I could play and sing but they didn't ask me to audition. But they did ask me to do a filmed screen test. I played a little bit of "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" at the beginning of the scene in the garage. They didn't really care. The network just wanted actors.
The Partridge Family came two years after The Monkees went off the air and was made by the same company. Did the fact that the Monkees caused so much trouble for music supervisor Don Kirshner, who also oversaw the Partridge Family music, did you have a harder time trying to assert some involvement on the records? Was the fact that they listed the musicians on the back sleeve of the records a way to get around the controversy over who played what on the records?
Yeah, they listed everybody. The musicians, even the background singers. I sang lead on all but two of the twelve songs on the first album and they left them with the background singers [the vocal group The Love Generation], I think they were trying to spin them off into something else.
So were you at any of the tracking sessions for those albums?
Yes. Every night. Hal Blaine, Louie Shelton, Mike Melvoin, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Tommy Tedesco, all the guys, my band for years, were The Wrecking Crew. I'd work all day on the set and then drive over the hill just to watch them work. We'd do three songs a night.
When did Shirley Jones put down her vocal tracks?
She would come back after everything else was tracked. She had a great voice but she was not a pop singer, so they would put her vocals down in the mix and blend them with the background vocalists.