I just read a book that took me back to the time when I had teen idol posters taped to my walls. The book is I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson. It’s about a 13-year-old Welsh girl in 1974 who worships David Cassidy. It’s also about the young London writer who works for The Essential David Cassidy Magazine. He composes letters supposedly written by Cassidy while lying to his friends about his job.
Pearson perfectly captures the blissful highs and crashing lows of a young fan’s adoration. She also sketches a cringeworthy but accurate picture of 70s fashion, hair, slang and decor. Not that I’m as familiar with Britain in the 70s, but some things about that era were universal, like ponchos, platform shoes, and feathered hair. I can’t help wondering why I’m so nostalgic for what was certainly the ugliest decade of my life, but maybe because it was so hideous, the things that were good stand out more?
I just missed being a David Cassidy fan when he was at the height of his popularity. I never saw The Partridge Family until it went into daytime syndication. I remember sitting on a friend’s bedroom floor one hot summer, listening to her Partridge Family Sound Magazine LP again and again. It had more to do with female friendship rites than an actual interest in the music, but I felt the warm glow of fitting in. A few years later, I watched half brother Shaun Cassidy on The Hardy Boys and tried to like him, simply because Joe Hardy was my favorite character in the books. Honestly, my heart wasn’t in it. Other teen idols came and went, including Leif Garrett and Peter Frampton. (Blame that awful movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, co-starring the Bee Gees. I know Frampton does.)
My problem in the 70s was really one of timing. Even then, I loved old movies and television, so the teens idols I was most passionate about were from the 50s. Not only did this leave me out of sync with my peers, it meant my favorites were no longer to be found in Tiger Beat. I was mad for Tim Considine of The Mickey Mouse Club serial Spin & Marty, and I also loved Sal Mineo. I’m sure he wasn’t the first or last gay teen idol! I discovered him in Rebel Without A Cause the same year he was murdered. Like I said, bad timing.
But, back to David Cassidy. Girls who were crazy about him during his heyday became embarrassed about it as they got older. With me, my interest in The Partridge Family started late but stayed steady and moderate. In the late 80s I got The Partridge Family’s Greatest Hits on CD, and I played it at work as part of my closing ritual. I also babysat for this one kid just because his family got the TV show on their cable. In 1990, David Cassidy released a new album and had a middling hit (“Lyin’ To Myself”). My friend and I went to Tower Records to meet him and get autographs. We stood in a long line on a hot summer day, marveling over the variety of Partridge Family memorabilia that other fans around us brought. My friend had the Cherish LP, and I bought the new CD to have signed. By the time we got to Cassidy, perhaps we had a little sunstroke. Maybe we were starstruck or just panicked at how quickly people were moved along. All I know is that we thoroughly embarrassed ourselves. I was snapping photos, with my friend holding on tight to Cassidy’s hand until I was finished. He started to write my name on my friend’s LP, poor guy, so she had to correct him. I told him I played his music at work, and everybody hated me for it. He was smiling, and then suddenly he wasn’t. Oh well. Some things you just can’t take back.
When the first season of The Partridge Family came out on DVD, I had to own the set. I also picked up several of the old LPs along the way. Trust me, nothing makes housework more fun that a little Partridge Family bubblegum pop. I tried to read Cassidy’s 1994 autobiography C’mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on The Partridge Family Bus, but it was too raunchy. I have not read his more recent Could It Be Forever: My Story, but I’ve heard that it’s essentially the same book with a few added chapters. I have to admit, when I started to read Allison Pearson’s novel, I was afraid that the David Cassidy her characters would encounter would be that Cassidy. Fortunately, her novel isn’t about the real David Cassidy, it’s about the different versions of ourselves that we encounter when we’re pulling out old scrapbooks, hearing a favorite song, or even standing in line for an autograph.
It always comes back to the songs for me. In I Think I Love You, the girl’s favorite song is “I Am A Clown” (which is technically a David Cassidy song, not a Partridge Family song). My friend loves “I Woke Up in Love This Morning,” and I can’t listen to that one without hearing her voice singing along in my head. My favorite songs are “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “Summer Days.” (You might have guessed one of those already!) I also really like “Together We’re Better,” “Love Must Be The Answer,” “I Would Have Loved You Anyway,” and “I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time.”
What’s your favorite song that’s embarrassing to admit? It doesn’t have to be the Partridge Family. And, whose face did you have taped to your bedroom walls, or more currently, as you desktop wallpaper? (Feel free to comment with a bug name, if you want to stay anonymous!)