Behind The Scenes of the Cassidy Interview

For the most part, I don’t have time for nostalgia. I don’t convene my old friends every few months to reminisce about our childhood. I tend to even skip my high school and college reunions.

It’s the same with music. Over the years, bands and songs have come and gone out of favor, and those that remain in my collection to this day are present because of their artistic quality, not because I associate it with a dirt road kegger or a fumbling tumble with an early love.

Yet I do acknowledge the impact of an old favorite on my life. It’s always remarkable to attempt to connect the dots on my life’s musical journey. How does one end up liking certain songs, bands, albums, and genres?

This is why I certainly shocked more than a few people, including my editor, when I jumped at the chance to interview David Cassidy. While I haven’t listened to his music in over thirty years, the music of the Partridge Family was as big of an influence in my life as the Beatles, Stones, Ramones, and the Sex Pistols.

How could that be possible? Let’s jump back to 1971, quite possibly the most musically influential year of my life. A year or two earlier, I had been given a Sears stereo record player, but my collection only consisted of a couple of records I liberated from my mother (the first Monkees album and the Beatles’ Hard Days Night), and a Sesame Street soundtrack. Oh yeah, and a couple of compilations of NASA recordings.

It was in 1971 that I started receiving an allowance, and ALL of it went to records. Every Sunday, the family would head to Lewis Drug after church. Lewis had a running deal on vinyl 45’s - three for two bucks - and the printed KISD Top 40 playlist pamphlets were my Bible.

Obviously, the vast majority of these purchases were pure junk. The DeFranco Family, The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company, Three Dog Night. Ok, there were also a few solo Beatles releases, and I believe I owned “Brown Sugar”, but those obsessions weren’t due to begin for another few years.

The Partridge Family, though, were the kings of that era for the pre-teen set. Despite the fact that I looked more like Danny Partridge, I wanted to be Keith Partridge. I wanted the Magical Mystery Tour-ish tour bus. I wanted the long feathered hair. And, of course, I wanted the girls.

While this phase didn’t last long, I purchased everything that was released under the Partridge Family and David Cassidy name. It’s still a mystery to me how I moved from the bubblegum sounds of these recordings to my mid-70’s love of the harder rocking sounds of Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin to late 70’s British punk and beyond.

I guess the potential of interviewing Cassidy was a rare example of nostalgia, and I took it seriously. I agonized for days on what to ask him, and I even enlisted my Facebook pals to assist me. When the time came to talk to him a couple of weeks ago, I was ready.

If you read the resulting article in Thursday’s Link, you already understand that the interview didn’t go as planned. First off, he was ten minutes late in calling, but that’s not unusual. Musicians tend to live on their own sense of time, and a quick email to his publicist confirmed that he would indeed be soon calling.

Finally, the phone rang, and we were off and running. Or, rather, David was off and running. I hadn’t even had a chance to hit the record button when Cassidy launched into how much he couldn’t wait to hit the road again. Without any prompting, he moved on from topic to topic, barely stopping to catch a breath. He bragged about being friends with The Beatles, and how John Lennon wrote “How Do You Sleep” because he thought Paul McCartney was an “absolute prat”. He talked about writing a song for Harry Nilsson, and waking him in the middle of the night to record it.

Interspersed in this dialog were a few clues that all was not right in Cassidy’s life, particularly when he abruptly apologized for his lateness. “I hate to be rude with you because I was late. I’ve been in some very, very wonderful and inspiring sessions here with my psychologist. It’s been very, very supportive and wonderful, and I’ve been feeling as good as I’ve felt in fifteen years.”

When he finally took a breath, I attempted to ask some questions from my list, but this didn’t go well. Here’s his response to my query about whether he knew at the time that the TV show was modelled on the Cowsills. “Of course. We talked about it. It took seven auditions to get the role, because you have to go though group after group after group. We actually shot on film a screen test. Screen tests were basically abolished in 1977 when the greed started to seep into everybody’s consciousness. Then by ‘85 or ‘86 it was a cancer that has plagued our world. Unfortunately, just being well off wasn’t good enough. In the early 70’s, if you had a couple hundred thousand in the bank you were a wealthy man. Now, you have to have at least ten or twenty million. Some of them, like Rupert Murdoch, need at least fifty billion. Not one billion. Fifty billion.”

Cassidy went back to his rambling dialog, until he suddenly announced, “I apologize, but I have to go. I’m already late. God bless you, buddy.” This was at the eight minute mark of our chat, far short of the typical 15-20 minutes of a typical interview. Given that he hadn’t really answered ANY of my questions, just how was I going to turn this into a story?

The following day, a work associate informed me that he read online that shortly after my interview, Cassidy had issued a statement that admitted he was in rehab. I had known that a few weeks earlier, he had been arrested for his third DUI, but I had no idea that he was calling from such a facility.

It took a lot of work, but I was able to transform his chat into a workable Link article. In fact, I’ve heard more positive commentary from that article than any of the last few months, and I appreciate the support. I sincerely hope that Cassidy is receiving the same type of feedback from both his fans and colleagues.