That Time David Cassidy Called Me From Rehab

A few minutes ago I saw the news stories about David Cassidy being in critical condition with organ failure. It made me think back to that crazy interview he gave me a few years ago, and I thought it would be worth the repost:

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 Day’s 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 that week'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.

A few other quotes that didn't make the original post or article:

On his then-upcoming local show: "It will be great to get back on the road and play. I’m looking forward to coming, though. It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m rather romantic. A lot of my songs are romantic, as well."

Non-rock influences: "It’s great that people know that a lot of my musical roots were very diversified, from Count Basie and Duke Ellington to Cole Porter. I just have so much of a breath of musical influences in my life, as a songwriter and a singer."

His friendship with the Beatles: " I bought an electric guitar after the night I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I was thirteen at the time. I got to know all of them. I met Paul (McCartney) once, and I became very good friends with John Lennon, and Yoko Ono as well. I played with John a few times, and really loved him and I miss his spirit and his voice. His voice in our culture and our society was so powerful, and he was the most dedicated man I ever met when it came to stopping violence and war in the world. Also the most sensitive man I ever met. He wore his heart on his sleeve."

Recording with Harry Nilsson: "We could do that back then back in the 60’s and 70’s. I never recorded in the 60’s, but in the mid-70’s I called Harry Nilsson one night and said, ‘hey, I wrote a verse and a bridge to your chorus that you wrote three years ago. Will you come down to the studio?’ We were both recording for RCA at the time, and he came down and I said ‘let’s sing this together’. He said ok. He liked what I had done with it, and we recorded it. Things like that would happen all the time. Brian Wilson, America’s Gerry Beckley, and I wrote a song together for my album. I had the opportunity to play with a lot of great musicians."

Was acting or music his primary goal? "It was definitely to be an actor. I had been working with the L.A. Theater Company to follow my professional career, but I always played guitar. I played in some bad blues bands, and some garage bands. We didn’t play anywhere except for maybe high school parties. I saw Clapton twice with Cream, and I saw Hendrix four times in L.A."

The grueling Partridge Family schedule: "Oh, it could have been a lot better. I worked eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. I had no social life whatsoever. I recorded at night, and did the show until 7:10 in the evening. That was the law. They had to let me go at 7:10. I’d drive over the hill and by 7:30 I was recording in the studio until 11:30 or so."

His nonsensical answer to whether he's heard any of the punk covers of Partridge tunes: "In order to take a shower, you know how you have to stick your hand in the water? Suddenly you get interested in music, and the people who influenced you the most in the beginning can lead you to all kinds of places. I’ve talked to wonderful musicians - guitar players, drummer, and piano players - who watched my show and what we did had a great impact on them. We made some really great records with some of the best musicians on the face of the earth."

The desire to spread love to the world: " I promise that I’ll give you the very best performance that I can possibly give you, as I always have. I think my purpose in life is to bring joy and happiness, and that’s how I became me and had the impact that I’ve had on a couple of generations. It’s a very, very important thing for me to go out and spread as much love and happiness, which is what my music has always brought people. I’m eternally grateful for all the love and support that I’ve had, especially in the last month."


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