Sunday, November 21, 2010

Come On, Get Happy

"I Think I Love You" single sleeve

Forty years ago today, November 21 1970, the Partridge Family started a three-week run at number one on the Billboard charts with "I Think I Love You".  This was about two years before I started buying my own records, so I never owned this one, but I definitely remember hearing it on the radio.   

The Partridge Family started life as a television series on ABC.  On the show, widow Shirley Partridge and her children were a musical group.  The stories revolved around their adventures and experiences with being on the road in their Mondrian-inspired bus and recording albums, mixed in with the regular home life of school, friends, and growing up.  Mrs. Partridge tried to have them be normal kids as much as possible.  The show ran from September 25, 1970 to August 31, 1974.  I don't think we really watched it much at my house on it's initial run, but I saw in many times through the seventies on reruns.  I remember how even as kids it was obvious to us they weren't really playing the music during the concert scenes.

I wish these fashions would come back 

The Partridge Family was partly based upon a real-life musical group, the Cowsills.  The Cowsills were a family affair, with young brothers playing most of the instruments, sister and mom helping out on the singing, and another brother the manager.  On the Partridge Family there was the mother, played by singer/actress Shirley Jones, her high school-aged son Keith, slightly younger daughter Laurie, younger son Danny, and two much smaller kids, Chris and Tracy.   

Keith was played by actor David Cassidy, who was in real life the stepson of Shirley Jones.  Although hired for the part of Keith mostly because he had the right look, it turned out he was actually a good singer.  They ended up using Cassidy's vocals on all the music that represented what the Partridge Family was supposedly singing during the tv episodes.  ABC hired professional songwrites and musicians to create the music, and Shirley Jones and David Cassidy would provide most of the vocals.  A total of 10 Partridge Family albums were released, and David Cassidy had a solo recording career as well.

David Cassidy performs in front of 40,000 women that want him- now

Cassidy became a big singing star, and spent a few years drawing tremendous crowds to his concerts.  In 1972 he sold out the Houston Astrodome two days in a row at 56,000 seats each show.  He would easily sell out shows at Madison Square Garden and Wembly Arena. Riots and hysteria were common, and in 1974 a girl was crushed to death at one of his concerts in London.  As the seventies wore on, he fell out of favor and eventually moved on to doing more theatrical work.  He still releases the occasional album, most recently in 2007.

So anyway, forty years ago right now, the whole country was eating up "I Think I Love You".  It was written by songwriter Tony Romeo, who wrote a number of lesser hits in the 1960's and 1970's, as well as a lot of music for television. 
"I Think I Love You" and the Bell label

All the Partridge Family albums and singles were released on the Bell Records label.  Bell Records was named after singer and songwriter Benny Bell.  Bell was born in New York city in 1906, son of a Jewish immigrant family.  Drawn to vaudeville as a child, he wrote hundreds of songs in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.  Many of them were so-called "blue" songs, risque tunes to be played on jukeboxes in bars.  His biggest hit came in 1946 with one of these types of songs, innocently named "Shaving Cream".  The lyrics in this song lead you to believe the singer is about to say a naughty word.  Imagine the blushes amongst the ladies when some devious scoundrel put his nickel in the jukebox and this song fills the bar:

"I have a sad story to tell you
It may hurt your feelings a bit
Last night when I walked into my bathroom
I stepped in a big pile of ...shhhhh . . . aving cream,
be nice and clean. . . .
Shave ev'ry day and you'll always look keen."

Benny Bell started up the Bell label to distribute novelty records by himself and others.  He sold the label in 1952, and by the mid-1960's the new owners of Bell records began to offer recordings by contemporary artists.  They distributed the Partridge Family recordings starting in 1970.
Sound Machine, #9 album in 1971

The early Partridge Family albums were all quite popular.  The first three made it to #4, #3, and #9 on the Billboard charts.  Their 1971 "A Partridge Family Christmas Card" album was the top selling Christmas album that year. 
The Partridge Family tv show never was a ratings powerhouse, and it only lasted three seasons.  That was just long enough to have enough episodes that it ended up in regular daytime tv rotation for years.  That is when I became familiar with it.  We never owned any of the Partridge records.  Bell records had it's final number one song in 1975- Barry Manilow's "Mandy".  Shortly after that Bell records was absorbed into the Arista label and the name was retired.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shirley, Austin Powers called. He wants his wardrobe back.