Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wes Farrell and David Cassidy on...David Cassidy

For those who don't recall the name Wes Farrell, he was a producer and music businessman who, among many other accomplishments, produced the records of the Partridge Family.

Now I realize that some of you may not necessarily recall David Cassidy. He first achieved stratospheric fame as one of the actors, and the lead singer, in said Partridge Family. He has continued his involvement in music ever since, though not necessarily with screaming girls following his every move.

The Partridge Family, like the Monkees before it, was a band that was primarily created for a television show. Unlike their TV predecessors, who eventually exercised some control over their music, the Partridge Family remained firmly under the control of the music folks. Most of the actors in the Partridge Family didn't even appear on the records themselves. Cassidy of course was on the records, and his TV mother and real life stepmother Shirley Jones - a woman with an illustrious musical career of her own - was used as a backup singer.

When singer-to-be Cassidy met producer Farrell, two things were clear - Cassidy had never been in a recording studio before, and Cassidy's personal tastes in music did not necessarily coincide with what Farrell envisioned for the television show. Farrell, in a Tiger Beat interview before the release of the Partridge Family's second LP:

After talking with Paul Witt and Bob Claver, the show’s producers, the next step was deciding what is The Partridge Family? Who is it? Where is it? So we began with David, and it was funny because he was a bit unprepared. Not knowing who or what is a Wes Farrell, we arranged to meet at Paul Witt’s office. David came down with his guitar. He wasn’t really sure he could describe to me what he wanted to do vocally because he was a little hung up on certain kinds of music that weren’t necessarily the type I wanted to record.

Cassidy has subsequently described his musical interests at that time, and this Gary James interview (which occurred decades after the Partridge Family phenomenon) illustrates this:

You know, I had a lot of musical influences in my career, some of which were really juxtaposition to antithesis perhaps of what my public image was from the television show I did. Long before I was on television playing this character and doing music that was designed for that show. I'd seen Hendrix five times. I'd seen B.B. King, Clapton, Albert King, Muddy Waters and all kinds of Rock and heavy Blues influences. So, I was a guy that had a vastly different musical taste than just the stuff that I was performing.

But Cassidy was a professional, worked well with Farrell, mastered the recording process quickly...and became a bubblegum superstar. But Cassidy still felt stifled, and as a result was open to a 1972 Rolling Stone photo shoot which was anything but bubblegum.

Oh least Yoko Ono wasn't in the picture.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Another post related to my father's death, and to music.

My father was a user of the Finale software package, which is published by MakeMusic, Inc. On February 26 he had a support question on the software, which he submitted via MakeMusic's automated customer support system. As it turns out, this is the ONLY way in which you can contact MakeMusic customer support. On the surface it seems like a reasonable way to do business, since 99.9% of all people who use the Finale software have Internet and e-mail access.

My father traded questions and answers with a MakeMusic representative, but his problem wasn't getting solved despite MakeMusic's attempts. One afternoon in early March my father sent an e-mail to the customer representative. The representative followed up with an e-mail message a few minutes later, and another the next day.

The representative, however, had no way of knowing that my father was unable to answer the messages.

Several days later, MakeMusic sent another e-mail to my father's e-mail address. This was the message that I saw when I accessed my late father's e-mail account. I forwarded this message to my own personal e-mail account and wrote a reply to MakeMusic (following MakeMusic's instructions to paste my reply between the two "Please enter your reply below this line" and "Please enter your reply above this line" messages). My reply basically stated that my father had died, that no one in my family would use the Finale software any longer, that this support ticket could be closed, and that all future correspondence should be directed to my e-mail address, not my father's.

My message was received by MakeMusic's automated customer support system, and I received this reply:

Your recent incident update was from an email address not associated with the incident. In an effort to maintain the security of information, we cannot update the incident using this email address. If you are the incident owner and your email address has changed, or you want to be able to update the incident using this email account, please update your contact information using the following link, then resubmit your update.

Again, there's probably a really good reason for MakeMusic to impose this level of security on customer support communications. You don't want someone sending spurious customer support reports in - for example, you don't want a person from Company X to falsely claim that a support ticket from Competitior Y can be closed.

But it's still disconcerting to find that MakeMusic's automated customer support system allows no exceptions whatsoever.

So I made one. I looked up the name of MakeMusic's COO/CFO and forwarded my original e-mail to her, along with an explanation.

Automated customer support systems are not equipped to handle extraordinary cases, so I am submitting this to you directly.

I'll grant that this case is a very rare case, but it only goes to prove that no single system can be designed that can handle every single possibility.

P.S. If you were a fan of the movies "Ratatouille" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Finale software was used when working on those films' soundtracks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You can't take it with you

No, I haven't been blogging for the last few weeks. This is due to personal issues - namely, the death of my father.

At one point, I found myself helping to make arrangement in a funeral home. Now funeral home directors are by nature caring, and this director certainly was caring. But in the course of our discussions, certain documents needed to be signed.

One of these documents involved our acknowledgment of our responsibilities to guard against copyright infringement. Basically, if we brought our own music into the funeral, the appropriate royalties would still have to be paid.

Afterward, the contractual clause reminded me of some words written by George Harrison, although Harrison's concerned the government rather than private entities. Perhaps you recall the words:

And my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eye