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.
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