I gripped the saucer-shaped item that had been purchased with allowance funds I had saved up from weekly household chores assigned by my mother. She taught me that money earned through an honest day’s work was fundamental to one’s financial stability and independence, which had an impact on my attitude toward the green stuff, later in life. This so-called saucer-shaped item, with the deep grooves etched in black vinyl, had been tucked away but immediately removed from its eye-catching sleeve as soon as it had landed in my sweaty nine-year-old palms.
The front cover photograph, featuring the fictional TV family, the Partridge Family, had me hooked at first glance, when my eyes scanned the portrait of the musical clan standing in front of their school bus, the group’s mode of transportation. The beast, with the colorful, Mondrian-inspired square patterns, had logged hundreds of miles on the road, carrying its human cargo to concert engagements throughout the country. However, it was the main centerpiece—an irresistible fetch of eye candy—that nearly sent me into a 360-degree tailspin. Truthfully speaking, the dreamy-eyed Romeo, with the killer shag hair style and sexy, mischievous grin, could catapult any oxford-wearing school girl, along with millions of other prepubescent teens and even grown women with kids, into his orbit. The mere sight of this groovy dreamboat, decked out in red velvet attire, was more than enough to send me to Mars and back. The young man, adorned in all that plush accoutrement and uber-coolness, was actor David Cassidy, perfectly cast as Keith Partridge on the show that aired on ABC from 1970 to 1974. At the height of his fame, the star had more fan members in his fan club than Elvis or the Beatles.
My first-ever record purchase was the Partridge Family’s I Think I Love You, a 45-rpm released in 1970 on the Bell label. Acquiring this disc kickstarted my lifelong obsession and appreciation for a diverse array of music. It was several decades later that I discovered some interesting facts about this catchy tune and dozens of others featured on the television series. Clocking in at two minutes and 28 seconds, “I Think I Love You” was recorded in May 1970 at Western Recorders in Hollywood and became a breakout smash for the Partridge Family. The song sold over four million copies and soared to number one on the charts.
Written by Tony Romeo, arranged by Billy Strange, and produced by Wes Farrell, “I Think I Love You” was positioned on the A side of the single, with “Somebody Wants to Love You” slapped on the flipside. Personally, it wasn’t enough for me to swoon over the perfectly paired vocals of Cassidy and Shirley Jones, the actor’s real-life step mother, who was married to his father, actor Jack Cassidy. The Academy Award-winning actress also stepped into the role as Shirley Partridge, TV mother to Cassidy’s Keith. It was my growing, albeit sweeping curiosity about the musicianship and in-studio production of “I Think I Love You” and subsequently, every song recorded for the show that seemed way too polished, musically, for the likes of Cassidy’s co-stars, who portrayed his siblings on the series, to have handled and successfully carried out. In their respective roles, Susan Dey as Laurie, Danny Bonaduce as Danny, Suzanne Crough as Tracy and Jeremy Gelbwaks as Chris (later replaced by Brian Forster) all lip-synced to the songs and only pretended to play their instruments on stage and in rehearsals.
If those assigned membership in the Partridge Family weren’t responsible for all that perfect pitch, then, pray tell, who in La La Land was? In my quest for further knowledge about the sitcom’s history, I later learned that it was the Ron Hicklin Singers, who vocally graced those PF hits. The only ones who acted in the show and sang on it were stars David Cassidy and Shirley Jones. The second kicker that yielded its fruits of truth about the show’s soundtrack concerned the musical harvest behind such gems as “I Think I Love You,” “I’ll Meet You Halfway,” and “You Are Always On My Mind”. The amazing artistry contributed to the actual recording process was accomplished by the Wrecking Crew, an elite league of session players employed by the likes of Wall of Sound producer Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. Mike Melvoin, Larry Knechtel, Tommy Tedesco, Louie Shelton, Joe Osborne, and Hal Blaine, the iconic drummer who played on more recordings than any other musician in rock ‘n’ roll, were just some of the constituents in the Wrecking Crew responsible for the lush, stirring orchestral arrangements laureating the sonics on the Partridge Family.
The music garnishing the show extended way beyond my crazy school girl crush on David Cassidy. The aural impressions elevated my senses and inspired me to listen to all genres of music in a more profound, meaningful way. From then on, my radio dial was set to stations serving up the best of Motown, Philly Soul, R&B, Funk, Elton John, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, the Raspberries, Rick Derringer, the Righteous Brothers, Jackson Five. Once I had saved up more money, I frequented local record stores and bought albums that reflected my ever-expanding, musical preferences and tastes. However, it was the purchase of the soundtrack of the 1973 cult film, Electra Glide in Blue, that liberated my anxiety-riddled adolescence, once I put on those headphones and cranked up the volume, losing myself in the bombast and revelry of it all.
So much incredible music followed suit, sparking my reverence, drive for the visual aesthetic that eventually witnessed the commencement of my lifelong love affair with photography. Years later, I began a business that had me photographing some of the musicians I used to listen to on the radio during my youth.
All because of a saucer-shaped item, a 45-rpm, that I purchased nearly 50 years ago…Partridge Family, I don’t think, I know I love you.