Boy About Town Chapter By Song #50
COULD IT BE FOREVER
I HAVE RECEIVED A FAIR AMOUNT OF GOOD-NATURED STICK for opening Boy About Town with the admission that my first proper 7” single purchase was for David Cassidy’s ‘Could It Be Forever’. I offer as my defence the entirely justifiable excuse that I had no idea what to purchase (being at the record store primarily to satisfy my older brother’s demand for David Bowie’s ‘Starman’) and had never heard David Cassidy before. It’s a defence I somewhat compromise, however, with the following paragraph:
When I finally got to hear it in full, at home, ‘Could It Be Forever’ was sugary sweet almost to the point of sickliness, nothing like the alien sounds of David Bowie’s ‘Starman.’ But once I convinced myself that I liked it anyway, then David Cassidy’s feminine face revealed itself as deeply handsome, a fragile symbol of male tenderness. I tried to assure myself that his shoulder length hair mirrored my own bowl-like cut, even though his was dark and mine was blonde. If David Cassidy could look so girly and yet be so popular, then one day, I figured, so could I.
…At which my 1972 self then set about trying to catch up with the entire David Cassidy and The Partridge Family back catalogue.
Partly because I had written a decent draft of this opening chapter many many years ago (you can find it on iJamming! from the year 2000 if you poke around), I did not revisit the song itself while working on the final manuscript. Listening to it more recently, however, I was pleasantly surprised. ‘Could It Be Forever’ is nothing to be ashamed about – not from the perspective of the 8-yr old who purchased it back in 1972, not from that of the 21-yr old who recorded it, and not from that of the 49-yr old currently listening to it all over again and being transported instantly back in time to his childhood. Listen for yourself:
More than merely a pin-up puppet, Cassidy co-wrote this, his debut British hit (which peaked at number two), as he did most of the songs on the accompanying album, Cherish (the title track of which was, oddly, his only top ten American solo hit single). In this particular instance, his partners in writing crime were Danny Janssen and Wes Farrell, the latter who served as Cassidy and the Partridge Family’s musical producer and came with a considerable resumé in commercial rhythm & blues, which began – some might say it peaked – when he co-wrote ‘Boys’ for the Shirelles alongside Luther Dixon. Farrell’s production of ‘Could It Be Forever’ features as its backing band the infamous Wrecking Crew, including Hal Blaine on drums and Larry Carlton on guitar, with sixties sunshine hangovers the Love Generation supplying those overbearing backing vocals. Lacking a chorus as such, ‘Could It Be Forever’ is free to establish its main hook within twenty-five seconds and is essentially spent by the two-minute mark, at which an impressively forceful Cassidy gives the impression that he is ad-libbing as the song fades out a mere 75 seconds after it starts. ‘All Around The World’ by The Jam, a single I bought five years later under almost identical circumstances and initially derided for being ‘too short’, was, in fact, longer.
Of the four Cassidy/Partridge Family singles I purchased before moving on musically, ‘Could It Be Forever’ is by far the best. Cassidy’s UK solo follow-up, ‘How Can I Be Sure’ had been a massive hit for the Rascals in 1967, composed by that band’s Felix Cavaliere for the same muse as inspired the immortal ‘Groovin’, but has not stood the test of time so well. Nor has the Partridge Family’s “own” ‘I Think I Love You’ – an American number one in 1970 – or their subsequent take on ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,’ which, while researching this post, placed me in the rare position of seeking out a Neil Sedaka recording for musical authenticity.
In doing so, I realized that David Cassidy had a major advantage over his fictional screen counterpart, Keith Partridge, in that his studio recordings were not only less overtly saccharine, but were additionally spared the lasting visual association with the TV show. It is hard to watch the Partridge Family butcher a song as magnificent as ‘Walking In The Rain’ and not feel like an accomplice to an atrocity:
Though it goes unstated in Boy About Town, my abiding memory of Cassidy is not so much my temporary musical infatuation, but the death that occurred at his White City Stadium concert in 1974. In a scene that sounds like something out of ‘Sally Simpson’, 35,000 thousand teenyboppers had been penned into the stadium like dutiful veal, and in their hyped-up hysteria, they (predictably?) pushed forward, crushing and trampling each other. Fourteen-year old Bernadette Whelan became the first ever (recorded) fatality at a British pop concert and Cassidy endured the public ignominy of being held personally responsible, and the private anguish that must have come with it.
I had clung through the years to a belief that Cassidy retired from performing as a result of that incident; it turns out that he had already announced his retirement, and in fact White City was scheduled to be his penultimate show. (He bowed out in Manchester, intriguingly.) But there was nowhere for Cassidy to go. The now 24-year old clearly had talent, especially as a singer, but he would never be able to shake off his teeny-bop image, and despite many attempts at musical reinvention, ultimately had little choice but to re-embrace his Partridge Family and pin-up legacy as a primary means of generating income. Legions of boy bands and girl groups have encountered the same sad truth over the ensuing decades, and yet still they come at us, like lambs to the slaughter, the lesson un-heeded in the glare of the inviting spotlight. And though I half-heartedly apologise for two meat-is-murder metaphors in as many paragraphs, I offer no regrets for David Cassidy being my first love. Indeed, I put out a challenge to any of the new soul revivalists: consider a cover of ‘Could It Be Forever’. It deserves the re-evaluation.
I have no idea what became of my picture sleeve single of ‘Could It Be Forever’. But the other 7″ single sung by a David that we purchased that day in 1972 – Bowie’s ‘Starman’ backed with ‘Suffragette City’ – was soon relieved from the burden of my brother’s ownership. It sits on my singles shelf to this day, from which I occasionally pull it out for a trip down memory lane – to Counterpoint Records on Westow Street, Crystal Palace, “a Saturday in summer,” where the record-collecting bug first, inadvertently, took hold.
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