Cassidymania: Why young girls (and boys) just loved teen pop idol David
They were innocent days when romance lasted forever, says Lindy McDowell:
In these days of cool music acts like Stormzy and The Weeknd, with their pointed views on politics and disdain for vowels, the late David Cassidy may seem like a quaint throwback to more innocent, cheesier times.
But the reality is, there's a David Cassidy in every generation. And they follow a template.
A good voice, doe eyes, a lost-looking pout and abundant hair. Boyish and borderline androgynous.
Donny Osmond, Jason Donovan, George Michael, Justin Beiber, Bruno Mars, Harry Styles... you could fill a tour bus with the type.
David Cassidy wasn't even the first. But for a long, long time he was undoubtedly the greatest. The undisputed poster boy of pop.
He came to prominence as Keith in The Partridge Family, the American sitcom about an ordinary, everyday, family who managed to fit in appearances at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with the humdrum of Seventies suburban life, smart quips and music rehearsal in their garage.
But within a few short years 'Keith' had flown the Partridge nest for a real-life career as David Cassidy, global pop sensation, winging his way into millions of teenage hearts and on to millions of bedroom walls.
Cassidymania, as it was clumsily called, had arrived.
Our bedrooms in the 70s were papered with posters mostly culled from Jackie, the glossy mag which was as compulsory for girls back then as Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was, contemporaneously, for the Politburo in Beijing.
(I once plastered my room with so many Jackie pictures of favoured stars that I had to take half of them down again on account of the uncomfortable feeling that there were eyes watching me from all angles.)
Given the hysteria, Cassidy was, needless to say, a Jackie stalwart.
The magazine's readers loved him. Their circulation department must have adored him.
The songs that powered his career were inevitably international hits. Pop was less political back then. Cassidy sang about cherishing and daydreaming and thinking he loved me (teenage girls tend to take lyrics personally).
Could it be forever?
Sadly nothing ever is, is it?
Cassidy himself was said to be frustrated that he'd been shoehorned into the bubblegum pop category.
At one point, attempting to counter the saccharine image, he appeared naked (although with the picture coyly cropped) on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Inside he talked drugs and wanton behaviour.
I have to say, I have no memory of this publication ever making it to south Derry.
On our school bus, David Cassidy remained a picture of innocence.
His centre-parted hair was still as unruffled as his cherubic image.
On our bus he kept his cheesecloth shirt on.
Cassidy's acting career inevitably took second place to his singing - although down the years he'd appeared in shows as diverse as Bonanza and, more latterly, CSI.
But the mad frenzy of Cassidymania took its toll.
Like many a pop sensation who came after, he later admitted he found the hysteria, the attention, hard to handle.
At one of his sell-out concerts in London, a number of fans were injured in the crush.
Tragically one young girl, with an existing medical problem, died a few days later. Cassidy was understandably horrified. He said it would haunt him to his grave.
Back when he gave that controversial interview to Rolling Stone, the 21-year-old Cassidy had expressed his difficulty dealing with the pressures of a high-profile career.
He described how he could see himself five years in the future.
"I'm living on an island. The sky is blue, the sun is shining. And I'm smiling, I'm healthy, I'm a family man. I see my skin very brown and leathery, with a bit of growth on my face. My hair is really long, with a lot of grey...
"I have some grey hair already," he added.
Who was he trying to kid?
The idea of David Cassidy growing old was as unthinkable as Mick Jagger getting a beer belly.
Even in later years he retained the boyish looks which had first catapulted him to stardom - and then cemented him within the pop mould.
True, the hairline eventually receded a bit and the waistline expanded a bit and the eyebrows did seem to have been raised a little. But Cassidy's country of birth, you'd still have been tempted to suggest, was the Land of the Ever Young.
In recent times he'd campaigned to raise awareness of the dementia from which his mother had died.
Sadly, that same cruel condition also took his own life at the relatively early age of 67.
Actress Marlee Matlin summed up the sentiments of an entire generation when she tweeted: "To me and millions of us you were forever young."
Marie Osmond tweeted her memories of those magazine posters we'd all once collected.
A heartthrob. That was what the magazines used to call him back then. An almost comical word.
And yet a legion of hearts right across the world surely would have skipped just a little this week at the sorrowful news of the death of David Cassidy.
As always, it's not just the passing of the man himself that touches us, it's also about the passage of our own lives - and of youth as fleeting and ephemeral as those faded old paper posters.
But yes, good memories to cherish too. Of daft fun, and great friends and girlish infatuation.
And innocent days when we really thought that it could be forever.
John Laverty: His star burned more brightly than others... but not for long enough
It was David Cassidy who introduced me to envy. He was the first person I wished I could be, and it galled that he was running around being David Cassidy and I wasn’t.
But neither the lifestyle nor screaming hordes rendered me green-eyed; I was, after all, only nine.
No, it was simply David himself. I just loved the way he looked and acted … in hindsight, a classic metrosexual — four decades before the phrase was even coined.
Girls wanted to be with him, boys wanted to be like him yet, even at his zenith in 1972, the then 21-year-old came across as affable, approachable and (apparently) unaffected by it all.
And that creamy, breathy voice! First brought to my formative ears via Looking Through The Eyes of Love and I Think I Love You with the cheesy Partridge Family, it seemed to descend an octave or two during that ephemeral period when he was the world’s biggest pop star.
I’m pretty sure the late George Michael — of similar age to me during Cassidy’s halcyon days — modelled his own melodious voice on the impossibly good-looking New Yorker’s. (It’s hardly a coincidence that Michael both wrote and sang on Cassidy’s career-reviving mid-80s hit, The Last Kiss).
Of course, adoration of the androgynous, hazel-eyed David ran concurrently with hatred of rival teenybopper/weenybopper idol Donny Osmond (right).
All smarm and no charm, The Toothy One also enjoyed simultaneous solo and family group success — and his (clean-cut Mormon) family was real, unlike David/Keith Partridge’s.
But my boy always came across as the cooler, edgier dude, the classier performer, the singer of better songs. He also appeared more times on the cover of Jackie, and was less girly-looking even though he had longer hair.
Even the future Mrs Osmond later admitted that she was a ‘David girl’ back in the day.
Looking back now, the rivalry was clearly manufactured and, as far as the two young superstars (and their agents) were concerned, there were no losers.
The Beatles had recently split, Elvis was marooned in Vegas, Elton and Rod didn’t appeal, aesthetically or musically, to youngsters and Bowie and Bolan hadn’t got into their stride.
There was a gap in the market to be exploited, and us teens and pre-teens all bought into it.
So the pocket money went on 3D postcards, keyrings, posters, caps, fanzines, scarves, t-shirts, pencil cases, money boxes (ironically) and mugs (appropriately) … anything with David’s flawless features emblazoned on them.
Parents of that time were no doubt relieved that their pre-pubescent progenies supported only one of the supposedly warring heart-throbs.
I’ve no idea when I stopped loving David. Maybe when you reach double figures, the music matters more.
And, by 1974, when the best he could come up with was a cover of Please Please Me, I’d already stepped off that bus and hitched onto Mud, Wings and Abba.
That was the same year Cassidy quit touring (and acting) after a young fan was fatally crushed at a London concert. Cassidymania was over, but he’d had enough of that anyway.
He coveted older fans, wanted his legacy to mirror that of his good pal Elton, dreamt of being taken seriously as a ‘recording artist’ (again, a path George Michael would follow) but it never really happened.
And, if you read his autobiography, you’ll know he was haunted by that perceived failure for the rest of his drug, drink and depression-addled days. That book, incidentally, was the first Cassidy-related thing I’d bought in 40 years.
He gave up singing when he could no long remember the lyrics. He’d already forgotten how good he was.
Three well known faces on why they adored the all-American boy
Pamela Ballantine (59), UTV presenter, says:
“I was a massive fan of David Cassidy. The news of his death was so sad, but I think it was even sadder to see him a few years ago when it was clear he’d gone downhill terribly and was very ill.
I suspect that for him it was a release as organ failure causes such terrible suffering.
I loved the Partridge Family, the American comedy in which David Cassidy played the eldest of five children who began a music career. And I absolutely loved David Cassidy’s music too. Some of my favourite songs are Could It Be Forever, I Am A Clown and Cherish — I have them on my iPod.
Among my friends there was the typical rivalry between David Cassidy and Donny Osmond fans — you were in one camp or the other. I was firmly in the Cassidy camp. To this day, I have a David Cassidy songbook (above) which has a couple of photos of him with no clothes on and only a very carefully placed dog to cover his modesty. I also had a pillowcase and an orange T-shirt with his face on it.”
Alison Clarke, owner of ACA model agency in Belfast, says:
“My friends and I were all fans of David Cassidy when we were teenagers. I didn’t see his TV shows, like the Partridge Family, which was so popular, but I loved his music. I couldn’t name a particular favourite — we all just loved whatever he sang. And really, it was more about his looks — the long hair and the pretty smile.
I had posters in my bedroom — they came from Jackie magazine which all the girls read. The magazine actually did a special issue to mark David Cassidy’s UK tour. David Cassidy and Donny Osmond were loved by all the girls at that time — they were the dream boys. It is very sad to hear of Cassidy’s death at such a young age.”
Lynda Bryans (55), a lecturer in journalism at Belfast Metropolitan College and former UTV presenter, says:
“I loved David Cassidy and I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. My bedroom walls were papered in posters of him. He was the all-American pretty boy.
As a child of the Seventies, my most formative and important years, David Cassidy was a big part of growing up.
He was such a beautiful boy — that floppy hair, straight white teeth, tanned face and twinkly smile — everything that a pop idol should be. I wondered why there was no-one like him in my class.
I loved the Partridge Family TV show which also starred Shirley Jones but David Cassidy definitely stood out.
And I just loved all his music — I knew all his records and when they played some songs on the radio this morning in tribute, I could sing along with every word. I particularly liked Could It Be Forever, and then there was The Puppy Song which stands out. I remember wondering why he never came here to do a concert — and then when he eventually did, it was too late because I was over him!
When I worked at U105 I played David Cassidy on the radio all the time — and then when the record company issued a CD of his greatest hits the producer gave me a copy. I suppose since Elvis and The Beatles he was for my generation proper fainting material.
My friends were mainly fans of either David Cassidy or Donny Osmond — growing up in Northern Ireland, it seemed as though everybody had spots but we could at least drool over these pretty American boys.”