320. ‘How Can I Be Sure’, by David Cassidy

Unluckily for David Cassidy, I arrive at his first UK chart-topper – ‘How Can I Be Sure’ – and instantly think of Dusty Springfield’s version of the same song. It’s a version that I’ve known for years, and it puts young Cassidy at a bit of a disadvantage…

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How Can I Be Sure, by David Cassidy (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 24th September – 8th October 1972

…for which singer would want to be compared against Dusty? But hey. I’ll try to keep an open mind. This version opens a little gently: echoing guitars backed by an annoying ting – like a typewriter reaching the end of a line – before settling into a French accordion’s sway. Whenever I, Whenever I am away from you… I wanna die, Because you know I wanna stay with you…

Dramatic, right? Except this record never quite reaches the levels needed to sell the lyrics. How can I be sure? I really, really, really, really wanna know… He loves someone, but is overcome with self-doubt. Do they really love him back? How can he ever know? And that’s before you add in the ‘alibi’, who’s going around spreading nasty rumours about him… It’s just a shame that he sings it, for the most part, in a crooning style, never really letting loose. He sings it nicely, and enunciates his words wonderfully, but I’m not sold.

At least it’s not too sickly saccharine. I still have the aftertaste of ‘Puppy Love’ in the back of my throat… In my mind (and remember this all came a decade before I was born), Cassidy was the main rival of Donny Osmond, with the two pre-eminent teen-idols of the day competing to see who had the whitest smile and the most perfectly set hair. Both came from a showbiz family too, though Cassidy’s was the made-for-TV ‘Partridge Family’. In reality, Cassidy was a decade older than Osmond, so they would surely have been competing for different audiences, and by 1972 he had been photographed nude on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ by Annie Liebovitz and had been reported to have taken – shock horror – recreational drugs.

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So, David 1 Donny 0, if indeed it was a competition at all. You would, after all, have to go to some lengths to make a worse record than ‘Puppy Love’. At the same time, I’m struggling to have a strong opinion on this song. It’s fine. It’s nice enough. It’s no Dusty. It’s the perfect proof of a truly great singer, when they can take lyrics that sound a little trite in the voice of another, and give them meaning… But I do like the ending here, as the lines How can I, How can I, How can I… tumble and cascade over one another, like a wonky soundtrack in a circus big-top.

‘How Can I Be Sure’ had been around for a few years by the time David Cassidy recorded his version. It was originally a hit for The Young Rascals in 1967 – their version is meh – before Dusty in 1970 and David two years after that. And we’ll hold off on a full Cassidy bio, as he has another #1 to come in a year or so. Though, I have to admit that, until a few seconds ago, I had no idea that he passed away a few years ago…

14 thoughts on “320. ‘How Can I Be Sure’, by David Cassidy

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    David was actually really talented and if he would broken in music only and not on the Partridge Family…he could have been successful without the yucky teenage idol residue. He would be on set with a guitar playing Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile… Donnie…I have no sympathy…but David I did.

  2. I never watched any re-runs of The Partridge Family. I might have, but there never seemed to be any on. The Brady Bunch is the one that was always on syndicate. I know every episode by heart. LOL.

  3. He had a great voice but, this is way too close to a Dean Martin piece. I remember The Young Rascals version and I wasn’t fond of it, either. In this case, I like the singer, not the song.

  4. I adore this version (and I love Dusty’s too) of the song, it’s one of my self-indulgent feeling-down-and-self-pitying cathartic singalong go-to’s along with Walk On By, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, I’m Gonna Be Strong, It’s Over, I cry along bucketloads. In other words fits right on in with tear-jerker powerful ballads. I was mad keen Partridge Family fan in 1970/72 (I was 12 to 14, the right age) and was less keen on solo david cos the teen girls in my class loved him (Donny was pre-12-year-olds generally) and it wasn’t therefore cool. I liked this one at the time, but didn’t love it like I do now. I love his singing style, he commits to a song, sometimes over-emotes, and his biggest crime was he inspired Michael Bolton!

    Darlin’ David was never really comfortable with the teenybop thing, he stopped touring in 1974 after a British fan died at one of his gigs, he switched record label, tried to go adult-oriented but it didn’t work really, until George Michael rescued him in 1986 with The Last Kiss. Yes that’s George on that track.

    Essential Cassidy: I Think I Love You, It’s One Of Those Nights, this, I’m A Clown, Could It Be Forever, and a bunch of Partridge bubblegum pop goodies, The Last Kiss. His live version of Please Please Me, or Beach Boys cover Darlin’ is the closest he got to rockin’ it, he was clearly picking stuff HE loved by that stage.

      1. 🙂 I’m not saying he’s got a voice like a foghorn, but the other year he appeared at a coastal country park outdoor festival about a quarter of a mile away from my house, and I swear several ocean vessels ended up crashing into rocks confused by the sounds… 🙂

  5. Pingback: Recap: #301 – #330 – The UK Number Ones Blog

  6. Pingback: 339. ‘Daydreamer’ / ‘The Puppy Song’, by David Cassidy – The UK Number Ones Blog

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