339. ‘Daydreamer’ / ‘The Puppy Song’, by David Cassidy

I was a bit underwhelmed by David Cassidy’s first #1 – his cover of ‘How Can I Be Sure’ – to the extent that I gave it a ‘Meh’ Award. But no hard feelings, Dave – I approach this double-‘A’ with open ears.

Daydreamer / The Puppy Song, by David Cassidy (his 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 21st October – 11th November 1973

I do like his committed yet breathy delivery, the way he commits to every, single, sy-lla-ble. I remember April, When the sun was in the sky… I was worried when I pressed play and was presented with the lightest, tinkliest seventies soft-rock intro. But by the time we get to the chorus it’s turned into a nice, swaying pop song, with more than a hint of Bacharach and David to it: I’m… Just… A… Daydreamer, Walking in the rain…

Back in the spring he was in love; now he wanders after rainbows. You get the feeling he’ll be alright, though… Life is much too beautiful, To live it all alone… as he saunters off after that pot of gold. I would like another extra little hook to sell it to me properly. As it is, I quite like it – he won’t be winning another ‘Meh’ award for this one.

Another reason why this disc won’t be getting described as ‘Meh’ is thanks to the song on the flip-side. I have to admit, before listening to it, I feared the worst. The aural scars from the last chart-topper to feature the word ‘Puppy’ still linger. But I needn’t have worried, ‘The Puppy Song’ is a fun, music-hall tune.

If only I could have a puppy, I’d call myself so very lucky… He wants a pup, one to take everywhere and share a cup of tea with (dog’s don’t drink tea, David!) I know that he, No he’d never bite me… Part of me does wonder if the ‘puppy’ is going to be a metaphor – Cassidy’s ‘ding-a-ling’ as it were – but nope. It’s simply a song about wanting a friend.

It’s just as lightweight as ‘Daydreamer’; but more fun. David sounds like he’s enjoying himself, scatting and ad-libbing away. Come the end his friends have joined him for a good old fashioned knees-up… We, We’d be so happy together, Yodelly-odelly-odelly-oh! It’s a song so catchy and good-natured that I can even forgive the slight forays into yodelling.

Though it sounds like a relic from the 1920s, ‘The Puppy Song’ dates from as recently as 1969, when Harry Nilsson featured it on his first album. He had written it for another earlier chart-topper, Miss Mary Hopkin, who also included it on an album. Neither of these three versions stray very far from one another, but think I like the goofiness of Cassidy’s version best.

So, David Cassidy’s brief UK chart-topping career ends on a bit of a high with two very different sounding songs (though I do like the fact that they are both almost exactly the same length). He’d have one further Top 10 hit, though the truth was he struggled with his teen-idol status, and longed to be taken more seriously. The hysteria that followed him around was never to his liking, and it culminated in the death of a fourteen-year-old fan in a stampede at one of his shows in London. He quit touring and acting in 1975, focusing more on recording the music he wanted to. I remember him as a fixture on chat shows and light-entertainment growing up, but it seems he never really managed to feel at ease with himself and his public image. He died from liver-failure in 2017.

Which suddenly turns the silliness of ‘The Puppy Song’ into a tears-of-a-clown moment… Maybe he wasn’t enjoying himself very much at all when he recorded it. Maybe he really did just want a friend? A bit of a downer to end on, maybe. But then, the pop music business often isn’t as happy as the executives would have us believe. RIP David.

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…

nintchdbpict000368494384

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.

s-l400

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…