March 21, 2018

It's all show biz, whether you're Zimmerman portraying the character of Dylan or Ron Dante portraying Archie Andrews. Authenticity and "relevance" is bunk.

A song for O├░insdagr once again. And it's back to Southampton, UK, Summer of 1992.

This is a Partridge Family cover that we played in most every set in those days, and was one of the songs on the B-side of the "Love American Style" 7". (The other was "Spiderman" - basically, zooming out, that record had a semi-unintended theme, and that theme was the possibly warped view of life and love you get when your picture of the world in formative years is only what was displayed on a TV screen ca. 1972. I don't know: I find something that works, I stick with it. And even if it doesn't work I tend to stick with it because, you know, you work with what ya got.)

As I believe I've mentioned before in one of these "minor secrets" write-ups, I'm at a loss to characterize the precise flavor of irony at work in this sort of cover song. It's not "camp," quite. And it certainly isn't meant as a straightforward joke, a la, "hey we're gonna play this cheesy song now, let's all laugh at how stupid it is". That's a kind of cover bands do all the time (and if you want an example, check out the the ISM cover of "I Think I Love You"...)

But I know people have taken it that way when we've done it with various songs (if they even realize it's a cover, which is a whole 'nother matter: I really doubt many of the kids in that Southampton crowd were thinking of the Partridge Family while we were playing it.) There is a bit of irony about it, just in the fact that a band like us is standing there "interpreting" a Partridge Family song. There just is. I suppose there's irony surrounding the entire enterprise of the Mr. T Experience, and in another sense everything is basically irony.

Anyway, if you know a bit about me, you won't be surprised to hear that my take on "Somebody Wants to Love You" is that it's a great song per se and full stop, and that our cover of it is as sincere or "serious" as, say, when some band covers Dylan or the Velvet Underground or whatever it is that people tend to cover "seriously." I've never understood the contempt with which the recorded work of fictional TV bands of that era was and still is routinely dismissed. I mean stuff like the Partridge Family, the Monkees, the Archies, the Banana Splits, the Wombles... There's this sense that it's some kind of disgraceful, shady fraud and moreover that it's an affront, somehow, to the legitimate, oh-so-important High Art created by more "authentic" acts. But: "acts". That's the giveaway. It's all show biz, whether you're Zimmerman portraying the character of Dylan or Ron Dante portraying Archie Andrews. Authenticity and "relevance" is bunk.

They got the greatest and best songwriters and musicians to create these recordings to fill out the recording artist conceit in what were in fact great collective, commercial art projects. And while the Partridge Family discography probably doesn't match that of the Monkees (and what could?) there are more gems there than in most bands' discographies and some of them are in fact genuine works of pop genius (e.g. "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque," "Brown Eyes," the present song, even "I Woke Up in Love this Morning.")

I was around five when The Partridge Family first aired, and I encountered it at some point thereafter because it was on after the Brady Bunch, which, to be honest, was more my speed. I thought of the Partridges as kind of the dark "hippie" side of the Bradys, and I was afraid of hippies because of that whole Manson thing. However, I thought Laurie was pretty. (It was also through Laurie that I first became aware of the Rolling Stones when she heard them through her braces that one time during a living room rehearsal.) And when I was asked by my twin aunts (who were only five years older than me because Catholic families) when they were babysitting me what my favorite group was I said the Partridge Family because it was the only group I knew the name of. They gave me Partridge Family albums, as a joke. (They were into Lou Reed and Bowie and such... they always used to tell me to take a walk on the wild side, and it blew my mind when I realized the source of that at some point later on.) And the result of this was, after I'd grown up all wrong, well, watch the video.

(And speaking of the video, I know there's some transfer warpage, insufficient data coming through at certain points, but I think it's kind of beautiful, and anyway it's all we got.)

So, that'll just about do it, praise Odin. Go over to my channel, subscribe, and like everything and leave comments. More to come.

Posted by Dr. Frank at March 21, 2018 07:35 PM