An immediate TV ratings champ when it debuted on ABC in September 1970, was The Partridge Family. The show was based on a fictional pop group made up of three brothers and two sisters, along with their widowed mother, Shirley Partridge, played by veteran stage and screen actress, Shirley Jones. This was back in the glorious pre-Internet days when there only were three networks and three channels — period. Consequently, I’d never before seen or heard anything like this “band.” Of course, there was The Monkees, another made-for-TV pop group, but their music and image didn’t “speak” to me like The Partridge Family. Not for nothing, but I was seven at the time.

The band was fronted by Keith Partridge, played by real-life rocker, David Cassidy. He had a fabulously feathered, shoulder-length coif and he wore cool clothes. He also played an electric guitar, and chicks went crazy every time he opened his mouth. Gee willikers, Mom — I want cool hair and hot chicks too!

Another alluring aspect of The Partridge Family, for me and throngs of other adoring pre-tween boys, was Keith’s lip-syncing sister, Laurie Partridge. Played by then-relatively unknown 18-year-old actress/model, Susan Dey, Laurie Partridge was an exquisite beauty and my first pin-up girl. She was tall and slender with long straight brown hair. Heck, even I could sniff out her intriguing and mysterious qualities.

I bought every Partridge Family record that came down the pike — until 1973, when the storyline and the ratings began to sputter. I ground those LPs into vinyl dust on my dandy Close ‘n Play, before moving on to Elton John, Alice Cooper, the Ohio Players and a more sophisticated 8-track hi-fi.

Fueled by the massive #1 single, “I Think I Love You,” the debut Partridge album dropped in October 1970 and stirred an instant sensation. The first of six Partridge titles to achieve gold status, it reached #4 on the Billboard Top 200. Released via Bell Records, just four months later, in February 1971, their sophomore set, Up to Date, also would “go gold” in short order. Boasting TWO irresistible Top Ten singles; the sunny earworm “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” (#6) and the soaring mid tempo “I’ll Meet You Halfway” (#9), the album peaked at #3.

“While there was no #1 single (e.g.,
‘I Think I Love You’), Up to Date
was much like Zeppelin III, in that
the sum was greater than the parts.”
-Bryan Dumas
(Co-author of Superstar)

The Partridge Family

The iconic Meat Loaf album, Bat Out of Hell first hit stores in late 1977. And it was an impressive team effort — producer Todd Rundgren, sole songwriter Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf on lead vocals, and a slew of top-name session players. With its equally impressive team, Up to Date was no different — veteran producer Wes Farrell, celebrated songwriters Gerry Goffin, Tony Romeo and Mike Appel, renown studio musicians from the Wrecking Crew, David Cassidy on lead vocals and his real-life stepmother Shirley Jones providing prominent backing vocals. Cassidy even contributed to the record’s songwriting, collaborating with Farrell on the crunchy, coliseum-caliber, “Lay It on the Line.”

“A marvel of smart pop songwriting with
immaculate, sumptuous production and backing
by famed LA session cats, The Wrecking Crew.
Up To Date is a prime showcase for David Cassidy’s
rich, warm vocals and inspired phrasing.”
-Ken Sharp
(Author of SOUND EXPLOSION:
Inside L.A.’s Studio Factory with the Wrecking Crew)

Awash in lush backing vocals provided by the Ron Hicklin Singers and the Love Generation, and polished to perfection with gorgeous orchestration, Up to Date lovingly embraced the soft pop vibe of the late ‘60s. But what gave the record (then) current cred was the lethal cocktail of Cassidy’s super-rock star vocals combined with Hal Blaine’s signature-style, punchy, precision drumming and the versatile ace guitar work of Dennis Budimir and Louie Shelton. The only thing that comprised the record’s cred was the music’s connection to what some connoisseurs may have perceived as a “campy” sitcom.

Overseen by Bell Records art director, Beverly Weinstein, the eye-catching, pop art album cover was designed to resemble a calendar, boasting photos and birth dates of the TV “family” cast members. Having just turned eight, my only personal complaint was that the pic of Susan Dey wasn’t larger.

The Buick-sized hooks are bountiful, from start to finish. And as a guy who ain’t scared of a massive hook, “You Are Always On My Mind,” “Umbrella Man” and “That’ll Be The Day” rank among a few of my personal faves.

The Partridge Family first popped onto my radar when I was just a little kid. Hey Mom — can we go see “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?” In my teens, they’d become dated. Two tickets to “Caddyshack,” please! However, in my 30s, I rediscovered the magic and I traded in my scratchy old Partridge LPs for shiny new CD copies. Run, Forrest, run!

I’m now a little old man. And I’ll confess openly that without the aid of my talented salon tech, my (remaining) hair would be snow white. My eyesight is fading by the day, my hearing is totally toasted, my schmeckle hasn’t functioned properly in a decade, AND I gotta piss every 15 minutes! Recently, as I hobbled into a local used record shop, I spotted a MINT vinyl copy of Up to Date — for $10. SOLD! Clearly, the store owner had no idea what she had. Despite the crispness of the digital format (especially for the classic pop records of that era), you can’t beat vinyl.

In sum, Up to Date remains a sparkling example of pure pop craftsmanship. 50 years on, its still a personal favorite. And I still wanna be David Cassidy!

Up to Date Track Listing:

Side One:
1. I’ll Meet You Halfway (3:47)
2. You Are Always on My Mind (2:53)
3. Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted (2:46)
4. I’m Here, You’re Here (2:51)
5. Umbrella Man (2:44)
6. Lay It on the Line (2:34)

Side Two:
1. Morning Rider on the Road (3:01)
2. That’ll Be the Day (2:45)
3. There’s No Doubt in My Mind (2:29)
4. She’d Rather Have the Rain (3:17)
5. I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time (2:27)

Run Time: 31:34
Release Date: February 1, 1971
Record Label: Bell Records

Christopher Long is a celebrated author, entertainment writer, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and international missionary. Referred to once as "the rock and roll Erma Bombeck," Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and possessing a passion for sharing his unique pop culture perspectives. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Christopher Long currently lives near Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)