Possibly the creepiest and weirdest bubblegum love song ever written, I Think I Love You is little heard today, beyond its deployment as an ironic pointer to a different kind of teen sensibility than that currently ‘enjoyed’ by the youth of the West.
MTV seemed to like it for a while, particularly in the States, and it’s certainly advertiser-friendly. It’s just that, you know, no-one likes to listen to the perky little pop song anymore or to be reminded of the smutty undertones that once gave it a certain louche anti-charm. Born of the (today slightly baffling) phenomenon that was The Partridge Family television series (they’re a family that sing songs like The Monkees, and they travel around on a multi-coloured bus!), I Think I Love You was one of a slew of – mainly sweet poptastic – hits from the ABC schedule stalwart.
And it certainly annoyed a lot of people at the time.
The Partridge Family focused on a widowed mother and her five children (wait, actually it’s more like The Brady Bunch, with guitars and keyboards) living in San Pueblo, a made-up (i.e. idyllic) town in California. It was originally broadcast from 1970 to 1974 and featured sometime teen-sensation and then Vegas pleaser, David Cassidy as its star.
Start the screaming.
In The Partridge Family Cassidy played Shirley Jones's oldest son, Keith Partridge, which is slightly ironic, as in real life Cassidy is Jones' real-life stepson, though that is nothing to the curio’ that lay at the heart of the relationship of Cassidy to Susan Dey, his teenage Partridge Family sister.
More of which later.
“This morning, I woke up with this feeling/I didn’t know how to deal with/And so I just decided to myself/I’d hide it to myself/And never talk about it,” Cassidy sings (slightly hysterically) in I Think I Love You.
And I think we know where he is going with this.
Before The Partridge Family, the late Cassidy had appeared on a variety of mainstream American TV plodders, before The Partridge Family blew him, his pearly voice, big grin and bouncy, shaggy hair into the higher reaches of the teen-scream universe, and made him a star, the whole world over (though particularly in Britain, where even today Cassidy maintains a fanbase of - let’s be honest about this - middle-aged women who cannot forget the corruptions they once planned to play on the young American).
That’s your mum I’m talking about there.
When he started working on The Partridge Family, nobody actually knew that Cassidy could sing, until he brought it up. He then took over the lead vocals for the programme’s recordings and soon became a genuine teen idol, partly because of the looks (sweet, healthy, tanned), partly because of his acting (lots of grins, a certain kind of nervous energy) and partly because of his voice (emotive, powerful and with a hint of menace). Television put that combination of hot elements together, packaged it and dropped it in front of a generation of young women being tickled by feminism. And they liked what they saw and heard.
Ten albums by The Partridge Family and several solo albums from Cassidy followed and, partly as a result, at his peak, Cassidy was one of the world's highest-paid live entertainers (though out of the approximate $500 million that The Partridge Family made, Cassidy was allegedly paid only $15,000).
Rebelling against the squeaky-clean image built around Keith Partridge, Cassidy also caused a bit of a stir by posing nude in a 1972 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, (shot naturally – and coolly - by Annie Leibovitz), though the Cassidy juggernaut really came off the road in 1974, when a gate stampede at one of Cassidy’s concerts resulted in the death of a teenage fan.
At the show, in London's White City Stadium on 26 May, 650 people were injured and thirty were taken to hospital, but it was 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan who died as a result of her injuries (a shaken Cassidy would later face the press and call it a day - for a while, anyway).
By this point, Cassidy had already decided to quit touring and acting in The Partridge Family. He would later release three (generally well-received) solo albums and continued touring, stirring-up memories, doing a little bit of acting, and reminding our mums of happier times before his death from liver failure in 2017.
I Think I Love You, with its gothic harpsichord, weirdy ba-ba-bas and overly urgent vocals paints a pretty torrid tale of teen lust and confusion, and the burying of a guilty secret and is very much of that moment of fame which Cassidy disregarded so decisively all those years ago.
He revealed once in an interview that he had sex with his Partridge Family co-star Susan Dey. He also said that he wasn't attracted to the teenage actress initially, but that she was so determined to sleep with him that he gave in. Cassidy even went so far as to tell the tabloid The Glove "I find a certain sluttiness very attractive in a woman, and Susan just didn't have it. She was sweetness and innocence, a good girl, and I couldn't think of her as anything but my sister."
The antithesis then of the sour and exciting for-all-the-wrong-reasons presumption that haunts I Think I Love You.