One of the very first responses I received after posting my reader solicitation for this column was from a friend of Tha ‘Dose named Sandy, alias Reader QQ. I’m not sure when I encountered QQ in the past, but I must have either wrecked her husband or slept with her car, because her suggested listening for me was That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll: Shaun Cassidy Live.
Remember: I can’t say no. Not even to a live album from Shaun Cassidy. See? I’m serious about this shit.
Shaun Cassidy, for those of you too young to recall, was the half-brother of Partridge Family heartthrob David Cassidy (that probably doesn’t help you young ‘uns, I know), and a Tiger Beat pinup in his own right, circa 1977 through 1979. He starred (alongside Parker Stevenson) in a TV version of the Hardy Boys mystery novels and, since every teenybop actor of the period (from brother David to Kristy McNichol) was supposed to sing as well, he started making records. These, believe it or not, were decent records—mostly classic covers (“Da Doo Ron Ron,” which went to Number One) and covers of things Eric Carmen squeezed out after he left the Raspberries (“That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Hey Deanie,” both Top Ten hits). They were fun and frothy bubblegum singles as only the ’70s could generate, best listened to at 45 RPM on the cheapest record players possible.
Cassidy had a voice tailor-made for 12-year-old girls to scream along with—husky and sorta masculine, with affectation to spare, particularly when engaged in the occasional pout to prove his love to his beloved of choice. It was the aural equivalent of the satin tour jacket so popular back in the day, and the kiddies went nuts over it. For proof, listen no further than the “We want Shaun” chant that precedes “Break for the Street” on Cassidy’s live album (and let’s not kid ourselves here—this record is about as “live” as Dark Side of the Moon. I refer you back to Popdose’s official innkeeper, Tom Werman, for a note or two on how “live” live records truly are ). For a brief, shining moment, Shaun Cassidy held the whole world in his trembling, hairless hand.
“Break for the Street”—a rare Cassidy original—was an attempt at toughness, a laughable goal at that, but one that the screamin’ chickie-poos in the first few rows totally bought into. He wastes no time bringing out the big gun afterward—”Hey Deanie,” sped up a bit from the original single, gets the kiddies right where they live. When he sings, “Hey Deanie, won’t you come out tonight,” you can imagine all the hormones in the room rising from their hosts and dancing in the air over the arena crowd.
He plows through some more rock classics—Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” gets the Cassidy treatment, and it resembles an Elvis impersonator impersonating a second Elvis impersonator impersonating Elvis, impersonating Little Richard. The original “Rip It Up” is a song I put on when I’m in a bad mood and don’t want to be; this version makes me want to take a Louisville Slugger to the first person I encounter on the street, and if that person happens to be an Elvis impersonator, all the better.
Something I find amusing is Cassidy’s take on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which sounds a lot like Hall & Oates’ version of the song, only this one came out two years before Daryl and John’s. Could the great life partners of Philly blue-eyed soul have lifted their arrangement from a Shaun Cassidy record? Take a listen and judge for yourself. Regardless, Cassidy does not have an Oates, much to his detriment.
Of course, we also have Cassidy doing Carmen’s “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which is most certainly not rock ‘n’ roll, and a really loud version of the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron,” allegedly with the Crystals themselves on background vocals, though you cannot hear them over the din of the band.
Elsewhere, you can hear the dipshit soul of “She’s Right” rub up against more manly, “ballsy” rock like “Hard Love,” “Bad Boy,” and the ridiculous sprint of “Slow Down.” In each, Cassidy essentially plays a character, just like his Joe Hardy, though not nearly as convincingly. The hard rockin’ dude he’s portraying is so obviously an artifice, one might almost be embarrassed for him. Put him onstage with one of the true rock voices of the era (say Robin Zander or Derek St. Holmes, not to mention Robert Plant or Paul Rodgers), and he’da been revealed for the wimptastic cover boy he was.
This was pretty much it for Shaun Cassidy as a recording artist. He followed the live record with a studio record called Room Service, which contained a sheaf of originals no one wanted to hear. After that, he enlisted Todd-fucking-Rundgren, of all people, to recharge his music with a more contemporary (read, new wave) sound. The resulting album, Wasp, (which contained laughable Rungrenesque tracks like “Cool Fire” and “Selfless Love”) likewise went nowhere (props to the fine blog Burning Wood for these Wasp MP3s). Cassidy hung up his Les Paul gee-tar and his rock ‘n’ roll shoes after that and found something better to do with his time.
And though I find much of That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll: Shaun Cassidy Live fairly execrable, I want to thank Reader QQ for suggesting it. She has a soft spot for the record, and that’s cool. It’s not rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s cool. Hey, QQ—got anything else?
I’ll return for a new adventure in listening in two weeks. ‘Til then, keep those suggestions coming.