At a glance the Partridge Family's saga seems like that of any other pop star's. Coming from obscurity, a "singing family" climbs the charts, and grabs hold of the Top Five. After months of bewildering popularity, the demons of drugs, egos, and incongruous love affairs threaten the singers' pop fortunes. Subsequent years are spent trying to prop up the member's dying enthusiasm and lagging creativity.
Eventually there's rumours of solo projects, then the drummer o.d.'s, and the group announces it's folding.
But when the Partridges became a smash in 1970 the music industry and the rock press vainly searched for a reason for the success of "Family Rock". Many imitators followed suit – The Brady Kids, The Osmonds, Family – but no other "Family" act was able to kick it out like T.P.F. Finally it was felt, "What the hay," rock'n'roll has come to Elm Street, and a three-times divorced mother showed she could jam with the best.
The following excerpts from Laurie's diary describe the trials of a family that dared to rock…
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September 27, 1969. Piano lessons weren't so bad today because the teacher had a tooth-ache, so I guess he wasn't in the mood to run his paws all over me like usual.
December 3, 1969. I spent most of today in shopping malls. Christmas shopping is such a drag when you come from a huge family like mine. Gawd, I'm glad I wasn't born in China or something, who knows how many Partridges there'd be. I bought Danny a rubber mask so maybe he'll get the hint I can't stand his face.
January 28, 1970. Last night I had trouble getting to sleep. I didn't know Keith was out until about 3am I heard him come in the front door and drop his guitar case. Mom heard it too and went down to check. Mom freaked out that Keith was out so late on a school night, then she caught a whiff that he'd been smoking pot. Mom went crazy. She woke up the whole house when she started swatting Keith, who tried to block her shots with his guitar case. It got real noisy.
March 24, 1970. Last night the whole family jammed until 1AM, except Tracy who's not into the spirit of the group really. She was always skipping her saxophone lessons, which is kind of too bad because we really need a horn player to fill out the Partridge sound. Mom sort of forced her to play the tambourine really. Tracy I think is real talented in drawing and in painting. Mom ignores this though. Danny says Mom's obsessed with us being one big happy musical family, that it has something to do with divorcing three husbands. For once he may be right. Poor Tracy though.
May 15, 1970. Gawd, I just about died today! O gorgeous one, Jeremy Gelbwalker asked me to the sophomore dance! Rumor has it he's had this big, huge crush on me all year. This makes up for grade ten believe me.
May 17, 1970. I wish I had cancer. The group is booked to play our school dance. Thanks to my carrot-brained brother Danny we're the band booked for the dance. Mom is even going to chaperon. How can I ever explain to Jeremy?!
May 28, 1970. I can't believe it, Jeremy loved the group! We snuck out after the show to get something to eat. It's me I think he intended to gobble up. He was feeling me up and down like some blind man from Mars. Up close I could see he had tons of blackheads which is disgusting. I probably won't go out with him again if he begs me.
June 15, 1970. Since the school dance everyone feels the band is ready to play professionally. The songs Keith and Danny are writing together aren't sounding too bad either. Keith, Danny and Chris spent a few nights playing Hendrix and Cream songs to get their playing up. Mom keeps interrupting them by bringing in sandwiches and juice. I think she's hinting that she wants to join the group.
July 6, 1970. Danny without asking anyone or anything got the band a manager, a man named Reuban Kincaid. Reuban used to be a sales rep for a hospital supplies company and it shows. Keith thinks he's going to use the group to sell some new type of gauze or something.
July 12, 1970. My brothers and I had a long meeting to decide whether to let Mom into the group. It's Reuban's idea that Mom'll attract more interest in the group. We decided that Mom needs something to get her mind off the alimony battles, so she was welcomed in.
August 12, 1970. The band's demo received great reviews from everybody who's heard it, except Sonny Bono, but he's a jerk. We start recording in ten days and Billy Preston is producing the album. Billy is a real hot keyboardist and is known lately as the black Beatle. Keith and Danny have written my favorite song of theirs to date, "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted Like Me." There's a little speech Keith makes in the song that I helped him re-write, because I told him his version sounded like some guy playing with himself.
September 9, 1970. We just finished recording 14 songs in 10 days. Billy said the Partridges are hot. It's more like Billy was hot. He was always trying to get me to sit in his lap. Show me how to play "Get Back", he says. More like you get back, mister.
September 30, 1970. I don't know how Mr. Syringe Salesman manager got us the booking, but we played Caesar's Palace. Mind you it was only one night, and the other band did cancel on short notice, but it was a good gig. Danny, who's generally Mr. Big Shot, was puking yellow stuff before the show he was so nervous. Someone told him Joey Bishop was coming to see the show, but I think it was a prank.
October 16, 1970. Our first album is out. Personally I like its scarlet cover, but Keith and Danny tried for days to get Andy Warhol on the phone to talk record sleeves. "I Think I Love You" is #27 with a bullet this week and we're all very excited by the response. We painted this big, smelly school bus to tour in, so now we probably look like singing retards when we pull into towns.
November 1, 1970. "I Think I Love You" goes to #1!! Reuban says he cannot believe the phone calls that are coming in for the group now. One magazine wanted a photo of the entire family in the nude. We of course just laughed it off, but there was a minute there when Reuban looked at me funny.
December 26, 1970. Well, it's been a good Christmas for us all. Keith received a mini-bike from our record company. I got vibrating armchair with a hi-fi built in. Danny got a gun from Reuban, who's quite proud of his own large gun collection. None of us spoke up around the Christmas tree of course, but I think we all feel Danny is the last person who should own a handgun. He's been acting real strange now that we're famous. He spends a lot of time by himself in his room, and he does a lot of shouting at recording sessions. My freckled-faced frere is probably going a bit psycho.
February 13, 1971. A young singer named Bobby Sherman dropped by back stage at our Salt Lake City show and immediately the family liked his songs and his friendly good looks. Me, well I'm crazy about the boy. It's been impossible though to get him alone for a second. Keith, who's been chumming with him most of the time, says Bobby gave him his first hit of acid. The two of them, he says, hallucinated they could fly to the moon. Bobby was the rocket and Keith was the astronaut.
March 10, 1971. Our second album, "Up to Date" comes out today with advance orders of half a million copies. This week there is a spread in "Newsweek", "Rolling Stone". Mom is featured in "Homes and Gardens" (titled "No Singing at the Dinner Table!" – ed.). Danny is mentioned in an article in "Forbes" about the music biz. Keith is being interviewed by "Playboy", although Mom doesn't know it yet. My piano teacher was even interviewed by a local television station, although he didn't mention he liked to feel my bum. But y'know, I'd give it all up today to run off with Bobby. He and I have been getting into some steaminess behind our gear at the back of the Partridge bus. Boy, if Chris knew what his tom-toms know now…
April 3, 1971. Mom's in big trouble with the local schools because we've all been truant most of this school year. She got real smashed on gin the night of Tracy's birthday party probably because of the scandal. The newspapers printed a picture of her ripping up a bad review of "Up to Date" and said it was her ripping up her P.T.A. membership. The school board went so far as to reveal Chris's poor scores on the grade six placement exams to the press. Along the way somebody forgot I guess that Chris is only in grade five.
April 29, 1971. Bobby is now confirmed as the backup act on the Partridge Family Summer Tour '71. To celebrate I gave him the gift a girl can only give once in her life. 'Nuff said.
May 9, 1971. To help us on the tour Reuban has hired an ex-biker named Lee as road manager. With Bobby, Reuban, Lee and this man named Maurice Mom's dating the tour bus was getting a bit crowded, so we bought another bus, and painted it identical to the first. Great idea, I thought, twin retards.
June 2, 1971. Reuban was jailed six hours this afternoon when failed to report to Canada customs he was transporting firearms on our bus. Danny was pouring with sweat. He and Reuban had been shooting at prairie dogs the day before last so I know he's packed his gun along too.
June 23, 1971. Dear God, I hope Tracy is all right. Why anyone thought a nine-year-old girl could endure a schoolbus ride on a nation-wide summer concert tour is beyond me. Soon as we booked into a Minneapolis TraveLodge Tracy and a bagload of her things went missing. I wish I took the time to talk to her now. While I spent all my time groping Bobby, Tracy was sitting at the back of the other bus buried in Betty and Veronica comics. Danny's first impulse was that we should begin auditioning Tracy lookalikes, preferably musicians. Keith cracked him with an empty road case for that one.
June 24, 1971. Still no sign of Tracy. The police have a state-wide search in effect. Lee has enlisted the help of the Minnesota Satan's Angels chapter. The press is being really nasty to Mom on this. Maurice I guess couldn't handle the heavy mood and left Mom too.
June 26, 1971. Tracy's been found!! Apparently the "Ask Veronica Lodge" advice column was a post office box across the river in St. Paul and Tracy went looking for help inperson. DC Comics quickly denied that they would advise girls to visit them. The publishers admitted however they received several letters from Tracy over several weeks, but explained "Veronica" was unlikely to give the revenge suggestions Tracy was looking for.
June 27, 1971. Mom's announced that she's cancelling the tour and we're going into the studio to record a project called the "Sound Magazine". Tracy is being enrolled this fall into a private art school in northern California. We got news that Maurice was found beaten and left for dead in a rent-a-car outside Minneapolis. In the hospital and with tubes up his nose and everything Maurice says it was it was bikers that beat him up. State police held Lee for questioning. Danny, who said Lee was a "buddy", boasted Maurice was thumped on his orders because he didn't like him. Such were the Partridge's On Tour '71.
August 26, 1971. The "Sound Magazine" sessions are going down surprisingly well, considering the pressure of school starting in two weeks. Any overdubbing later could be arranged for after classes I guess, with homework probably forced on us between takes. A publicity photo got released of the group recording. Danny was wearing that stupid ghoul mask I bought him for Christmas once. One writer thought the chubby, bass-playing ghoul might not be Danny, and now "Is Danny Dead?" rumors are flying around.
September 17, 1971. Our first single off the new album, "I Woke Up in Love This Morning", which Keith wrote after he had a wet dream, sailed into the top five after one week. Advanced orders for "Sound Magazine" were around two million. Personally, I think this dead Danny story is really starting to dog the band, and Danny is not improving things by skipping school. Reuban I think put him up to this. He claims we move an extra 25,000 copies of "Sound Magazine" every day Danny is believed to be dead.
October 3, 1971. Keith has persuaded Mom to let me, Chris, Danny and himself play a one night gig in a local hall. Keith decided on "The Leather Apple Bedtime" as a name change for the group that night, and Reuban is circulating the rumor that Danny will be brought back from the dead the night of the show. I'm wildly unhappy about this because I was getting comfortable being Danny-less.
October 6, 1971. Keith's pot-smoking is definitely testing the family's patience. As a twist for the L.A.B. show Keith's arranged for us to dress as Ottoman soldiers, with the exception of Danny who'll dress as a Sultan and play from a cloud hanging over the stage. I don't get it, not a bit.
October 8, 1971. A truant officer knocked on our door this morning and took Danny off to school. Looks like Mom's going to spend more time in court, but this time over Danny's truancy. The L.A.B. rehearsals are lacking enthusiasm, except from Keith, who wears his Turkish tunic with pride.
October 11, 1971. A rumor has gotten back to us that the L.A.B. show tonight is supposedly a musical wake for our deceased brother. Having Danny up on a cloud isn't going to help things either. I'm just sick about this stupid show. It's going to be awful.
October 13, 1971. "LEATHER APRON BOMBAST!"…"LEATHER APRON – THE SLEEPY BLACKSMITHS OF ROCK?"…Here's the headlines. Somebody printed the posters wrong for the gig naming us "Leather Apron Bedtime". During the show Danny became dizzy and hot hanging over the other members of the group. His monitor blew, then when he tried to climb down from the suspended cloud with his heavy bass guitar slung from his back Danny lost his grip landed on the bass and sprained his back. Keith ripped off his tunic defiantly after that and launched into solo renditions of Partridge hits. This quelled the crowd which had begun ripping seats from the floor. Chris and I tended to Danny, who winced with pain when he was loaded onto the stretcher.
November 20, 1971. I've officially bowed out from the group. By my contract I continue to receive royalties for the first three records. Keith, Danny and Chris are forming a new unnamed group and have enlisted two young women musicians. Really they should call themselves the Cleavidge Family because the two new members are so well-endowed.
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Editor's note: The above-mentioned young "replacements" went on to later success with their own group "Heart".
Originally published in Discorder, 1989 with the title "Go Ask Laurie: The Laurie Partridge Diaries 1969-1971