April 11, 2012: And When We Meet, It’s a Good Sensation

It was 1973. The Archies had broken up, and the Partridge Family hadn’t had a hit in nearly a year. The Carpenters were starting to get boring. I was bereft.

And then there they were, one day, on the cover of Tiger Beat, my fave magazine: The DeFranco Family.

They were like the Partridge Family, only better, because they were Italian. The lead singer, Tony, had the same haircut as me, and he and his brothers and sisters—Benny, Nino, Marisa, and Merlina—would very shortly have a Number One hit single with their very first release, “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat.”

My pre-teen angst manifested in brown suede platform shoes, a stack of Tiger Beats, and a wall full of DeFrancos.

Every single other kid in the fifth grade either hated them or thought they were the Osmonds. The other kids’ disdain for this fab new group—with their spangly jumpsuits and their keen choreography—made them all the more appealing to me. The DeFrancos were mine!

I bought every one of their records, and plastered my room with their pin-ups. (My favorites were Marisa and Benny.) I joined their International Fan Club and went to see them at an autograph-signing party at J.C. Penney’s. Merlina smiled at me!

Then, one day, they were gone. I found out later (when I was hired to write the liner notes for their Greatest Hits CD a few years ago) that their record company had dropped them after their singles stopped charting. Soon, Tiger Beat had moved on, too—to Leif Garrett and Vince Van Patten. Gross!

I was getting too old for bubblegum music, anyway. One of my brothers bought me an Elton John album for my birthday that year, and pretty soon I was listening to Gordon Lightfoot and ELO and Supertramp.

But I kept my DeFranco Family records. And sometimes, when I’m home alone, I pull them out and I play them.

(Check out the DeFranco Family on The Jack Benny Special, performing two of their biggies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg5JDb4sSu8)

Thing I Hate Today: Well Scotch

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8 Responses

  1. I heart you, Mr. Pela.

  2. Thank you. I’m going to be a grandmother very soon, but I felt about 15 when I watched the video.

  3. Is that a choo-choo hat by your feet?

  4. Yes, dear. It’s a choo-choo hat. I could never make it work with any outfit, but I did own it.

  5. My best friend in 6th grade, Pinky Carega, and her older hipper sister Lulu used to listen to the DeFranco’s. They were lost on me though.

  6. Robrt, I was in love with Tony – I would listen to those records for hours. I can still sing their songs – someday you will have to play an album for me – mine have been lost. Now I am going to bed with words swirling in my head.

  7. Coincidentally, Annabelle and I heard “heartbeat” yesterday on satellite radio. She’d never heard it before and I vaguely remembered hearing it 30 or 40 years ago. “is that a boy or girl singing?” Annabelle asked.
    “a girl,” I said.
    “Sounds like a young boy,” she replied.
    Annabelle then commented that the boy could have sang the song with more emotion. He didn’t sound very excited about his “love beat,” she said.
    True, I told her, but he sang well enough to have at least one hit song.
    I’ll show her your post.

  8. I had a brass-plated headboard, too. When my parents, after 14 years of marriage, got their first new bedroom furnitur,e I got to graduate from the maple wagon-wheel suite (and the pink floral twin bedspreads and matching casement-length drapes) to my mom’s blond wood new-divorcee nightstand, chest, and vanity from the ’50s, and I asked for the headboard to go with it. I was thrilled.

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