Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Turtles: Happy Together

The Turtles are an American rock band led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, later known as Flo and Eddie. The band became notable for several Top 40 hits beginning with their cover version of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1965. They scored their biggest and best-known hit in 1967 with the song "Happy Together".

The band, originally a surf-rock group called the Crossfires, was formed in 1965 in Westchester, Los Angeles, by high school friends Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, Al Nichol, Chuck Portz, Don Murray, and Jim Tucker. With the help of KRLA and KFWB DJ and club owner Reb Foster, the Crossfires signed to the newly formed White Whale Records and adhering to the prevailing musical trend, re-branded themselves as a folk rock group under the name the Tyrtles, the intentional misspelling inspired by the Byrds and the Beatles. However, the trendy spelling did not survive long.

At the start of 1966 drummer Don Murray and bassist Chuck Portz quit the group. They were replaced by Joel Larson and then John Barbata on drums, and by Chip Douglas on bass.

In 1967, rhythm guitarist Jim Tucker left the band, allegedly after being publicly insulted by John Lennon when the group were in England on a promotional tour. Tucker, a Beatles fan, apparently never got over the experience and quit the group and the music business.

The first of several key Turtles singles co-written by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, "Happy Together", seemed almost a parody of itself, and had already been rejected by countless performers. "Happy Together", both their biggest hit and their signature song, signaled a turning point for the Turtles and for Chip Douglas, who provided the arrangement.

Impressed by Chip Douglas's studio arrangements, Monkee Michael Nesmith approached him after a Turtles show at the Whisky a Go Go and invited him to become the Monkees' new producer, as that band wanted to break out of their "manufactured" studio mold. Douglas accepted and left the Turtles.

Long disillusioned with their record label and its growing financial problems by this time, Kaylan and Volman resisted White Whale's efforts to turn the Turtles into something approaching an assembly-line pop act. The label apparently encouraged Kaylan and Volman to fire the rest of the band, tour with hired musicians and make records by adding their vocals to backing tracks recorded by Memphis session players. Such pressure did convince the band to record a single called "Who Would Ever Think That I Would Ever Marry Margaret?", which they disowned after its release.

The Turtles wound down their career in 1970 with a second compilation album, More Golden Hits, and a B-sides and rarities album, Wooden Head. With the demise of the Turtles, White Whale Records was left with few, if any, commercially viable bands, and ceased operation.

Kaylan and Volman (accompanied by Pons) joined the Mothers of Invention as The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie, since the use of the Turtles name (and even their own names in billings) was prohibited by their contract with White Whale. Flo & Eddie, as they soon became known, recorded albums with the Mothers, appeared in Frank Zappa's film 200 Motels in 1971 and later released a series of records on their own.

Kaylan and Volman sang backing vocals on several recordings by T. Rex, including their worldwide hit "Get it On (Bang A Gong)" and albums Electric Warrior and The Slider. When White Whale's master recordings were sold at auction in 1974, the duo won the Turtles' masters, making them the owners of their own recorded work. (The duo promptly licensed the tracks to Sire Records, who issued the compilation Happy Together Again.).

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