I spoke about The Turtles a few years back when this blog was still just an email list.
I said then, by way of background, "The Turtles were one of the California bands that emerged in the wake of The Byrds success (in fact they were originally called The Tyrtles .. get it?)"
I have more time now, am more emotionally stable and can type quicker.
Notwithstanding the need for some sort of empirical rigor in commenting on music these three things are important.
Wikipedia background: "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 (b. James Dennis Bruton 1936), 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 … As with the Byrds, the Turtles achieved breakthrough success with a Bob Dylan cover. "It Ain't Me Babe" reached the Billboard Top Ten in the late summer of 1965, and was the title track to the band’s first album".
Allmusic sum up their legacy as, "Though many remember only their 1967 hit, "Happy Together," the Turtles were one of the more enjoyable American pop groups of the '60s, moving from folk-rock inspired by the Byrds to a sparkling fusion of Zombies-inspired chamber pop and straight-ahead, good-time pop reminiscent of the Lovin' Spoonful, the whole infused with beautiful vocal harmonies courtesy of dual frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Though they hit number one in 1967 with the infectious "Happy Together," the Turtles scored only three more Top Ten hits and broke up by the end of the '60s".
Influences are important in figuring out a band. No one creates music in a vacuum. With the Turtles they wore their influences on their sleeve but they added to that some great vocals some sharp song writing (and song choices), and a lot of pop smarts.
They took the gentle and smooth harmonies of The Byrds and added the sunshine and pop opera of the Beach Boys, the good time sounds of The Lovin' Spoonful and the quirkiness and observation of the post R&B Kinks.
How can you go wrong with that?
You can't and the Turtles moved with the times but were never slavish in their influences. They starting out as a sort of as a more mainstream folk rock version of The Byrds and then moved to a bigger and fuller sound … the pop and folk never left them but they added horns, and big sounds to the create a quirky pop sensibility.
By 1967 they were almost a avant-garde cabaret folk rock band.
That may sound like a sledge but it's not … I would like to think that they themselves would have liked that definition.
The band had a few hits outside of the US but, for whatever reason, they never reached the international consciousness like The Beach Boys, Creedence, The Doors, The Lovin Spoonful or any number of other American acts
Perhaps that's because they were never revived at a later stage.
Perhaps it's because the music tastemakers never fully appreciated them …the central Turtles, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, sang a little too well and, despite being able to write a good tunes, were just as happy singing someone else's music. To be taken seriously you have to sing your own material, no matter how dire your voice is.
Failing that you have to at least look the part and Kaylan and Volman hardly looked like pop stars.
The good thing is though that the hardcore fans of the day and their musician peers loved them enough to keep them working and to keep them "known" if not "well known".
Many other bands have slipped through the cracks whilst the Turtles still have a profile (helped by their subsequent reunions in the 80s and their all star package tours (organised by them) in the 21st Century
This album is perhaps their transitional one where they move from folk rock into other areas. There is a bit of this and a bit of that but it is all good and shows the band had wide tastes and were not content to just throw out any old album.
This is west coast sunshine pop par excellance.
Produced by the ever reliable Bones Howe.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Makin' My Mind Up -(Jack Dalton, Gary Montgomery) – this sounds like it could be from a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy starring Tony Curtis. Writers Dalton and Montgomery later formed Colours. Not the famous 80s band from Brisbane (or rather Ipswich) but a much underrated band out of LA in the late 60s.
- Guide for the Married Man -(John Williams, Leslie Bricusse) – this is the title song to a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy! Though it starred Walter Matthau. A hilarious film and the song does well by it.
- Think I'll Run Away -(Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman) – Written by the central Turtles this is sublime ..coming across like a west coast "Left Banke".
- The Walking Song -(Kaylan, Al Nichol) – written by Kaylan with the bands guitarist this isn't too bad but sounds quite English …there is a European oom-ph-pah feel to it. It works as a nice piece of wimsy.
- Me About You -(Garry Bonner, Alan Gordon) – Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon were of the East Coast band the Magicians who also write tunes for others on the side. This song is magnificent. Perfectly sung and quite haunting.
- Happy Together -(Bonner, Gordon) – Another Bonner/Gordon song. One of the greatest songs of the 60s.
- She'd Rather Be with Me -(Bonner, Gordon) – More Bonner/Gordon song. Another great tune. These guys can write and the Turtles can sing.
- Too Young to Be One -(Eric Eisner) – written for them with echoes of Lovin Spoonful. A good song though not as good as that preceding it.
- Person Without a Care -(Nichol) – written for them this has echoes of The Kinks in themes
- Like the Seasons – (Warren Zevon) – Before Zevon became famous in the 70s he was in a musical duo called lyme & cybelle (no capitalization) who were on White Whale label. He wrote this and "Outside Chance" (a single from 1966) for label mates the Turtles. A gentle folk song which is very "wounded heart" but quite fetching.
- Rugs of Woods and Flowers -(Kaylan, Nichol) – The vocals are over the top but The Turtles could never keep a straight face. They love their satire and send up though they are more gentle than this. This seems to be a send up of the psychedelic bands of the day. As music it's so-so but it is quite funny and interestingly in mood it is not too dissimilar from some of Ray Davies satirical rock operas of the 70s…though both he and The Turtles knew they were doing satire.
Side 1 is magnificent, Side 2 lags a little (but only just) This album is excellent …. I'm keeping it.
1967 She'd Rather Be With Me The Billboard Hot 100 #3
1967 Happy Together The Billboard Hot 100 #1
1967 #25 (their highest charting album)
1967 Happy Together #12
1967 She'd Rather Be With #4
1967 #18 (their only charting album)
1967 Guide for the Married Man #6
1970 Me About you #10 1970
Makin' My Mind Up
Guide for the Married Man
Me About You
She'd Rather Be with Me
Like the Seasons
- "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". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtles
- "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.). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtles