I just finished watching “My dinner with Jimi”, a film that was made by Howard Kaylan back in 2003. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, Howard was the lead singer of The Turtles in the 1960s, then went on to join Frank Zappa’s band in the 1970s with his fellow Turtles singer, Mark Volman. They did a few albums as Flo and Eddie, and also sang back-up vocals on some classic hits, including “Hungry Heart” by Springsteen and “Bang a Gong” by T-Rex.
The movie centers around Kaylan’s recollections of The Turtles’ first visit to England after they became famous with the mega hit “Happy Together”. They hung out with Graham Nash of the Hollies, as well as Donovan. Nash got them good and stoned and took them to a London club called “The Speakeasy”. That’s where they met The Beatles, and Turtles rhythm guitarist Jim Tucker became pretty disillusioned almost immediately. On their way out, Kaylan ran into Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, and ended up having dinner with Jimi Hendrix. One important note: this all happened on their FIRST NIGHT THERE.
I won’t tell you any more about the movie, you should check it out for yourself. But it reminded me how much of a Turtles fan I really am. They were a GREAT 60s band, and Howard Kaylan himself has made a contribution to the book that I’m writing (more on that later).
This edition of Rick’s Picks is a little different, as I won’t be focusing on an album. The Turtles really weren’t an album band…they were a singles band. So here are my top ten Turtles singles:
1-Outside Chance – This tune wasn’t a hit for the band, but it’s a great song, written by a very young Warren Zevon.
2-Somewhere Friday Night – A beautiful piece of psychedelic pop written by Kaylan.
3-Happy Together – Far and away their biggest hit, one of the biggest hits of 1967, I never get tired of this song. The harmonies are fantastic.
4-Eleanor – Kaylan wrote this song as an “anti-Happy Together” to show their record company that songs like that were silly. The joke was on Howard…it became a top-ten hit.
5-She’s My Girl – According to original drummer Don Murray, many radio stations didn’t play this song because they thought “morning glories” were a drug reference. He says that’s what kept it from number one.
6-You Showed Me – Written by Roger McGuinn and Michael Clark of The Byrds as an up-tempo Beatle-ish number, producer Chip Douglas played it for The Turtles on an old pipe organ that hadn’t warmed up yet, so it ran slow. The Turtles preferred the slower version.
7-It Ain’t Me Babe – Their first hit was a remake of the Dylan tune. When they met Dylan backstage after performing that song, Kaylan says that Dylan remarked, “That’s a great song…you guys oughta record it.”
8-You Baby – Pure California 60s pop at it’s finest, written by Steve Barri and PF Sloan.
9-You Know What I Mean – Not a big hit, but a great song with great harmonies…written by the same guys that wrote Happy Together, Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon.
10-Grim Reaper of Love – One of the first songs written by band members (Chuck Portz and Al Nichol), it’s dark, psychedelic…and cool.
Check out some Turtles when you get a chance. And if you have an opportunity and want to learn more about the group, Rhino Records made a great movie about 15 years ago called “Happy Together: The Story of the Turtles”. It’s hosted by Volman and Kaylan, and they tell some GREAT stories.