Below The Turtles' more adventurous 1969 album, " Battle of the Bands", with "Elenore"
By Alan L. Chrisman
The Turtles were a 60’s band which understood what pop music is about-fun, unpretentious, catchy but well-written songs. They had several hits: “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Let Me Be”, “You Baby”, “Can I Get To Know You Better”, “Outside Chance”, “She Would Rather Be With Me”, “You Know What I Mean”, “Eleanor”, and their biggest, “Happy Together”.
These were great teenage love songs capturing both the joy and frustration of young relationships. The Turtles were really only two people, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (later known as Flo & Eddie). They also didn’t write most of their songs. Their first big hit was a pop cover of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” in 1965. Their hits were written by two main song-writing duos, P.F. Sloan/Steve Barrie and Garry Bonner/Alan Gordon. Sloan/Barrie wrote: “ Let Me Be”, “ You Baby”, “Can I Get To Know You Better”. And Gerry Bonner/ Gordon wrote “”She Would Rather Be with Me” and “Happy Together”. “Outside Chance” was written by Warren Zevon (“ Werewolves of London”). “Happy Together”, actually knocked The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” off #1 on the Billboard charts in ’67 and BMI says it’s the 44th most played song on U.S. radio, along with “ Yesterday” and “Mrs. Robinson”. Bassist and arranger on “Happy Together” was Chip Douglas, who would soon go on to produce Monkee’s albums and their hit’s, “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday”.
I’ve written before about songwriter, P.F. Sloan (see my blog on Johnny Rivers). He wrote the protest classic, “Eve of Destruction”, “Secret Agent Man” for Rivers, many hits for another catchy pop band The Grassroots, as well as songs for Herman’s Hermits, The Searchers, and played guitar on several Mama’s and Papas songs like, ”California Dreamin’ and wrote “Little Old Lady from Pasadena’ for Jan & Dean. Bonner/Gordon also wrote “Celebrate” for Three Dog Night and later, “My Heart Belongs to Me” for Barbra Streisand.
But The Turtles, getting fed up with their record label pressuring them for another similar song as their big 1968 hit ” Happy Together”, wrote a satire of it themselves with a song called, “ Elenore”. To their surprise, it became a hit too. On that same album was an unreleased Byrds’ song, “You Showed Me”, which also became a hit. They were both off a 1969 album, Battle of the Bands where The Turtles played all the bands on it in various styles to show their record company, they wanted to try some new things. They even had an album produced by Ray Davies of the Kinks, Turtle Soup.
But when it didn’t sell, they left their record company. But because they couldn’t record under The Turtles name, Kaylan and Volman became Flo And Eddie and went to record, on the other end of rock, with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention for several albums, including appearing in his film, 200 Motels, along with Ringo Starr.
Ex-Turtles, Kaylan and Volman, would also provide vocals, for which they were known, on several other musicians’ albums. For example, they sing back-up vocals on Marc Bolan’s T-Rex albums, Electric Warrior and The Slider (Ringo Starr took the cover photo) and T-Rex’s classic hit, “Get It On (Bang a Gong”).
I saw them perform along with Petula Clark (“Downtown”, “I Know a Place”) in the late 60’s on my college campus in the U.S. The Turtles, with the chubby, almost clown-like looking, Kaylan, with his frizzy hair, and Volman, with their great vocal harmonies, captured the energy of their hits. They, again, understood what good pop is about- fun, yet well-written songs and delivery. Mark Volman is currently a music business professor
See below The Turtles do their classic hit, " Happy Together”, 1967: