In the canon of 1960s pop music groups, the sophisticated bubble gum psychedelic sound of The Turtles lies somewhere center between the crowned king Beatles and the corporate controlled Monkees. Their string of hit singles between 1965 and 1969 – including their most successful record, “Happy Together” which is still heard in regular rotation on commercial radio today – were a delectable blend of addictive pop hooks, desperate love-heat sentiment, and a spooky, almost menacing aural vibe (“Elenore”) that spoke to the sex-hungry, thrill-seeking youth of the era.
Turtles founders Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan – later known as Flo and Eddie when a contract dispute prevented them from using The Turtles name – are about to release The Turtles 45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection which includes their top hits on eight 45 RPM vinyl records, along with incredible and worthy B-sides that are fascinating peaks and valleys to the brief, but by pop music standards, glorious history of The Turtles.
The recordings sound wonderful on virgin vinyl. The phonograph needle digs lovingly into the grooves of these records, revealing layers of ambiance not entirely detected when blasting from your favorite oldies radio channel. Keyboards slither and crawl beneath the jangle of guitars, pounding drums are suddenly reduced to a near silent bongo syncopation and brought to life again, and vocal harmonies are complex and echoed and buried deep in the sound.
Their first hit, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” (#8 Billboard 1965) progresses from a soft rock ballad into a raw, emotionally charged rocker. It’s a fine transgression of a Dylan acoustic song, created at a time when Dylan himself was turning towards electrified music. The circus parade atmosphere of “She’d Rather Be with Me” (#3 Billboard 1967) reaches dizzying heights of happy delirium with an oom-pa-pa brass band enshrouding a catchy as all hell melody.
But it’s the signature super hits drifting off the phonograph needle that mesmerize as splendid classic recordings. “Happy Together” (#1 for three weeks in 1967, Billboard) has an ominous, foreboding sound laced with a gothic-themed keyboard tugging at the heart of the simplest of song structure. It defies you to not sing along. “Elenore” (#6 Billboard 1968) is still wonderfully atmospheric and finds cuddling up with your girl at the picture show as daring as a deadly commando mission. Here, the spookiness of the music (scary organ) gets extraordinarily grey, while the poetic prowess goes no deeper than “I really think you’re groovy, let’s go out to a movie”.
Flo and Eddie went on to join Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention after the demise of The Turtles in 1970. They had further success as recording artists and radio programmers and still tour today as The Turtles. Their vocal arrangements are the mightiest factor of their old Turtles records, and over the years they have contributed vocal tracks to recordings by T-Rex, John Lennon, Stephen Stills, Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Blondie, Bruce Springsteen, The Psychedelic Furs, Duran Duran, The Ramones, and several others.
The limited edition Turtles 45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection comes autographed and numbered and includes a Turtles 45 RPM adaptor (Hey kids!). It can be ordered at Flo and Eddie’s official Turtles site, theturtles.com. The regular edition comes out Tuesday, September 16.
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