31 Days of Faves: The Turtles – Happy Together

#12 The Turtles – Happy Together

They knocked the Beatles out of the number one spot on the charts in 1967. They smoked dope in the White House. They toured with Frank Zappa and sang backup on Bruce Springsteen‘s “Hungry Heart“. And 53 years later, they are still touring, “Happy Together“.

Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman were always the central creative pivots of the short lived sixties band the Turtles. During their 5 year prime, they charted eight top 20 singles. But the Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon penned “Happy Together” was their only US number one, blasting onto the charts in the Spring of 1967.

It’s staying power might have driven some of the DJ’s who had to hear it over and over again to distraction, but we couldn’t get enough of it.

The simple lyrics were easy to remember. The melody was eminently singable. The spare Chip Douglas arrangement gave us a sense for the magic he would soon make for the Monkees, helming the production of two of their biggest hits, “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday“.

And we needed something to be happy about. The Apollo 1 astronauts had died in an horrific “fire in the spacecraft” in January. The New York Times was reporting that the army was conducting secret germ warfare experiments. The Boston Strangler was convicted for a series of murders. And we watched as the body of U.S. President John F. Kennedy was moved to its permanent burial place at Arlington National Cemetery.

Happy Together seemed to be the medication we needed to find something to smile about. It became the anthem that would usher in “The Summer of Love.”

“No matter how they tossed the dice, it had to be,” became an easy answer to a thousand different trivia questions. And “I cant see me lovin’ nobody but you, for all my life,” was the hopeful, if sometimes naive outlook that dozens of young couples felt as they exchanged marriage vows that year.

Happy Together replaced Beatles’ “Penny Lane” in the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100, holding down the top spot for three weeks.

The circuitous route that the Turtles career took after their breakup with their label, White Whale Records is a story in itself. Volman and Kaylan became “Flo and Eddie”, a cult duo who showed up in the background with the Mothers of Invention, T. Rex, Alice Cooper and even Springsteen, after their former label forbade them to use their real names. In time, the legal issues were ironed out and by the 1980s, the debut of MTV’s sister channel VH1 provided a launching pad for a 1960s renaissance. The network sponsored nationwide tours for the Turtles, the Byrds, The Grassroots, Tommy James and other carefully curated faves from the era. And the tunes we once played on 45s again coursed through car stereo systems on compact discs.

Kaylan and Volman have been working incessantly, ever since, Happy Together.