Very few rock performers have remained as vital through the 1960's, 70's, 80's and 90's as have Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman.
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Initially they made their mark with the Turtles, then they joined Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, and then they glided into their own Flo & Eddie persona, dishing out records that have encompassed a multitude of personalities.
They've always been smart enough to have responded to the latest worthwhile trends in a fashion that has yielded an abundance of quality records, and more than their share of hits. This history will attempt to add a depth and perspective to Kaylan's and Volman's unique musical journey, one that, perhaps encapsulates the post-Beatles rock era like no other. This text was originally a companion piece to Rhino's exquisitely packaged, executive version of "The Turtles Greatest Hits" (RNLP 160).
Let's pause just for a second to make the totally subjective case that the Turtles were the closest America ever came to having a Beatles. Others, like the Lovin' Spoonful, Rascals and Beach Boys, certainly had as many hits, but the Turtles hits were better conceived and arranged and, like the Beatles, transcended so many styles: from the outright protest rock of "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Let Me Be," to the candy-coated good-time sounds of "You Baby" and "Can I Get to Know You Better," to the outright pop of "Happy Together" and "You Showed Me," to the satire of "She'd Rather Be With Me" and "Elenore," to strange meshings of psychedelic and pop in "She's My Girl" and "You Know What I Mean." The Rascals lacked the heavy guitars that were the sound of the day; the Spoonful were limited in approach, and didn't last that long anyway; and the Beach Boys were too square for too long, and somehow seemed tied to a pre-Beatles era.
Suffice to say that, even the Turtles more minor hits, the ones which failed to make it onto "The Turtles Greatest Hits.", all sound like first class records.
This will provide a necessary primer for understanding Kaylan's and Volman's crazy world, so you'll be better prepared when the duo hit you with their next record, as their "history" continues.
Two guys from Westchester. The one with the curly hair and glasses, and the other with the beard. That's how Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (AKA Flo and Eddie) refer to themselves. Two slightly bewildered kids thrust into the fast lane of rock 'n' roll stardom - hits, fame, national tours, hanging out with the Beatles, joining the Mothers of Invention, acting in the "200 Motels" movie, and on and on ... Two guys from Westchester.
Despite its extremely boring, middle-classness, the Los Angeles suburb of Westchester bears some insight. A frequently fogged-in area slotted next to Los Angeles' International Airport, in the late 1950's/1960's the community thrived due to its proximity to Hughes and other companies that were instrumental in America's galloping let's-catch-up-with-the-Russians space program. This bred a generation of kids who were slightly smarter than the bulk, and Westchester High during these years used to place right up there scholastically among the city's schools. (Sad to say that, with the coming of the 1970's, Westchester's potency was severely sapped as the bucks for the aerospace industry dissolved, and the airport started grabbing more territory; laying waste to nice tract homes and turning the area into the remains of a holocaust; in essence, ruining all that was. Howard later fantasized about the possibility of buying the now-deserted junior high school he once attended.
Howard Kaylan (changed in 1965 from Kaplan, because that's how he always wrote his name) was born June 22, 1947 in the Bronx, and spent his first eight years in Manhattan before his father took a job with General Electric in Utica, New York. After the family moved there for a year or so, they moved to the Los Angeles area, settling in Westchester.
Mark Volman was born April 19, 1947. After a brief period living in Redondo Beach, his family moved nearby to Westchester.
Little did they know it at the time, but both Mark's and Howard's musical direction was forged by a crusty, old Mr. Ferguson who gave clarinet lessons in a drafty cubicle above the Westchester Music Store. Mark went to Orville Wright Jr. High, while Howard went to Airport Jr. High They didn't know each other, but they both pursed their lips around clarinet reeds for Mr. Ferguson, who ran them through the gamut of "Deep Purple" and "Anapola, My Pretty Little Poppy".
The puckers soon gave way to wide grins when their friendship formed in the Westchester High A Cappella Choir, which was conducted by Robert Wood. Mark was a first tenor, Howard a second tenor. (Wood was so influential that the duo later named a publishing company after him. "Mr. Woods Music.')
It was quite a choir, and won all sorts of city competitions. Look at the accompanying photo and you'll see not only Mark and Howard, but Al Nichol and Chuck Portz, all standing right next to each other!
In 1964, the Beatles and the whole English Invasion took effect. Mark and Howard put down their saxes, took up the vocals more ardently (Howard did most of the leads, Mark backups and tambourine) and the Crossfires dropped their entire repertoire of surf instrumentals and grew their hair long. They were so taken with this change of identity, that it was not uncommon for them to show up at the South Bay Bowl, spewing forth English accents and claiming they were Gerry and the Pacemakers. It's a wonder what one little, properly-phrased order of "white tea please" can bring on in the way of offers of free drinks, food and autograph requests.
Despite this response, and their following at the Revelaire, frustration set in. The members weren't in high school anymore, two were married, and the band wasn't earning enough money. On the night they were submitting their resignation from the Revelaire and about to break up, they were approached by Ted Feigin and Lee Lasseff who signed them to a brand new, nameless record label, later to be called White Whale.
It was time for a name change as well. The group liked "The Half Dozen," or "Six Pack," but opted for Reb Foster's suggestion, The Turtles (like The Byrds, right?).
It was exactly the same band and the same songs - one week at the Revelaire they were the Crossfires, the next week they were the Turtles. It wasn't long before the release of the Turtles first single, their arrangement of a Bob Dylan song, "It Ain't Me Babe." It was an immediate hit - climbing into the Top Five nationally - quickly establishing the Turtles as a force of their own. Their first concert appearance was before 50,000 kids at the Rose Bowl, opening for Herman's Hermits.
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