10 (More) Reasons to Love The Turtles

the turtles

If you’ve listened to music in the last 50 years, you’ve definitely heard The Turtles’ “Happy Together” echoing out of your car radio, CD player, or iDevice. But that song is only the part of their tuneful oeuvre. The band grew out of the surf rock outfit The Crossfires, which featured frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Their debut album It Ain’t Me Babe, was released in 1965. Over the next several years, The Turtles created some of the most memorable pop music of the post-British Invasion era. Disputes with their management and record label over financial issues and musical direction resulted in the group losing the rights to the Turtles name, and the original lineup called it quits in 1970. Kaylan and Volman rebranded themselves as Flo and Eddie and released several albums under that name. The duo also recorded and toured with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and became in-demand backing vocalists on songs such as T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” Here are 10 reasons why The Turtles left a lasting impression.

Related: “The Top 10 Songs by The Bangles”

10. Elenore

This song was a result of the band’s label requesting another tune in the vein of “Happy Together,” something Kaylan and Volman had no interest in at the time since they wanted to explore other musical directions. Since the label continued to pester them for another innocuous pop confection, the group came up with this reworking of their earlier hit, which they intended as a parody. It actually landed at Number 6 on the charts, and it’s pretty good in its own right.

9. You Don’t Have To Walk In The Rain

A song from the band’s final album, Turtle Soup, produced by Ray Davies of The Kinks. According to Kaylan, the group was hoping he would help them do a Turtles’ version of the Kinks’ classic The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, but Davies wanted to do more of a pop-leaning record. This is one of the strongest tracks on the disc.

8. Happy Together

Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon, who penned several other songs for the band, including “You Know What I Mean”, wrote this ubiquitous pop earworm. Featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials, the song actually knocked The Beatles “Penny Lane” out of the number one spot on the charts back in 1967.

Related: “The Surprising Chord That Helped Make ‘Penny Lane’ A Masterpiece”

7. You Showed Me

Written by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, and first recorded by The Byrds, this beautiful ballad is filled with lush instrumentation and lovely vocals by Kaylan and Volman. The tune is featured on The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, a clever concept album that featured the group “performing” as different groups for each of the tracks on the record.

6. Let Me Be

A melodic gem by P.F. Sloan, who also wrote “Eve of Destruction,” a song the band also recorded. A folk-pop gem that should have been a much bigger hit, the song was featured in a pivotal sequence of the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black.

5. Can I Get To Know You Better

This soulful tune has something of a Motown vibe and is anchored by some of the group’s strongest harmonies, which also recall the sound of The Mamas and the Papas. Produced by the talented Bones Howe, who also worked with The 5th Dimension and The Association.

4. It Ain’t Me, Babe

The band’s first hit, this 1965 Dylan cover is the best take on a song that was also recorded by Johnny Cash (with June Carter) and Joan Baez. The Turtles’ version strikes a nice balance between the toughness of Dylan’s original with an undercurrent of wistfulness.

3. Outside Chance

This rock-flavored tune was co-written by a then-struggling songwriter named Warren Zevon. The song was later used in an episode of CSI directed by Quentin Tarantino, who surely had a hand in selecting it for the soundtrack.

2. She’s My Girl

Is this swirling, atmospheric tune by The Strawberry Alarm Clock? The 13th Floor Elevators? The Electric Prunes? Nope, it’s the Turtles in full psychedelic mode, and it works perfectly. One of the band’s best singles, and a very cool piece of acid pop.

1. She’d Rather Be With Me

A fantastic song, which combines everything that’s great about The Turtles; excellent vocals that build to a crescendo, wonderful production, and great instrumentation, capped off by the fantastic drumming of John Barbata.

-John Visconti

Photo of The Turtles/WikiCommons

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John Visconti is a lifelong music and movies aficionado with wide-ranging tastes, from The British Invasion and Motown, to the blues, a dash of jazz, on through to power pop, funk, retro soul, folk, bubblegum and metal. He digs film noir, screwball comedies, classic B movies, and Toho’s original Godzilla series. In the late 1980s, John was a writer and editor for the KISS fanzine Fire. A friend once called him “the human incarnation of an entertainment encyclopedia.” After long stints in the worlds of publishing and IT, he’s currently working in healthcare. You can check out his blog, John V's Eclectic Avenue at http://jveclectic.blogspot.com.

15 comments on “10 (More) Reasons to Love The Turtles

  1. John Turowski

    You Baby is my favorite Turtles song. Such a joy-filled, snappy tune that instantly brightens my day.

  2. Susan Visconti

    Always loved The Turtles….especially, You Showed Me and Happy Together….I grew up on their music and believed in these lyrics thinking about what Love should and can be….P.S. Hey John Visconti, Wonder if we are related ~ My Dad is John Visconti!!
    Susan R. Visconti

  3. I really like most of these a lot, but my favorite Turtles song is one you mentioned when writing about “Happy Together” but didn’t include in your Top Ten, “You Know What I Mean”. Sweetly melodic, it’s a musical smile, yet, like “Happy Together”, the optimism of the melody is offset by lyrics that don’t quite match up in kind. What is equally as interesting to me is the unusual nature of the song’s structure, as it pretty much goes from beginning to end without repeating any musical sections…no chorus to speak of, no repeats of verses, just going from point A to Point B to Point C, etc., without going back to repeat the melody lines of any of them. This song is deceptively simple sounding, but there’s more going on than a casual listening will unearth.

  4. “You Know What I Mean” is a great song. Your assessment of it is spot on; it’s sunny and pop-sounding, but there’s more going on beneath the surface, musically. Thanks for reading!

  5. A correction: “You Showed Me” was written by Gene Clark and Jim (Roger) McGuinn.

    • Thanks, Mark, you’re absolutely right. I lost Gene’s co-author credit in my editing process, but we’ve fixed it now. Thanks for reading!

  6. Tom Nelson

    ‘Making My Mind Up’: a track which is very underrated and, unfortunately, ignored by many. It’s bouncy, melodic, upbeat and quite fun to listen to, from time to time. It should have been re-released as a single. l believe it could’ve been a Top-Ten hit for them. I also believe it’s a far better tune than some of their later tracks.
    It’s MY favorite Turtles song!!

  7. Bob Hodge

    If you’re a fan of Flo & Eddie, you must not overlook their 70s albums – “Illegal, Immoral & Fattening” and “Moving Targets” are chock full of rockful tunes. Those guys could put on one helluva show.

    • theuncletodd

      Don’t forget the Flo & Eddie LP in the green sleeve produced by Bob Ezrin….Their version of Afterglow may out do the Small Faces original

  8. Don Ferrante

    Thank you for adding “Outside Chance”. Can;t believe that wasn’t a smash hit, great great song.
    Also all 4 of the Flo & Eddie albums stand up really well to this day.

  9. William C D'Emilio

    “Me About You”, “Goodbye Surprise (Turtles & Flo & Eddie versions)”, “Love In the City”, “If We Only Had The Time(Turtles and Flo & Eddie versions)”, “Party Time” from Rock Steady, “This Could Be The Day” from Dirty Duck, “Come To My Rescue Webelos’ (B-side of “Let Me Make Love To You” 45) , “Who But I” are stand out tracks that should be heard by all Turtles fans immediately!

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  11. Eric C. Gray

    I’d say She’d Rather Be with Me is their most “fun” song. My favorite is probably You Know What I Mean; I like some of the comments about it, how interesting and different it was. My only issue with it is that it is too short. I once tried writing another verse, and failed miserably. Their cover of It Ain’t Me, Babe is terrific. When I was a college DJ, I always paired that with Jim Croce’s Lover’s Cross, two songs about not being able to live up to another’s expectations.

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