It what may be one of the most hit-laden concerts of this summer – or perhaps any summer.
When the Happy Together tour visits the Foellinger Theatre this month, it will tout not one but six acts with a long history of pop success. With the Grass Roots, the Buckinghams, the Association, the Cowsills and Mark Lind-say of Paul Revere & the Raiders joining the Turtles for an evening of music, it’s clear that some of the best songs of the late 1960s will be represented. Although the Turtles – led still by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (also known as Flo & Eddie) – provide the hit name for the tour and are the last band to perform, don’t suggest to them that they’re the headliners.“
There is no headliner on this tour,” says Volman. “We’re trying to change that whole dynamic. If anything, there are six headliners on this tour. It’s a solid professional group, and each has been in the business for over 50 years. When you see this show, you’re looking at a combined 350 years of experience.”
Volman does concede that it is their hit single, “Happy Together,” which provides the tour its name, but he says that’s more about the tour’s intent than star power.
“That song expresses a philosophical approach to this tour. The show is not a rock show, per se, but it’s a happy theater piece, like a play with no silly story attached. The songs we all perform provide the story, and since everyone has their own experiences with those songs, you can put your own story to it. I’ve never thought of the Turtles as the headliner in any of our tours, and I think this may be the strongest collection of acts we’ve ever had on the tour. We are the closing act, but that’s probably because we’re the best looking. Except for Sue Cowsill. Those Cowsills are so energetic and full of life, you want to bop them on the forehead.”
Volman happily lists some of the songs audiences hear at the Happy Together tour, including “Temptation Eyes” (the Grass Roots), “Never My Love” and “Cherish” (the Association), “Kind of a Drag” (the Buckinghams), “Hair” (the Cowsills), “Indian Reservation” and “Arizona” (Mark Lindsay) and of course “Happy Together,” “Eleanor” and “She’d Rather Be With Me,” which he and Kaylan perform as the Turtles. Volman is perhaps too modest when evaluating their contributions to the lineup.“
When you listen to some of these songs, our songs pale in comparison. I would love to have made a record like ‘Never My Love.’ And the Grass Roots and ‘Temptation Eyes’ ... you know, we turned down that song because we didn’t feel like it was right for us. Then we heard the Grass Roots version when it started turning up on the radio and it made us so mad. We hear it and think ‘Oh [crap].’”
Of course, he does admit that the enduring “Happy Together” has put them on the map for all eternity – and continues to earn new fans on a daily basis, especially this summer with its inclusion in the hit film Minions.“
The last thing played when everybody dies will be that song,” says Volman. “I was talking to a friend the other day, and he said ‘Do you realize that Minionshas made $790 million in its first two weekends? And do you realize that means 300 million kids between the ages of two and four have just heard ‘Happy Together’ for the first time?’ But you know, if a song like that – or any of the songs on this tour which is just overwrought with great melodies – turns a three-year-old onto music, that’s a great thing. “
The years this tour covers, between 1967 and 1969, those two years were a formidable time in music. We’d already had the British Invasion, and the Beatles and Rolling Stones had already changed everything, and those years were the result of all of that. And some groups going into the 70s – groups like Poco, Firefall, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – were still doing those harmonies.”
Volman and Kaylan have had a long history in and out of the Turtles, and Volman concedes it’s been a wildly diverse ride. Having scored those hits with the Turtles, the pair left the group and worked with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention under the pseudonyms The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie. Later, contractually unable to use the Turtles name, they launched a new career as Flo & Eddie, making another turn in their remarkable story. From that point, pop music, rock music and even comedy were all part of their repertoire, and they added scoring to their resume, providing music to the children’s programming (Strawberry Shortcake and The Care Bears) while working with everyone from T. Rex to Bruce Springsteen. Amazingly, both are now only 68, which makes their half-century in the business even more noteworthy, but Volman remembers fondly their feelings when they first broke onto the charts.“
You always remember that first hit single, and when Howard and I were first with the Turtles and heard our first song on the radio, it was a tremendous rush. Then there was anxiety – when will they play it again? All of the artists on this tour were doing the same thing. We’d wait to hear our songs on the radio, but we also waited to hear what the other groups were doing. We wanted to make sure we were keeping up with them.”
When asked if he and Kaylan ever imagined they’d still be singing “Happy Together” and the catalog of the Turtles – and doing so alongside some of the other great groups of that era – his response is both self-deprecating and refreshingly optimistic.“
The tour is a remarkable testimony to all our medical doctors. But Howard and I never really thought about it because we were so busy doing it. Things changed so fast back then, and we were all so naďve. Howard and I never thought it would end. But then when it did, we didn’t think it would hap-pen again. We were lucky we got to work with some eclectic, creative individuals and carved out a very interesting career for ourselves. And now we look at our audiences and see parents and grandparents and kids all listening to this music from the 1960s, wearing their tie-dye shirts, you realize ‘This is good. This music makes people happy, and the kids like it too. This is a good thing.’”