The Turtles on ‘Happy Together’: “Everybody needs a big hit”

Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and co recall the creation of their enduring classic

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BARBATA: I came up with those drum parts that helped make it magical. With all the vocal parts and everything, it just came together.

VOLMAN: “Happy Together” was recorded at Sunset Sound. At about the same time, a new band called The Doors was also there, with a young engineer by the name of Bruce Botnick, working on their first album.

KAYLAN: We were one of the only bands I know of in the Los Angeles area that didn’t use the Wrecking Crew – because our label was so damn cheap that they wouldn’t pay for the Wrecking Crew! It was unbelievable. We knew those people, and they worked on everybody’s records but ours.


BARBATA: I think we got it in two takes. We probably overdubbed the vocals, and the horns, but the basic stuff, the drums, bass, guitar, was all live. It’s not a real big room at Sunset Sound, but it had a good room sound, that’s why we used it.

KAYLAN: I took the mono acetate home after the orchestra had been put on it. I remember sitting between the two speakers of my little RCA portable record player, and playing that thing over and over again, not even believing it was us, because the record sounded so magical, especially in mono. I just couldn’t believe how well the orchestra sat with the track, and how well the vocals blended, and just the overall mysterious sound we got. We knew it was gonna be a No 1 record.

VOLMAN: “Happy Together” was no sure thing, though – it wasn’t an instantaneous smash, but it had really long legs – it took a while to show itself but it dug in and held the charts, meaning it took maybe three or four weeks before it even got into the Top 20. But once it did, it really was getting a lot of airplay, and it got all the way to No 1, and sent us overseas for the first time.

KAYLAN: We went on every major television show in America – Smothers Brothers kind of adopted us, and put us on twice with the very same song; the first week they claimed to have discovered us, and the second time we were on the show they took credit for our success. But I didn’t care who did, this was our first real big-time national exposure.

VOLMAN: We were compared to, let’s say, The Beatles on Capitol and The Rolling Stones on Atlantic, and The Beach Boys on Capitol and The Byrds on Columbia, but you’re talking about a band that was on a small independent record company called White Whale Records. There were a few other acts on the label, but nobody had the success that we had.


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