When The Turtles released their biggest hits in the 1960s – chief among them the No. 1 hit "Happy Together" – you didn't listen to them on a smartphone or through your computer's tinny-sounding speakers. You heard them the only way you could: on vinyl.
The classic band has given their fans, new and old, an opportunity to listen to their tunes the way they were intended to be heard – in all of their imperfect vinyl glory – with its recently released "The Turtles 45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection." It's eight songs on four records, just like the singles of yesteryear.
"We're audiophiles and we grew up with vinyl," Turtles frontman Howard Kaylan said in a recent interview with HNGN. "I don't know what these young whippersnappers are doing with their MP3s, but back in the day, a stack of 45s was the best and only way to listen to music. We all had our own 45s, so we all heard things just a little bit differently. I remember I had specific copies of records like Bobby Darin and stuff that had particular scratches and bumps in particular places, and when I heard it on the radio and it didn't have my scratches and bumps, it wasn't my record."
The collection obviously includes "Happy Together," but another key inclusion is The Turtles' first-ever release: their Top 10 version of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe."
Kaylan said the band, then just out of high school, decided to record a Dylan selection after The Byrds had a hit with "Mr. Tambourine Man."
"I said, 'If The Byrds could have a Dylan hit, why wouldn't we be able to have a Dylan hit?' That one spoke to me louder than any of the other (Dylan songs) stylistically. The difference was interpretation. We didn't hear 'It Ain't Me Babe' like everybody else. I heard the song from a teenager's point of view, and it wasn't a plaintive song, it was an angry song, you know, 'How dare you?'
"To that end, I told the guys to pretend we were The Zombies. I was so in love with Colin Blunstone's voice and Rod Argent's arrangements, and I loved the idea of taking, like, 'She's Not There,' a very mystical verse, and tying the song together with a 4-4 (time signature), major resolution chorus, because there was a little musical release. We did the exact same thing with 'It Ain't Me Babe.' Stole their idea totally."
The Zombies didn't seem to mind, and neither did Dylan. Kaylan shared with us an amusing story of meeting the man right after The Turtles' take on "It Ain't Me Babe" hit the airwaves. The Turtles, who at the time were the house band at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, while the Young Rascals (of "Good Lovin'" fame) had a residency at The Phone Booth in New York City. The bands swapped gigs for a week, allowing The Turtles, armed with their debut hit song, to make a New York debut.
Several luminaries showed up for the band's first show at The Phone Booth, including Dylan. The Turtles closed their set with his song.
"Everything changed. We had to show this guy that we could really deliver his song and there was a reason we had a hit record. . . .," Kaylan recalled. "We noticed, however, that during the course of the show that Bob was seething and not really paying much attention to the band or his food or anything. By the time we left the stage, he had pretty much passed out at the table.
"We all filed by him like in procession, like he was the Queen of England, and I was the last guy to go by and shake his hand. He was not lucid at the time at all. He was really out of it. He said, 'That was a great song you did at the end there, that was really, really good, that's the stuff you should be recording. I don't know what that was, but it was really, really good, man.'
"And then he shook my hand and passed out right into his plate of pasta and stayed there for a while until someone lifted up his head and wiped his face off."
In the '80s, Kaylan met Dylan again, this time backstage at a Bruce Springsteen show.
"(Dylan) said, 'Yeah, yeah, I remember that night. You guys were really good. What was that last song you played?'," Kaylan recalled, still astonished.
An interaction with a Beatle was less pleasant, but from Kaylan's perspective, it was necessary for his band to progress.
Kaylan said The Turtles copied all of The Beatles' moves. When The Beatles recorded a sitar, The Turtles recorded a sitar. When The Beatles wrote nonsense psychedelic lyrics like "I Am The Walrus," The Turtles wrote nonsense psychedelic lyrics.
"We stuck with that until we got to meet The Beatles for the first time, and then we just got shot down entirely, especially by John Lennon," Kaylan said. "We tried to explain to him that we were just trying to be the American version of him. And he said, 'That's not bloody likely, is it?'
"And he was absolutely right, it wasn't bloody likely. But he was cruel to us, and it was the impetus I think we needed to kind of get over that Beatle thing a little bit and turn into our own group, which didn't really happen until after 'Happy Together,' I think, when we started to make our own decisions and realizing that we had more power than our record company did."
The Turtles dissolved after a dispute with their record label, and Kaylan and fellow Turtle Mark Volman joined Frank Zappa's groundbreaking band The Mothers Of Invention. After a few on-tour incidents – including a fire during their show at The Montreux Casino in Switzerland, which was immortalized in the Deep Purple song "Smoke On The Water," and another in which Zappa was injured – Zappa broke up the band. Kaylan and Volman, needing to work but unable to use The Turtles name due to legal disputes, recruited other members from the Mothers and performed as Flo & Eddie – nicknames Zappa had given to them.
Flo & Eddie also contributed background vocals to recordings by the likes of The Ramones, Duran Duran, T Rex and Springsteen. They sang with U2 at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2009.
Kaylan and Volman now tour as The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie, honoring the legacies of both acts. Kaylan, meanwhile, has also pursued non-musical interests, like his 2013 memoir "Shell Shocked: My Life With The Turtles" and "My Dinner With Jimi," a film he wrote about The Turtles' first visit to London, when they met The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan and Graham Nash all in the same day.