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NIGHT LIFE

The Turtles: So Happy Forever : Longtime rock 'n' rollers will be featured at Ojai's holiday celebration.

July 01, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Everything's a little bit slower in Ojai, from the traffic crawling down California 33 to the Fourth of July celebration, which will be a day late this year.

But the Fifth of July in Ojai is better than Ventura's celebration, which has been put off until the 12th of Never for budgetary reasons. Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Fillmore and Camarillo are also having fireworks shows as is Oxnard, which even is having a band, Little Jonny & the Giants.

Ojai's gig will feature pop rock by the Turtles, who, in rock 'n' roll time, have been around longer than those giant tortoises in the San Diego Zoo.

The Turtles had a bunch of hits in the '60s fueled by the happening harmonies of a couple of Westchester High School buddies, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. And the Turtles continue to live long and prosper on oldies radio, and Kaylan and Volman live long and prosper as the Turtles.

"We have 65 concerts scheduled for the summer," Volman said during a recent interview. "We work as much as we want to. We do gigs for clubs and a lot of parties for corporations like IBM and Apple."

IBM? Kowabunga! The Turtles have come a long way since their early days as a surf band, the Crossfires. But back in the early '60s--before you moved here--there were a million surf bands in Southern California: Dick Dale & the Del-Tones, the Chantays, Eddie & the Showmen, the Surfaris, the Fantastic Baggies and the Sunrays, among others.

Tired of surf instrumentals, the Crossfires grew their hair long and changed their name to the Turtles. Affecting phony British accents, the band used to hang around the bowling alley, swindling the gullible waitresses out of free meals by telling them they were really Gerry & the Pacemakers.

That may not work today--Gerry who?--but it did then. The Turtles signed with White Whale Records and hit it big in 1965 covering a Dylan song, "It Ain't Me Babe." Next came a bunch of hits such as "Let Me Be," "You Baby," "Happy Together," "She'd Rather Be With Me" and "Elenore." "Happy Together" hit the top of the Billboard charts in 1967.

You remember the '60s, don't you? Anyone who was there probably doesn't; but that was the decade when people who are now bankers and parents thought they were groovy. Except for all the demonstrations, riots, the war in Vietnam, and the generation gap, it was groovy. The Turtles were on television doing American Bandstand and the Lloyd Thaxton show and playing gigs like the KRLA Teen Fair in 1969.

"I don't remember that one," Volman said. "Actually, I can't even remember where I lived during the '60s. But it was really an exciting time because you didn't really understand what was going on, and no one knew how long it would last."

As the hits kept coming, the other band members kept coming and going. The band toured England where it hung out with the Beatles, some of the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Then there was that memorable gig at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

"We played a party at the White House for Tricia Nixon around 1970," Volman said. "The Nixons were in Florida at the time, and all the senators' and representatives' kids were there, and the Secret Service too. The funniest thing I remember about that one was there was a lot of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) floating around."

The inevitable creative differences with the record company led to the band's breakup in the early '70s. But Kaylan and Volman kept making music by joining Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention for three years, four albums and a movie.

Next they formed another band "The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie." Since a word like "phlorescent" spells "trouble" in a nation of bad spellers, they shortened the name to Flo & Eddie.

Whoever they think they are, Kaylan and Volman continue to be backup singers in demand, crooning with people like Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper, the Psychedelic Furs and Ozzy Osbourne. And since 1983, they have resurrected the Turtles.

When they're not singing, they're talking. Kaylan and Volman have had numerous radio shows over the years including a stint in the late '70s as the top-rated drive time DJs on a classic rock station in New York City.

"It was all pretty hectic," recalled Volman. "We'd work on the radio for five days a week, then go on tour for the weekend and be back for work on Monday. But since we'd been to New York so many times before as the Turtles, it wasn't such a cultural shock."

Since then, the duo has recorded a dozen children's albums and will complete another after a summer of touring. But are these geezers of rock stuck in the time warp after their watch stopped 25 years ago? Nope.

"We like all the alternative music--there's really a lot of great bands," said Volman. "We think Faith No More, Alice In Chains and Nirvana are very original."

Wonder if any of those bands know any Turtles songs?

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