Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
In the last article, we talked about "animal" band names including the Teddy Bears, the novelty act the Chipmunks and of course led off with the British group The Animals. Let's explore more "animal" group names in music history.
The Turtles first hit the charts in 1965 with a cover of a Bob Dylan tune, "It Ain't Me Babe" on a "fish" record label called White Whale. They followed that Top Ten hit with several more pop rock gems including, "She'd Rather Be With Me" and "Elenore," among others. They also secured a number one hit in the spring of 1967 with a song called "Happy Together." Interestingly, the Turtles had recorded the song "Eve Of Destruction" on their LP "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1965, but did not release it as a single. The P. F. Sloan protest song ultimately went to the number one position after it was released by Barry McGuire.
At the end of the sixties, group members Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman hooked up with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and also performed on their own as Flo and Eddie. Kaylan and Volman sang backing vocals on several recordings by T.Rex, including their epic #1 hit "Get it On (Bang A Gong)" and albums by Electric Warrior and The Slider. They also sang backup on Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart", from his album The River. They continue to perform today, both as Flo and Eddie and as the Turtles.
In 1966, an advertisement in the Hollywood Trade paper "Daily Variety" implored "folk and rock musicians-singers for acting roles in a new television series." It is reported that more than 430 people answered the ad including Harry Nilsson, Danny Hutton (later to be with 3 Dog Night), songwriter Paul Williams and Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame), among others. Stills was rejected because his teeth and hair weren't perfect, but he had a friend that resembled him. His friend, Peter Tork went into the audition, walked into a wall and the job was his and became part of the "made for TV" group The Monkees.
With songs written by some of the most talented songwriters of the time (including Gerry Goffin-Carole King, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart among others), the Monkees achieved major pop rock success with such hits as the catchy rocker "Last Train To Clarksville," the Neil Diamond written number one hit, "I'm A Believer," (which was number one for an incredible seven weeks), the pop gem by Davy Jones called "Daydream Believer" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (which was written by the legendary song writing duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King), among others and members Michael Nesmith, Davey Jones, Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz became international superstars.
The television show, appropriately called the Monkees, featured the quartet in inane and slapstick sketches and also showcased their music. Despite the fact that the group was not permitted to play instruments on the records, the public gobbled up "Monkeemania." But, with pressure from that same public and band member Michael Nesmith's urging (and to deflect the growing public criticism), they started to play instruments on their third album "Headquarters."
In one of the rock's most embarrassing moments, in 1967 the Monkees toured with a gentleman named Jimi Hendrix as their opening act. But Monkee fans disliked the legendary guitar player (who was largely unknown here in the states, but had a strong following in Europe) and booed him. Finally, in New York, Hendrix had enough, flipped-off the screaming Monkee fans and quit the tour.
It is said that camera happy band members Davey Jones and Mickey Dolenz didn't care much about the music. In fact, Dolenz was known to slip the cameraman twenty-five dollars to make sure he received the most close-ups. Jones then slipped the cameraman thirty-five dollars and promptly stole the show.
When MTV began re-broadcasting the television series in 1987, a second wave of "Monkeemania" gripped the nation as the group enjoyed a major revival in popularity that even put six of their old albums back onto the charts. A new best of "Then And Now" achieved platinum status and the band (minus Mike Nesmith) scored a Top 40 hit with a new song entitled 'That Was Then, This Is Now"; one of three new cuts recorded by the trio of Jones, Tork and Dolenz. The trio toured in the summer of '87 and went on to record a new album called "Pool It!" the following year. But, Nesmith had no interest in rejoining the group, but did join the band when they were awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 1989. Nesmith relented in 1996 and returned to the band for an album called "Justus" which coincided with Rhino Records' twenty-one volume video set of the popular television show. Another "Greatest Hits" compilation album went gold in 2000.
The Turtles were (1965 - 1967)
Howard Kaylan - vocals, Mark Volman - guitar, saxophone, vocals, Al Nichol - guitar, Jim Tucker - guitar, Chuck Portz - bass, Don Murray - drums
Various reincarnations of the band have played together with different personnel, but the constant was always having Kaylan and Volman leading the bands.
In 1984, Kaylan and Volman legally regained the use of the Turtles name, and began touring as The Turtles... Featuring Flo and Eddie. Instead of trying to reunite with their earlier band mates, they began featuring all-star sidemen who had played with different groups.
1965 - It Ain't Me Babe
1967 - Happy Together
1967 - The Turtles! Golden Hits
1968 - The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands
1969 - Turtle Soup
1970 - More Golden Hits
Monkees critics complained that they were just a made-for-TV knockoff of the Beatles, but the Fab Four took it in stride, and welcomed the Monkees when they visited England. John Lennon publicly compared the Monkees' humor to The Marx Brothers, a high compliment indeed. In fact, Nesmith attended the "A Day in the Life" sessions at Abbey Road Studios and he can be seen in the Beatles' home movies, including one scene where he is conversing with Lennon (who called him "Monkee Man").
On their third album, Headquarters (1967) the four Monkees actually wrote and played much of their own material. The album quickly shot to #1, but was bumped off the top slot when the Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Interestingly, the Monkees outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined in 1967.
In the 1990s, the Monkees continued to record new material, their 11th album, Justus, was released in 1996. It was the first since 1968 on which all four original members performed and produced. Justus was produced by the Monkees, all songs were written by one of the four Monkees, and it was recorded using only the four Monkees for all instruments and vocals, which was the inspiration for the album title and spelling (Justus = Just Us).
The Monkees were the first band to use a Moog Synthesizer in a top-10 album (used on "Star Collector", "Daily Nightly" and "Love Is Only Sleeping" from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., released in November of 1967).
The band's success actually compelled another David Jones to change his surname to Bowie, to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.
The Monkees are one of only eight artists achieving number-one hits in the United States and United Kingdom simultaneously
1966 - The Monkees
1967 - More of The Monkees
1967 - Headquarters
1967 - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.
1968 - The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees