Monday, November 4, 2013

Me, Howard Kaylan, The Turtles, and Shell Shocked!

I met Howard Kaylan, lead singer of the Turtles, in 1990 or so when my friend Dan Moyer* and I went to see The Rascals and The Turtles in Cleveland at a “rib fest”.  Howard talked to us about his young daughter (I think she was 2 at the time) and his moving out if the city so that she, among other things, would not have to choose which gang to belong to.  Howard also signed Dan’s Rickenbacher and my CD booklet and talked about music, explaining that they couldn’t perform “Like the Seasons” live without a string quartet present. (We didn’t really think they could, but it’s such a wonderful song we had to comment on it!)  Howard and his musical partner Mark Volman were incredibly friendly to us that day and I’ll never forget it.

I became a Turtles fan in High School after hearing some of their songs and picking up their Greatest Hits cassette, one of the few tapes I took with me when I was in the Navy.  I’ve since collected most of their catalogue on CD, including the Flo and Eddie albums.  The Turtles are definitely one of the best bands ever, at least vocally, and Howard is one of the best rock/pop vocalists ever.  They really are that good!

Top: my signed CD
Middle: Mark signing Dan's guitar
Bottom: Howard and Me!!
Recently I read Howard’s autobiography, Shell Shocked! It’s an amazing tale of everything in Howard’s life from childhood to the present.  I particularly enjoyed the music-related stories, such as the creation of “Happy Together”, recording with Bruce Springsteen, and putting together their “Battle of the Bands” album.  I did not know that Howard was musically talented as far back as his High School years playing clarinet and sax in a marching band and rock and roll band.

The more personal stories in the book are sometimes funny but sometimes sad and hard to read.  I was surprised at Howard’s birth name, Jewish background, and how intelligent he is!  At the same time I’m shocked at how easily such a smart person could so easily get involved with drugs and struggle with multiple marriages.  I know I would not enjoy living the life that Howard lived in these cases.  I don’t know how he kept going looking for work in the lean times or fighting legal battles for years.
I’ve seen the Turtles (featuring Flo and Eddie) a few times live and listened to their music many many more times, and they never fail to entertain.  If you have any interest in the history of Rock and Roll/Pop music or have ever enjoyed listening to “Happy Together” I believe you will enjoy this book.  My little review here does not begin to do justice to how entertaining and well written this book is!

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