Three years after the U.K.’s Demon Records released The Turtles’ The Albums Collection – a six-LP vinyl set presenting the band’s complete studio album discography – the label has added three more vinyl titles to their Turtles library: the period anthologies Golden Hits (1967) and More Golden Hits (1970) plus the 2017 compilation The Turtles ’66. All three reflect the changing sound of the eternal group which both epitomized AM pop and gently sent it up.
Golden Hits arrived at the midpoint of The Turtles’ studio career, between the band’s third and fourth albums (Happy Together and The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands), and it drew on tracks from their first three long-players. Described on the back of the jacket as “some old ones and some fairly new ones,” it lived up to that billing. It collected the first eight of The Turtles’ charting singles (including three top ten entries), and three additional songs to make an all-killer, no-filler selection of bright AM pop. While a stereo mix was also released, Demon has opted to reissue Golden Hits in its mono form – the most authentic and enjoyable way to experience these glistening Bones Howe and Joe Wissert productions.
Four out of eleven tracks were written or co-written by P.F. Sloan, among them 1966’s “You Baby.” With its catchy hook, carnival organ, propulsive drums, full-throated lead vocal, and jangly guitars, the punchy Sloan/Steve Barri tune is two minutes and nineteen seconds of sheer ebullience. Sloan and Barri’s beautiful harmony-pop nugget “Is It Any Wonder?” debuted on Golden Hits, and showcases The Turtles’ softer side. Sloan’s “Let Me Be,” like The Turtles’ debut cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” offer the remnants of the group’s folk-rock days.
Three more cuts on Golden Hits hail from the team of Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, most notably the band’s ubiquitous first chart-topper, “Happy Together,” and its equally effervescent follow-up, the U.S. and U.K. top five entry “She’d Rather Be with Me.” Both songs found The Turtles recognized as one of the foremost purveyors of catchy harmony- or sunshine pop as they brought light psychedelia and rock-and-roll underpinnings to their rich vocal sound. Among the other highlights, Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s moody “So Goes Love” premiered on Golden Hits, and the album also introduced an extended version of bassist Chuck Portz and multi-instrumentalist Al Nichol’s quirky, Eastern-influenced “Grim Reaper of Love.”
Whereas Golden Hits was first released while The Turtles were on top of the world, the band was winding down by the time of the release three years later of More Golden Hits. Only one more studio album would follow – 1970’s Wooden Head – and it wasn’t a new album at all, but rather a compilation of previously unreleased music from the group’s early days. More Golden Hits, a more diverse set than its predecessor, rounded up The Turtles’ next eight U.S. charted singles plus four additional tracks. Only two more minor chart entries would follow it. It’s presented in its original stereo mix.
A full six of the collection’s twelve songs were credited to the band members – Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, Jim Pons, Al Nichol, and either Johnny Barbata or John Seiter – and reflected their growing independence and maturity. The wonderfully melodic “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain” remains one of The Turtles’ most underrated singles in the sunshine pop mold, and the haunting, majestic (and all too unknown) “Love in the City” is no less impressive.
The bravura 1968 concept album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands found Kaylan, Volman, Nichol, Pons, and Barbata gleefully switching identities (and genres) from track to track. Onetime Turtles bassist Chip Douglas, fresh from his work with The Monkees, returned to The Turtles’ fold in the role of producer for this album brimming with originality and wacky invention. Two of its tracks were included on More Golden Hits.
Despite stiff competition from the likes of The Atomic Enchilada and The Fabulous Dawgs, surely the group named Howie, Mark, Johny, Jim and Al would have won the Battle with “Elenore.” The loopy tune, written by Kaylan and co. as a parody of “Happy Together” with the chords changed and intentionally goofy, mundane lyrics (“You’re my pride and joy, et cetera”) was nonetheless such a polished pop production, performed to the hilt, that it couldn’t help but become a Top 10 hit and radio perennial. Equally delicious was the hypnotic reinvention of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark’s “You Showed Me.” In their guise as Nature’s Children, The Turtles slowed down the original Byrds demo’s jangly, uptempo arrangement, replacing it with a lysergic groove and yielding one of the group’s most beguiling ballads as well as another Top 10 smash. “Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret” wasn’t from Battle of the Bands but might as well have been; the twangy country ballad almost sounds like the work of a wholly different band – as ever, attesting to The Turtles’ versatility.
While Sloan and Barri were entirely absent from More Golden Hits, the “Happy Together” team of Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner were well-represented with “She’s My Girl” – a more outré, shifting, and psychedelic variation on the earlier hit – and “The Cat in the Window.” The band also gave early boosts to the careers of Harry Nilsson and Judee Sill with the boisterous “The Story of Rock and Roll” and the baroque “Lady-O,” respectively. More Golden Hits has a number of unique versions on it; mono singles were remixed into stereo for inclusion and “The Story of Rock and Roll” even has some different vocals near the end of the track.
The third and final release in this campaign from Demon, The Turtles ’66, was first issued on vinyl in the U.S. in 2017. Curated by Bill Inglot and Dan Perloff, it collected 12 mono masters from that year (including nine previously unreleased mixes) as a “lost” album. Had these tracks been released together in 1966, they would have comprised the third Turtles LP. Instead, a handful trickled out on the A- and B-sides of singles with the remaining seven songs ending up on Wooden Head in 1970. But they’ve been enjoyably sequenced here and make for a compelling, consistent listen.
’66 has four tracks also on the first volume of Golden Hits: “Can I Get to Know You Better,” “Grim Reaper of Love,” the Goffin/King ballad “So Goes Love,” and the Warren Zevon co-write “Outside Chance.” (Before his singer-songwriter days, Zevon also penned the lovely “Like the Seasons,” included on the Happy Together album.) A few of its folk-pop cuts are well-known from other renditions: the supercharged “I Can’t Stop” by The Roulettes (it opened Wooden Head and opens Turtles ’66, too); David Gates’ “Tie Me Down” by Dino, Desi and Billy; “Wrong from the Start” by Peter and Gordon. But The Turtles, led by Howard Kaylan’s vibrant leads, brought their bright energy to all of the above.
Other standouts include Kaylan’s chiming “She’ll Come Back” (performed by the band in the 1966 movie Out of Sight) and a rollicking run through the late Dame Vera Lynn’s WWII standard “We’ll Meet Again” complete with barroom piano. (It was a Turtles favorite, released on a single in 1966 and then again in a different version on Wooden Head.) “I Get Out of Breath” fits snugly into the band’s oeuvre of P.F. Sloan-written songs.
All three titles are simply if effectively presented in replica jackets with inner sleeves featuring various memorabilia images and basic credits. (The replicas are precise to the point of repeating the misspelling of “Margaret” on More Golden Hits.) Alas, there are no liner notes included. The two hits compilations are pressed on 180-gram gold vinyl while The Turtles ’66 is (appropriately enough) on green vinyl. The pressings are all quiet and detailed, reflecting Bill Inglot and Dave Schultz’s mastering prowess. Especially in these troubled times, The Turtles’ musical mirth can be a tonic. Look for Golden Hits, More Golden Hits, and The Turtles ’66 at the links below.
- You Baby
- So Goes Love
- She’d Rather Be with Me
- Is It Any Wonder?
- Let Me Be
- Grim Reaper of Love
- It Ain’t Me Babe
- Can I Get to Know You Better?
- Happy Together
- Outside Chance
- You Know What I Mean
- We Ain’t Going to Party No More
- Story of Rock and Roll
- You Showed Me
- Sound Asleep
- You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain
- Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margaret
- She’s My Girl
- Hot Little Hands
- Love in the City
- Cat in the Window
- I Can’t Stop
- Outside Chance
- Can I Get to Know You Better
- So Goes Love
- Wrong from the Start
- Tie Me Down
- I Get Out of Breath
- Say Girl
- Grim Reaper of Love
- She’ll Come Back
- Get Away
- We’ll Meet Again