Sunday, April 5, 2009

Behold a White Whale

The Turtles -- surely you remember them? If you were flipping through a stack of 45s you'd be searching for the powder blue label of White Whale Records.

Supposedly the band name's original spelling had a 'y' instead of a 'u', but they were never going to be the Byrds. They had a pretty good run though, and on this day in 1967 they were "Happy Together'' for three weeks at No. 1.

Like the Byrds, they had used a Bob Dylan song ("It Ain't Me Babe'') to gain national attention. And they pretty much stayed in the folk-pop vein once they realized it was more successful than their California-based surf roots.

"Happy Together'', "You Baby'' and "She'd Rather Be With Me'' were all hits for the Turtles and White Whale, a small L.A. label whose menagerie included The Drongos, Everpresent Fullness, John's Children and lyme & cybelle (which reportedly was a Warren Zevon "project'').

Our music filters in 1967 would soon be tasked to process some divergent forms. Psychedelia was bubbling up on the West Coast and (gasp) bubble gum was about to spread like a plague throughout the land. Up to this point commercial stations had been feeding us the Milk and Honey: Folk and pop music, reinforced and bolstered by British and Motown influences.

Times were good. And the timing couldn't have been better for the Turtles, who fit nicely atop the Billboard Top 5:

1. Happy Together, Turtles
2. Dedicated to the One I Love, Mamas and the Papas
3. Penny Lane, Beatles
4. There's a Kind of Hush, Herman's Hermits
5. Baby, I Need Your Lovin', Johnny Rivers

And then "Somethin' Stupid'' happened: Frank and Nancy Sinatra became the only father-daughter to have a No. 1 song.

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