This week’s musical genre for Song Lyric Sunday, hosted by Jim Adams, is Sunshine Pop. According to Wiki, “Sunshine pop (originally known as soft pop) is a subgenre of pop music that originated in Southern California in the mid-1960s. Rooted in easy listening and advertising jingles, sunshine pop acts combined nostalgic or anxious moods with “an appreciation for the beauty of the world”. There were certainly plenty of songs from that time that fit the Sunshine Pop category but there is one that stands out from the rest and has stood the test of time. I’m referring to “Happy Together” by The Turtles. It is as popular today as it was then being used in multiple movies and commercials over the years. I featured this about three years ago for another SLS prompt ‘Couples’.
Despite what the title implies, this is not a song about a couple in love. According to Gary Bonner, who wrote the song with Alan Gordon, the song is about unrequited love. Our desperate singer wants the girl to “imagine how the world could be so very fine,” proposing what would happen “if I should call you up.” The line in the fadeout, “How is the weather?” is when he realizes they will never be more than passing acquaintances, as he resorts to small talk to keep from bursting into tears. >>
The song’s composers Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon were the bass player and drummer of the Boston area group The Magicians. Bonner became a regular member of Kenny Vance and the Planotones. Gordon, who died in 2008 at the age of 64, had songs recorded by Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa and The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Talking about how the song came together, Alan Gordon said: “I had nearly half a song already written, mostly lyric ideas, but couldn’t find the right melodic concept. The Magicians were in the middle of a week-long engagement at the Unicorn Club in Boston, and one early morning I was visiting my divorced father in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts after being up all night. I had stopped to have breakfast at the Park Street Diner in the town and was miserable with no sleep, the endless dumb gigs we were playing and having a songwriter’s block. About the only melody that was throbbing in my tired, fried brain at that hour was the time-immemorial repeated open string pattern that Allen (Jake) Jacobs, the Magician’s lead guitarist, would use as he incessantly tuned and retuned after, before, and frequently during each piece we played. Suddenly, some words began to fit and literally minutes later music and lyrics started to take shape. I excitedly and in fairness asked Jake to complete the song with me as co-writer, but he refused, saying it was all ‘too simple’ for him to be involved, so my regular partner Gary then helped me with the finishing touches. When Gary Klein at the Koppleman/Rubin office heard the result, he immediately knew the song would be perfect for the new and upbeat image being created for The Turtles, and it was his continued enthusiasm that convinced the group to record it.”
After the song was turned down by a number of groups, Bonner and Gordon recorded a demo at Regent Sound Studio with some session musicians, including guitarist Ralph Casale and bassist Dick Romoff. It was Casale who came up with the main figure which set the groove for the song. He told us: “A chord sheet was placed in front of the musicians and we immediately proceeded to put this song together. I came up with what I considered and called a Lovin’ Spoonful feel. I created the figure and all the other musicians including Bonner and Gordon immediately understood the direction. The vocal arrangements fell into place very nicely. Regent Sound was an excellent studio so the demo sounded like a finished product. I later told everybody, ‘I just heard a hit record.’ As Aunt Flo put it, the original demo was phenomenal. In fact the Turtles’ recording sounds as though they used the basic demo track and overdubbed horns. The Bonner/Gordon vocal arrangement sounded a lot like the hit record also.”
The Turtles were formed by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. They were saxophone players who did whatever was trendy in order to make a living as musicians. They played surf-rock, acoustic folk, whatever was big at the time, and in addition to their own bands, played backup for The Coasters, Sonny And Cher and The Righteous Brothers. After a while, they gave up sax and became singers, signing a deal with White Whale Records as The Crosswind Singers. When British groups like The Beatles took over America, they tried to pass themselves off as British singers and renamed themselves The Tyrtles. The record company made them change the name to The Turtles, and tried to make them sound like The Byrds, who were leaders of the folk-rock trend. Like The Byrds had done before, The Turtles recorded a Bob Dylan song for their first single – “It Ain’t Me Babe.” They had a few more minor hits, and recorded the original version of “Eve Of Destruction,” which became a #1 hit for Barry McGuire. They recorded some gloomy songs that completely flopped, so they decided to try some happier songs. After many other artists passed on “Happy Together,” The Turtles decided to record it in an effort to change their image once again.
Courtesy of Songfacts
Imagine me and you, I do I think about you day and night, it's only right To think about the girl you love and hold her tight So happy together If I should call you up, invest a dime And you say you belong to me, and ease my mind Imagine how the world could be, so very fine So happy together I can't see me lovin' nobody but you For all my life When you're with me, baby, the skies'll be blue For all my life Me and you, and you and me No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be The only one for me is you, and you for me So happy together I can't see me lovin' nobody but you For all my life When you're with me, baby, the skies'll be blue For all my life Me and you, and you and me No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be The only one for me is you, and you for me So happy together Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba Me and you, and you and me No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be The only one for me is you, and you for me So happy together So happy together And how is the weather? So happy together We're happy together So happy together Happy together So happy together So happy together Writer/s: Alan Gordon, Garry Bonner Publisher: BMG Rights Management Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
A great pick! The Turtles were one of the most popular bands in the “genre.”
Thanks John. It’s amazing how that was a song for the ages. I still get a lift every time I hear that intro ☺️
One of the best songs of that time. I always loved it. 🙂
It is isn’t it Barbara? I never get tired of it ☺️
I learned a lot from reading your post today, Christine. I am not sure who Aunt Flo is though.
Thanks Jim. Yes that kinda threw me off. Aunt Flo meaning something else to a woman! LOL. Who knows really. It could be his aunt Flo I suppose or maybe a nickname for a band member.
This one is now leading my Turtles choice 2-1 🤣
I wonder what todays Sunshine Pop would be! 🤔
Oh, I love this song!