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Jeff Moehlis: Flo & Eddie, Still Happy Together

Mark Volman talks with Noozhawk ahead of Thursday's tour stop to the Chumash Casino

You may or may not know Mark Volman’s name, but you certainly have heard him sing. Volman and longtime collaborator Howard Kaylan were founding members of The Turtles, whose 1960s hits include “Happy Together” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” When The Turtles disbanded, Volman and Kaylan joined Frank Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention, and because of contractual reasons adopted the names Flo & Eddie.

Flo & Eddie performed on the Zappa albums Chunga’s Revenge, Fillmore East June 1971, and Just Another Band from L.A., and in the movie 200 Motels. Flo & Eddie also sang background vocals for T. Rex, including on the worldwide hit “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” and the albums Electric Warrior and The Slider.

And that’s just scratching the surface. They also sang on records by notable artists including Bruce Springsteen (“Hungry Heart”), The Psychedelic Furs (“Love My Way”), Stephen Stills, Alice Cooper, Ray Manzarek, Keith Moon, The Ramones and Blondie. Volman is also chair of the Entertainment Industry Studies program at Belmont University in Nashville.

Volman and Kaylan will be performing as part of the Happy Together tour at the Chumash Casino next Thursday, along with Mark Lindsay (former lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders), The Association, The Grass Roots and The Buckinghams.

Click here for tickets.

The following is from a July 29 phone interview with Volman, who was at home in Tennessee. Click here for the complete interview, which includes more thoughts on working with Zappa, Marc Bolan in T. Rex, Springsteen and others, plus his account of the Montreux Casino fire immortalized in the Deep Purple song “Smoke on the Water.”

. . .

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming Happy Together concert at the Chumash Casino?

Mark Volman: This is an idea that we started in the 1980s, which was to have a tour in which the artists only play their hit songs. That’s what this is. There’s not anybody trying to preview a bunch of new material from an upcoming album. This is just Happy Together, five acts from the 1960s who generated about 100 million sales around the world. So everybody’s just playing their biggest hits.

JM: How would you characterize your experience in The Turtles, both the good and the bad?

MV: Well, I think that with every type of experience, especially in the music business aspects, the low points probably are the elements that detract from the artistic part, where you’re forced or relegated to making music for the purposes of supporting an industry that doesn’t give much credibility to the art form.

Mark Volman, aka Flo from Flo & Eddie, will be performing hits by The Turtles as part of the Happy Together tour coming to the Chumash Casino.
Mark Volman, aka Flo from Flo & Eddie, will be performing hits by The Turtles as part of the Happy Together tour coming to the Chumash Casino.

Of course, the high point really was just about every experience you can look at. Even the negative things were good for us to learn about, because, I mean, you can’t change all of that. It’s just a life experience. Life brings you the challenge of the high points and the low points, and I think there were so many high points that kind of overshadow the bad parts. The reality is that in the end result, especially for Howard and I, it has given us an entire career, which I can’t ever imagine we at one point could have ever thought would happen.

I mean, the fact that we’re still doing this with nearly 50 years of a friendship under our belt, and still going strong, that has to be one of the most remarkable parts of this.

JM: How did it come about that you and Howard joined The Mothers of Invention?

MV: That was purely by accident. I mean, The Turtles were in a lawsuit with the record company, and it prevented us from using the name The Turtles. It even prevented us from using our real names to make records.

And so we were in a situation where we were really out of work. So when Frank came along and offered us the opportunity to join The Mothers of Invention, to just tour and sing with the band and go through Europe, we didn’t have any idea that that would turn into a two-year partnership that would turn out so much great material.

JM: What was it like working with Marc Bolan in T. Rex?

MV: He was a great kid. He always seemed like a kid. That’s sort of the way that he acted; he was very childlike. We had some really good times making those records. He had an innocence, especially in the beginning.

He knew, even though he joked about it, he really knew what he was doing and was very conscious of the fact that if everything went exactly the way he was visualizing it, he was going to be as big as he eventually would become. Jokingly or otherwise, he knew that he was going to be a huge star. He just had so much confidence, and he was so self-absorbed with this image and knowledge that if it was done properly he was going to be the biggest music star ever. That was the way he approached it.

JM: Say, I do have to ask you whether or not you smoked pot at the White House (when The Turtles played at a party for Tricia Nixon)?

MV: Well, I think that was a story the media latched onto. I was not a part of a group that smoked pot at the White House. There might have been members of the group who did, but I don’t think we would’ve gotten away with it. Like I say, I think we might have made a comment back then as sort of a rhetorical thing. I heard that we snorted cocaine on Lincoln’s desk. What I can say is I know we did have a few drinks that night. I can say that, because I know I partook in a few drinks myself that night.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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