A wild night in London with The Turtles

After knocking back too many whiskey and Cokes at one of swinging London’s colorful taverns, The Turtles’ Howard Kaylan blacked out.

The next day, hung over with his head pounding, he tried to piece together the events of the night before — his first in England, on the eve of a 1967 promotional tour in support of The Turtles’ breakout #1 hit “Happy Together.”

Ever so slowly, it all came back to him … well, almost all of it. It all started with he and The Turtles hanging out with Graham Nash and Donovan listening to a preview copy of Sgt. Pepper and being completely blown away by The Beatles’ masterpiece — which hadn’t been released yet. He remembered actually meeting his heroes, The Beatles, and harmonizing with Paul McCartney at a nightclub, and then running into The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones. And … oh, yeah. There was something else, too.

Kaylan met a new friend that evening, who coolly ordered drink after drink for the both of them, and while the man, a young up-and-coming guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix, appeared unfazed by all the booze, Kaylan felt increasingly nauseous. The night ended with Hendrix and his red velvet coat all covered in vomit.

“When I smell that particular combination I have to choke back a horrible feeling in the back of my throat,” laughs Kaylan.

For Kaylan and the rest of The Turtles, it was a wild night that would change them forever. “My Dinner With Jimi,” a lighthearted film written by Kaylan and produced by Rhino Records’ Harold Bronson, chronicles what happened that night and everything that led up to it — from a Turtles photo shoot for a teen magazine to Kaylan and bandmate Mark Volman’s hilarious, drug-addled attempts to avoid military service in the Vietnam War.

“I look at it as a blurry Polaroid of the times,” says Kaylan.

Fried circuits

Going on an unexpected bender that left him completely incapacitated the day after was not part of tour itinerary for Kaylan.

When he awoke, it was the middle of the afternoon. Kaylan was wearing his pajamas. To this day, he still hasn’t a clue how he got into them.

“I had no idea where I was,” says Kaylan. “I don’t remember how I got back to the hotel, if it was Jimi’s people or what, or somebody from the club.”

The mystery has yet to be solved. But it doesn’t concern Kaylan too much. That night, he had talked to his idols, The Beatles, and not only that, but people like Jones and Hendrix, and even McCartney to a certain extent, treated him like a celebrity.

“My brain was frying like an egg in a skillet,” says Kaylan.

His circuits overwhelmed, Kaylan, an admitted fanboy, drifted through the evening in a daze. As he struggled to wrap his head around all that happened the night before,  Kaylan had to bow out of interviews and shows scheduled the day after The Turtles’ night on the town.

It could have been worse. For Turtles’ rhythm guitarist Jim Tucker, meeting The Beatles was a disillusioning experience, as the movie shows a drunk John Lennon berating Tucker for trying to be just like The Beatles. Tucker would leave The Turtles soon after, abandoning music, some say, because of the episode.

“It all comes down to finding out your idols have feet of clay,” says Kaylan.

As for Kaylan, it certainly didn’t leave him feeling jaded. “I can’t tell you how epically life-changing it was,” he says. “When we got to England, even before we landed, we knew we were going to lose our minds. We were going to England, where real celebrities lived.”

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