Howard Kaylan was shaking in his boots. His band, The Turtles, were riding high as their joyous ray of pop-rock sunshine "Happy Together" was sitting atop the singles charts at #1 in 1967, but the singer had gotten his draft card in the mail.
Suddenly, there was the very real possibility that he was going to go to Vietnam to fight in the war.
"Yeah, the draft thing. That was probably the scariest thing I've ever gone through," Kaylan admits.
Kaylan and fellow Turtle Mark Volman ended up beating the system. A portion of the film "My Dinner With Jimi," with a script written by Kaylan, chronicles how the pair fooled the military into declaring them unfit for service. To learn more about the film, visit mydinnerwithjimi.com/
The DVD of Kaylan's movie — which garnered a Best Feature Film award in the Asheville Film Festival (North Carolina), and a Best Screenplay Award from Park City’s Slam Dunk Film Festival — is due out June 9 on Micro Werks. Much of the film centers around The Turtles' whirlwind promotional trip to England following the success of "Happy Together," and the band's first night out in the country. A wild night in which the band, with Graham Nash serving as tour guide, met a drunken and rowdy quartet of Beatles — a confrontation with John Lennon is, perhaps, the movie's most intense scene — in a London nightclub after hearing Sgt. Pepper's before its release and being blown away by how innovative it sounded.
Later on, Kaylan, left on his own after the rest of The Turtles went back to their hotel, partied not only with Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, but also a young Jimi Hendrix, who treated Kaylan to a never-ending stream of whiskey and cokes, a spinach omelette and a blackout. Kaylan says that to this day he doesn't know how he got back to his hotel room.
Like The Turtles' music, the movie is a lighthearted, fun romp. Produced by Rhino Entertainment co-founder Harold Bronson, it's a snapshot of the times and a look at swinging London in the 1960s through the eyes of someone — that would be Kaylan — who was, and still is, an admitted fanboy of not only The Beatles, but anything related to the British Invasion.
There will be more on The Turtles and the movie in a future edition of Goldmine.
Aside from the movie, Kaylan also has some book projects he's been working on that promise to reveal much about The Turtles' turbulent career (see the video below) — including their well-publicized legal fights to retain their name and rights to their music. And some of his writings will tell more about how Kaylan and Volman escaped the clutches of the military than is in the movie.
But for now, Kaylan says that information will remain with him because " ... I don't want to tell tales out of school."
As for that song "Happy Together" that made The Turtles such sensations — and as the movie reveals people like Brian Jones were fans of the band — Kaylan remembers hearing it for the first time on a "horribly scratchy demo." At the time, The Turtles were not recording their own songs.
"Our forte was picking songs that best suited us," says Kaylan. "That's what we did very, very well."
Well, that and how they blended the incredible vocals of Kaylan and Volman in harmonies that rivaled those of The Beach Boys.