Monday, November 23, 2015

Shell Shocked – Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin

Just before I started reading this book I was thinking about how boring some rocker bios are that Dennis Dunaway's book where he began the tale in high school, already friends with some of the other major players. But here Kaylan (with co-author Tamarkin, editor of Goldmine, among many, many other projects) did manage to keep things interesting with his infatuations with unusual characters and his school training which helped immensely with his career - and he keeps it reasonably brief before turning to his teenage years and his first bands.
delve too deeply in the protagonist's childhood, which are usually fairly dull, no matter who the star is. I liked

Ironically, Howard's first group was a surf instrumental band in which he played saxophone - the Crossfires. He brought in his partner-in-harmony, Mark Volman, who also learned enough horn work via school band to keep up, and with the advent of the Beatles, the group featured more vocal work and morphed into the Turtles. The band made it big with their first recording and continued to churn out hits for several years. Howard regales us with tales of groupies galore - somewhat surprising for a band that was not especially good looking - and meeting with other stars of the day, from Eric Burdon to Jimi Hendrix. Of course, nothing lasts forever and the hits stopped coming and the band disintegrated. 

Howard and Mark maintained their personal and musical relationship and did session work, including hits for T. Rex, among many others, before randomly ending up in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention! A big change of pace, but something that they enjoyed although the band almost came to an end in the famous Montreaux fire (that of "Smoke on the Water" fame) - and did break up when Frank fell off a stage not long after and came close to dying. 

They became Flo and Eddie - the names they used for the Mothers due to contractual obligations, though Mark became Flo after their first press pic was printed backwards! - and did some terrific tours, including Alice Cooper's Killer tour. They added radio and TV work to their resumes and even dabbled in production, including DMZ's first album. He calls them "hardcore" years before the term was in use and claims the drummer broke his hand during the recording of "Cinderella" and that take was used on the record!

The oldies scene came to the rescue after other projects started fizzling and, since they were smart enough to retain the Turtles' name, they have made a good living touring on the 60's reunion circuit.

Of course, there is much more to his story, such as the many women in his life, the drugs, and the innumerable bad decisions, but he has made it out alive and seems to be in reasonably good shape and spirits these days.

I really enjoyed this one - good tales of the crazy days of 60's and 70's rock'n'roll excess. Take a gander, for sure!