In the opening moments of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday, after the obligatory singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” a familiar song echoed through the hall: “Happy Together,” the 1967 smash hit made popular by the Turtles.
At least one person wasn’t happy about it. Howard Kaylan, who gained fame as the Turtles’ lead singer with those memorable lines about a blissful future, soon tweeted his concern:
Despite his disapproval, though, Kaylan may have jumped the gun, says his bandmate in the Turtles, Mark Volman.
Reached on the phone a few hours after the opening performance, Volman says that because the organizers employed a house band to play “Happy Together,” the Turtles don’t appear to have much legal recourse.
The Turtles own only the so-called mechanical rights -- their performance and recording of the song -- and are therefore unable to prevent another act from covering it.
“They can’t use the Turtles’ record on TV without paying for it, so if they did, they will certainly hear about it. But what I’ve been told is that it was the house band playing the song, which we can’t control, because we only own the Turtles’ version of the song.”
It seems kind of silly that they would open the convention with something that has nothing to do with them at all.
Volman, who is best known as Flo in the duo Flo & Eddie, adds that the owners of the publishing rights might take issue with “Happy Together” being used during a political event, but likely couldn’t stop its performance.
Asked for his reaction to Kaylan’s tweet about calling attorneys, Volman says, “I call the lawyers all the time. I don’t think that Howard knew that it didn’t have anything to do with us. It was just somebody else playing the song.”
That said, Volman does have a few philosophical objections to the song’s use in Cleveland. “It seems kind of silly that they would open the convention with something that has nothing to do with them at all,” he says. “The RNC seems to be going out of its way in creating more of a negative than a positive, so I don’t think ‘Happy Together’ really fits.”
However, adds Volman with a laugh, “I can see why they would use it. It’s a fabulous song!”
Pondering its message of unity, Volman says, “Maybe it’s time we started doing things that were a little bit more proactive in terms of positive messages. Everybody’s going out of their way to be negative about things. Maybe it’s a good time to start doing something — maybe ‘Happy Together’ is a good message.”
There’s a lot of terrible music out there. For tips on the stuff that’s not, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit