Despite what the title implies, this is not a song about a couple in love. According to Gary Bonner, who wrote the song with Alan Gordon, the song is about unrequited love. Our desperate singer wants the girl to "Imagine how the world could be so very fine," proposing what would happen "If I should call you up." The line in the fadeout, "How is the weather?" is when he realizes they will never be more than passing acquaintances, and he resorts to small talk to keep from bursting into tears. (thanks, David - Mesa, AZ)
The song's composers Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon were the bass player and drummer of the Boston area group The Magicians. Bonner became a regular member of Kenny Vance and the Planotones. Gordon, who died in 2008 at the age of 64, had songs recorded by Alice Cooper, Frank Zappa and The Lovin' Spoonful. Talking about how the song came together, Alan Gordon said: "I had nearly half a song already written, mostly lyric ideas, but couldn't find the right melodic concept. The Magicians were in the middle of a week-long engagement at the Unicorn Club in Boston, and one early morning I was visiting my divorced father in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts after being up all night. I had stopped to have breakfast at the Park Street Diner in the town and was miserable with no sleep, the endless dumb gigs we were playing and having a songwriter's block. About the only melody that was throbbing in my tired, fried brain at that hour was the time-immemorial repeated open string pattern that Allen (Jake) Jacobs, the Magician's lead guitarist, would use as he incessantly tuned and retuned after, before, and frequently during each piece we played. Suddenly, some words began to fit and literally minutes later music and lyrics started to take shape. I excitedly and in fairness asked Jake to complete the song with me as co-writer, but he refused, saying it was all 'too simple' for him to be involved, so my regular partner Gary then helped me with the finishing touches. When Gary Klein at the Koppleman/Rubin office heard the result, he immediately knew the song would be perfect for the new and upbeat image being created for The Turtles, and it was his continued enthusiasm that convinced the group to record it."
After the song was turned down by a number of groups, Bonner and Gordon recorded a demo at Regent Sound Studio with some session musicians, including guitarist Ralph Casale
and bassist Dick Romoff. It was Casale who came up with the main figure which set the groove for the song. He told us: "A chord sheet was placed in front of the musicians and we immediately proceeded to put this song together. I came up with what I considered and called a Lovin' Spoonful feel. I created the figure and all the other musicians including Bonner and Gordon immediately understood the direction. The vocal arrangements fell into place very nicely. Regent Sound was an excellent studio so the demo sounded like a finished product. I later told everybody, 'I just heard a hit record.' As Aunt Flo put it, the original demo was phenomenal. In fact the Turtles' recording sounds as though they used the basic demo track and overdubbed horns. The Bonner/Gordon vocal arrangement sounded a lot like the hit record also."
The Turtles were formed by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. They were saxophone players who did whatever was trendy in order to make a living as musicians. They played surf-rock, acoustic folk, whatever was big at the time, and in addition to their own bands, played backup for The Coasters, Sonny And Cher and The Righteous Brothers. After a while, they gave up sax and became singers, signing a deal with White Whale Records as The Crosswind Singers. When British groups like The Beatles took over America, they tried to pass themselves off as British singers and renamed themselves The Tyrtles. The record company made them change the name to The Turtles, and tried to make them sound like The Byrds, who were leaders of the folk-rock trend. Like The Byrds had done before, The Turtles recorded a Bob Dylan song for their first single - "It Ain't Be Babe." They had a few more minor hits, and recorded the original version of "Eve Of Destruction
," which became a #1 hit for Barry McGuire. They recorded some gloomy songs that completely flopped, so they decided to try some happier songs. After many other artists passed on "Happy Together," The Turtles decided to record it in an effort to change their image once again.
Bonner and Gordon also wrote other Turtles hits like "She'd Rather Be With Me" as well as "Celebrate" by Three Dog Night. (thanks, Rick - Lafayette, NJ)
In the three years after The Turtles recorded this, they had several other hits, but disbanded in 1970. Volman and Kaylan joined Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention as "Phlorescent Leech and Eddie." After a few years with Zappa, they started recording as Flo And Eddie. They wrote music for the animated movies Dirty Duck, Strawberry Shortcake and The Care Bears, and hosted their own nationally syndicated radio show. They also played on many famous songs by John Lennon, Roger McGuinn, Hoyt Axton, Alice Cooper, Blondie, Bruce Springsteen, The Psychedelic Furs, Sammy Hagar, Duran Duran, and The Ramones. In 1984, they went on their "Happy Together Tour" as The Turtles Featuring Flo And Eddie.
The line "If I should call you up, invest a dime" harkens back to a time when telephone calls were often made at pay phones that cost a dime. These days, he would probably just call from his cell phone, which is much more convenient, but far less romantic.
Besides The Turtles, three other acts took this song to the US Hot 100:
Dawn featuring Tony Orlando [medley] (#79, 1972)
Captain & Tennille (#53, 1980)
The Nylons (#75, 1987)
In the UK, the Australian singer Jason Donovan made #10 in 1991 with his version, and in 1979, T.G. Sheppard made it to #8 on the country chart with his rendition.
Other artists to cover "Happy Together" include Mel Torme, The Ventures, Hugo Montenegro,
The Vogues, Buck Wild, Vikki Carr, Petula Clark
, Melba Moore, Donny Osmond, David Cook, Percy Faith and Frank Zappa.
This has appeared on the soundtracks to the movies Adaptation, Ernest Goes To Camp, Life Or Something Like It, and Freaky Friday.
This has been used in lot of commercials for clients like Burger King, The NFL, Nintendo, Red Lobster, Sony Playstation, Florida Orange Juice, Heineken, Clinique and Nickelodeon. (Thanks to Carlin America publishing for their help. For more, check out www.carlinamerica.com
In 1989, this was used in a movie of the same name starring Helen Slater, Patrick Dempsey and Brad Pitt. (thanks, Marek - Warsaw, Poland)
This song was used in an episode of That '70s Show. The scene of the song's usage involved the character Fez imagining what his life would be like if his friends were his family. The sequence later transitions into the characters performing the song. (thanks, Alec Thorp - Yorktown Heights, NY)