Album Review – It Ain’t Me Babe by The Turtles (1965) (White Whale Records)

In the mid 60’s there were three prevailing trends:

1.  Early hit single? Yes? Release an album out as soon as humanly possible Earning potential was the most important consideration.

2.  Not enough album ready songs to release the above album? Worry not…Call 1960’s super-hero Bob Dylan to save the day with a plethora of his ‘cover ready’ folk tracks. He was effectively ‘CoversMan’.

3.  Be a bit jangly like The Byrds.

If this was the general template for success in the era, then why is it that The Turtles and this particular album, manages to poke their daft fringes above the excesses of the ear and insist that correct and proper homage is paid to their brilliance?

Initially rather than taking the futile uninspired journey into Dylan coverage, by trying to make a Dylan song less Dylan-esque by ripping out the folk heart of the tracks and replacing them with some sort of classic rock bias, The Turtles remained more true to the originals and just added subtle jangle-pop flourishes with the occasional startling, but essential frenzied The Monks like proto-punk of a .  As such Like a Rolling Stone, Love Minus Zero and the superlative title track It Aint Me Babe (see below) are able to inhale the majesty of Dylan and exhale something but essentially appealing.

It Ain’t Me Babe

Although the haste to capitalize on the success of the It Aint Me Babe single meant the album was loaded with several covers from other bands as well as the Dylan ones (including a far superior version of gravel voiced  Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction, that was originally penned by PF Sloan), it is the work that they are directly responsible for penning that has retained the most resonance over the years. 

Their surf rock output from their previous band, The Crossfires is purloined in the true stand out of the album (and the B-Side of the other single from the album Let Me Be) Your Maw Said You Cried (see below) which conveys a Beach Boys jangled vibe married to the sort of bouncy pop essence that saw Freddie and the Dreamers prance all over the place during the same era.

Your Maw Said You Cried

Similarly the only other track from the album that was penned by the band in their actual The Turtles incarnation (A Walk In The Sun, see below) mixes fluttering incidental The Byrds like jangle to a sound that gradually develops into psych pop and eventual proto-punk classic. It is an amazing track that is both the most relevant in terms of jangle-pop as well as in a contradictory manner, being the most aggressive on the album.

A Walk In The Sun

Eventually The Turtles went onto much better things than this album presents. Primarily this was due to the fact that they finally were given the time to develop their own songs and also decide what they wanted their signature sound to be. However, 20 years after purchasing it, I still find myself reaching for the sheer entertainment of this album when I have an hour to spare and one of those ‘what shall I listen to now moments’ of indecision arises.

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