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(Credit: White Whale Records)


The drug-fuelled escapades of The Turtles at the White House

Rock ‘n’ roll and politics have an interesting relationship together. Sometimes they mix really well, other times it feels forced and deluded. If anything is for certain, it’s that music never fits well with politics especially when there are drugs involved — but it makes for one hilarious story. 

This ill-conceived tale involves a band that is not all that often talked about and certainly does not make oft appearances in drug-fueled escapades. 

The Turtles had several top 40 hits in the late 1960s after they had tried their hand at surf-rock music, before developing a very distinct sound that could only be created by a six-piece. The band was led by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman and, at the time, didn’t really dabble in writing their own songs, instead, they interpreted other people’s works, such as Bob Dylan ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’.

On this day in 1970, the band were invited to the White House in the United States to perform for Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia Nixon, whose favourite band was The Turtles. What could possibly go wrong in this scenario? While the band did not agree with Nixon’s politics, their manager persuaded them to do the gig.

However, things went off to a bit of a rocky start. When the Turtles arrived, secret service men asked to search the group when they found their metronome/tuner. After accidentally popping it on, the band had to then convince the men for the next 10 minutes that it wasn’t a weapon.

Once they finally got through the checkpoint, the band proceeded to their dressing room – President Lincoln’s library. Having smoked a sufficient amount of herbal supplements back at the hotel, the group somehow managed to bring in cocaine. 

“We were given President Lincoln’s library to use as our dressing room. It was amazing. We were loaded — high from smoking pot back at the hotel and a wee bit tipsy from all the French champagne that was being freely dispensed —and we were roaming around the most important home in America unsupervised,” Kaylan wrote in his book, Shell Shocked: My Life with The Turtles, Flo and Eddie and Frank Zappa, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. 

When the group finally managed to find themselves on the stage, Kaylan’s longtime partner in crime, Mark Volman had a few ‘balancing issues’ to say the least. 

“He fell off the stage a few times, much to the amusement of all present.” 

Luckily for the band, President Nixon was not present at the time. “I am absolutely positive, considering our states of mind that evening, that I — or some other equally messed-up Turtle — would have given him an earful of our contempt and probably would have ended up in Gitmo.”

I wonder if The Turtles are still Tricia Nixon’s favourite band.