The Odd Evolution of the Turtles' 'You Showed Me'

Frank Mastropolo
White Whale Records

One of the sweetest ballads recorded by the Turtles was the 1968 hit “You Showed Me.” The track was part of The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, a concept album on which the group poked fun at musical genres by pretending to be different bands for each track. “Nature’s Children” was the “band” that contributed “You Showed Me.”

"You Showed Me" by the Turtles

Along with “You Showed Me,” “Battle of the Bands” yielded the hit “Elenore.” Lead singer Howard Kaylan told Altsounds (offline) that he was surprised that the album, which has become a cult classic, was not better received.

“Battle of the Bands was our Sgt. Pepper. It was actually a wonderful idea and it still bugs me, all these years later, that it was under-appreciated by the music critics upon its release, despite yielding two Top 10 records.

"We performed in the styles of all these different bands and took costumed photographs of each group—quite the concept, but some people, like Rolling Stone at the time, thought that we were trying to rip off the Mothers of Invention for some reason. Baffling. I was happy with it then, and I still think it's the strongest stand-alone album that the band ever recorded."

“You Showed Me” was written by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn in 1964 before they would co-found the Byrds with David Crosby. The song may never have surfaced had Turtles producer Chip Douglas not recalled that the trio, then known as the Jet Set, used to play the tune at LA's Troubador. Douglas told Brella (offline) that the club was a hangout for folkies like him and McGuinn.

"McGuinn was one of the first people I met when I went to Los Angeles in December of '62. He was a folk singer around town. So it was just a clique of musicians that all knew each other. There wasn't a whole lot of them but they were always at the Troubadour and that's where we got to know each other.

"One by one they began to get with happening groups and then disappear on the road but that was the gathering place, the Troubadour bar on Monday nights, which was a Hoot night and all these different people would perform.

"I watched Crosby, McGuinn and Gene Clark get it together to be the Byrds. They had formed a trio and were singing Beatle songs and stuff on a Monday night. They'd have a few beers, grab a guitar and be sitting around in a corner there working on songs. Most notable I can remember was a thing called 'You Showed Me.'"

"You Showed Me" by the Byrds

In late 1964, manager Jim Dickson brought the Byrds, now joined by guitarist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke, to World Pacific Sound where the group honed their sound. Two demos of “You Showed Me” were recorded, which eventually surfaced on compilation albums: an acoustic version on 1969’s Preflyte and a more up-tempo electric take on 1989’s “In the Beginning.” By the time the Byrds’ released their June 1965 debut album Mr. Tambourine Man, the group had abandoned “You Showed Me.”

Gene Clark left the Byrds in 1966 to form the Gene Clark Group, where he was joined by bassist and former Troubadour pal Chip Douglas. Clark’s group performed “You Showed Me,” which Douglas says he remembered when he moved on to produce the Turtles and needed a song for Battle of the Bands.

"I contacted Eddie Tickner, who was Gene's manager at the time, and asked him if there were demos of Gene in the office. I had sort of lost touch with Gene, he was doing other things and we didn't hang out anymore. I was looking for a song in particular called 'Madeleine' but it wasn't on the tape."

But the demo of “You Showed Me” was on the tape, which allowed Douglas to learn the words to the song. Kaylan told Mystery Island (offline) that the song was never intended to be a ballad.

"We perform 'You Showed Me' at every concert—it was one of our biggest hits, although it was never intended, by its writers, to be a ballad at all. It was up-tempo and really early Beatles-sounding . . . very Merseybeat.

"Only Chip's pump organ was broken—one of its two bellows was out—so Chip had to play the song for us at half-speed. And we loved it. And we told him we wanted to record it as a love song. And he thought we were nuts. But, once again, we were spoiled brats and got our way. And I'm still grateful. 'You Showed Me' still proves itself to be the prettiest love song we ever recorded."

Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2021

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Frank Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2021; New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock; the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a journalist, photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

New York, NY

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