Everybody on the bus: those merry pranksters of the Happy Together Tour are back on the road for a frankly amazing 33rd annual time-trip back to those transistorized, ever so slightly psychedelicized days when American pop-rock bands took up harmonies against the British invaders — and the bubblegum-music bubble had yet to pop.
When the 2017 tour rolls into Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre this Saturday night, it will once again serve as a fundraising vehicle for the Light of Day Foundation, the nonprofit for Parkinson’s Disease research that each January delivers a jolt of star-quality benefit concerts in Asbury Park and elsewhere. And racing to the head of the class once more will be the tour’s historic headliners, the Turtles.
Led by co-vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, that mid-60’s “harmonic convergence” from the New York suburbs kept the Brits at bay with a series of Beatle-beating classics (“Elenore,” “You Showed Me,” Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and of course, “Happy Together“) that proved they were no flash in the pan.
Indeed, those “two guys from Westchester” would go on to enjoy a decades-long run, rebranding as Flo & Eddie, doing time with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, producing fine albums by the Good Rats and DMZ — and contributing awesome backing vocals on everything from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” to the most memorable recordings of Marc Bolan’s T. Rex. For the 2017 lineup, they’re joined by an impressive cast featuring some of the finest exemplars of transistor radio pop.
Anyone with a stack of scratched-up 45s to show for their time on Earth knows returning tour participant Chuck Negron as the voice of such Three Dog Night chartbusters as “Joy to the World” and “One.” Remembered for their smash “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” (you might know it as “I Love the Flower Girl”), the family band the Cowsills has stayed in the game, most notably through brother John’s long tenure as a member of the current Beach Boys.
Back with several of its original members intact, the California “sunshine band” The Association packs a legacy of harmony-rich soft rock hits that include “Cherish,” “Never My Love,” “Along Comes Mary” and “Windy.” Reunited after the 2010 passing of original front man Alex Chilton (also the co-founder of indie legends Big Star, and author of a delightfully offbeat solo career), the Box Tops bring the made-in-Memphis authority of hits like “The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby” — and Ron Dante puts to rest the “who?!” factor with the realization that his was the voice of the Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”), the Cuff Links (“Tracy“), and — wait for it — the Detergents (the under-appreciated classic “Leader of the Laundromat“).
Tickets ($29.50 – $79.50, with a $119.50 VIP meet-and-greet option) can be scored right here.