Flo & Eddie play Carnegie Hall with U2
On October 9, 2009 Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman joined a star-studded group of musicians and actors (such as Scarlett Johansson, Lady Gaga, Laurie Anderson, Antony, Elizabeth Ashley, Bono, Adam Clayton, Andrea Corr, The Edge, Flo & Eddie, Joel Grey, Bill Frisell, Guggi, Courtney Love, Lydia Lunch, Patrick McCabe, Maria McKee, Shane MacGowan, Eric Mingus, Larry Mullen, JG Thirlwell, Martha Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright, Chloe Webb and many more) to celebrate songwriter Gavin Friday’s birthday at Carnegie Hall as part of U2’s (RED) Concert Series.
Read more below in Jim Bessman’s article published in the Manhattan Local Music Examiner (October 13, 2009):
No doubt the huge applause that erupted at Carnegie Hall was for U2. Then again, maybe it was for Flo & Eddie.
For sure, Flo & Eddie knew more artists on stage—or were known by more artists on stage–at the star-studded Oct. 4 “An Evening with Gavin Friday and Friends” show that Bono and the boys put on for their man Friday, also starring such luminaries as Laurie Anderson, Joel Grey, Bill Frisell, Scarlett Johannson, Lady Gaga, Courtney Love, Maria McKee, Shane MacGowan, Lou Reed, Friday’s longtime collaborator Maurice Seezer, Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright.
“There wasn’t one person we met who hadn’t grown up with one part of our history or another,” says Mark Volman, a.k.a. Flo. “Even Joel Grey came up to us and hugged us and said how excited he was when he heard we were on the show.”
Volman and longtime partner Howard Kaylan (Eddie) had appeared with Grey back in the 1960s on The Ed Sullivan Show—when Volman and Kaylan were the mainstays of top hitmaking pop group The Turtles (their many hits included the landmark “Happy Together”). When the band folded in 1970, the vocal duo joined Frank Zappa’s Mother of Invention as Flo & Eddie—short for “The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie”—due to contractual restrictions from using the name “The Turtles,” as well as their own names, in a musical context.
Flo & Eddie have since appeared as backup vocalists on numerous recordings by such varied major artists as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and The Ramones. And they appeared on Friday’s Hal Willner-produced albums Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves (1989) and its 1992 follow-up Adam ‘N’ Eve (McKee also sang backup on it).
Willner, who has also produced electric multi-artist album tributes to the likes of Kurt Weill, Walt Disney and Thelonious Monk, produced the Friday night as well—to benefit Bono’s (RED) effort for funding African AIDS programs.
“I almost cried when Bono said how extremely happy and proud he was to be on stage singing with us—getting the chance to sing with Flo & Eddie,” says Volman. “These people just don’t hand out plaudits, and it really meant a lot.”
Friday and U2 had come up together in Ireland, both heavily influenced by the late Brit glam rocker Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex–which featured Flo & Eddie.
“We made 10 Top 10 international records with T. Rex and probably six albums,” says Volman, whose voice—with Kaylan’s—appears on such T. Rex classics as the 1972 No. 10 hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On).” “Marc never treated us as background singers, but always counted us as part of the band.”
Says Kaylan of U2 and Friday: “All those boys grew up with such love and respect for T. Rex. It was unbelievable to be singing our ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ behind them [at Carnegie Hall] because they were so enamored of those records.”
Flo & Eddie sang several songs on the Carnegie Hall program with various groupings. Among them were the Adam ‘N’ Eve tracks “I Want To Live,” “Falling Off The Edge Of The World” and “King Of Trash,” and the T. Rex tune “Children Of The Revolution,” which Bono, Friday and Seezer sang on the Moulin Rouge movie soundtrack.
“They were just starting their bands when we did that stuff,” notes Volman of the T. Rex days, “and that’s how we got on Gavin’s records—and worked with U2.”
U2 actually opened for Flo & Eddie in Sweden, recalls Kaylan.
“We were doing our two-man show on TV in Stockholm in 1981 and they had just released their first album,” he says. “They asked us what it was like to be famous! Now they’re the biggest band the planet’s ever known and they truly haven’t changed much—and that’s a wonderful thing to be able to say. They’re just incredibly nice people, still. They didn’t get star crazy.”
Meanwhile, Flo & Eddie are more active than ever.
“We’ve been working the past year on the reissue Save The Turtles–the first release of our greatest hits in four years,” says Volman, who somehow manages to teach full-time at Belmont College in Nashville as coordinator of its entertainment industry studies program—while touring with Kaylan. Released under their own auspices, the singing Turtles are donating a portion of the proceeds to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, to help rehabilitate sick or injured sea turtles and return them to the wild.
Volman adds that the Flo & Eddie album catalog has also been repackaged—finally—for first-ever CD release. And coming out next week is New York “Times”: 1979-1994 Live At The Bottom Line Featuring Flo & Eddie, a zany two-CD set of brilliant live music and comedy performances culled from The Turtles’ legendary shows at New York’s fabled nightclub The Bottom Line. Volman says it took four years to compile.
“It’s like our scrapbook and really shows what Flo & Eddie were trying to do—in a no-compromise situation,” says Kaylan. “We just did what we loved, and showed that after The Turtles’ four-chord progressions, that we weren’t just a Zappa spin-off and were good enough to do it all on our own in person—not only for ourselves and the music, but in this case, for New York. It includes a medley of the music we did with Zappa along with comedic salutes to Woody Allen, George Gershwin and Bobby Short—and bits like ‘Escape From New York.’ The whole record’s an homage to the city.”