Though The Turtles were unhappy with the RNC house band performing “Happy Together” during Monday’s convention session, there isn’t much they can do about it.
Since no one in The Turtles wrote the song (the team of Gary Bonner and the late Alan Gordon did), the band does not control its use for live performances — as opposed to when their recording is spun.
Co-founder Mark Volman tells the Los Angeles Times they have only “mechanical rights,” those involving their recording. Volman says, “They can’t use the Turtles’ record on TV without paying for it, so if they did, they will certainly hear about it. But what I’ve been told is that it was the house band playing the song, which we can’t control, because we only own the Turtles’ version of the song.” He adds that the owners of the publishing rights might take issue with its use during a political event, but they likely couldn’t prevent that, either.
On the other hand, the frizzy-haired Volman can understand why the RNC band found “Happy Together” so appealing. “Maybe it’s time we started doing things that were a little bit more proactive in terms of positive messages. Everybody’s going out of their way to be negative about things. Maybe it’s a good time to start doing something — maybe ‘Happy Together’ is a good message.”