Note: This interview was first published in 2010 at popcultureaddict.com.
In 1964 the Beatles hit American shores, forever changing the status quo of the music industry. Soon other British bands, such as The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Hollies, The Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits and The Pacemakers found their way across the Atlantic, creating the now legendary British Invasion and dominating the North American music charts. However, America was not about to lay down their guitars and allow the British to take over without a fight and by 1965 Paul Revere and the Raiders were leading the American rock n’ roll revolution via Dick Clark’s music programs Where the Action Is and Happening. In their riding britches, three corner hats and revolutionary war jackets, The Raiders successfully fought back against the British, topping the charts an incredible seventeen times with hits such as Kicks, Hungry, Him or Me, Good Thing and Indian Reservation. Easily one of the most recognizable bands of the era, The Raiders became one of the premier rock gtoups of the 1960’s.
Yet, although organist Paul Revere’s name was in the title, it was no doubt to fans that lead singer Mark Lindsay was the real star of the show. With his pointed features, trademark pony tail and electrifying good looks, the tall and lanky singer, song writer and saxophonist quickly became one of the music industry’s biggest idols and one of the most revered musicians of the 1960’s. Gracing the covers of fan publications such as 16 Magazine, Mark Lindsay found a devoted fan base which continues to grow today. However, as Mark Lindsay’s popularity grew, jealousy began to crack the foundations of the group, creating one of the most legendary rock n’ roll feuds from the era. Mark stayed with The Raiders until 1975, and in the years that followed he has remained active in the music industry in a number of different roles including solo artist, composer, jingle writer and working for a time as the head of A&R for United Artists.
Currently on tour this summer as part of The Happy Together Tour, featuring other great 60’s performers such as The Turtles, The Buckinghams, The Grass Roots and Mickey Dolenz, Mark Lindsay is appearing in more then thirty venues across America, bringing back the music and the spirit of one of the greatest eras of music. While on the road, Mark took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about the tour, as well as his time in The Raiders, the history of rock n’ roll and the hey day of his rock super stardom. However, not all of Mark’s stories were about the free love and grooviness of the flower power era. Mark also talked frankly about his the rivalry with former musical partner Paul Revere, and about the time when he came face to face with a strange man named Charles Manson.
When it comes to rock n’ roll legends, Mark Lindsay is still the real deal.
I spoke to Mark Lindsay via telephone in June 2010
Sam Tweedle: How is the Happy Together Tour going?
Mark Lindsay: It’s going great. It’s an incredible package and people that I’ve talked to after the show say that they’ve seen a lot of these [kind of] shows before but this is the best line up they’ve ever seen.
Sam: Well it is an absolutely fantastic line up. Have you worked with these groups before?
Mark: Sure. Over the years I’ve worked with everybody. Most recently I’ve been doing dates with Mickey Dolenz and Peter Noone as the “three teen idols.” It’s kind of laughable but I guess we were back in the day.
Sam: Well back in the day you three were amongst the biggest teen idols.
Mark: We had enough teen magazine covers to qualify. I’ve worked with The Turtles and The Grass Roots before many times, and The Buckinghams a few times over the years. It’s a great slice of 60′s music and with Paul Revere and the Raiders I was lucky enough to sing seventeen top forty records. I can’t obviously sing all of them [during this tour]. We have a limited time. But you’re going to get forty or fifty of the biggest pop or rock n’ roll songs of the 60′s on this package and I think that’s what makes it so much fun.
Sam: How many years have you been in the music business now?
Mark: Good lord. Fifty years? I don’t know. I started when I was probably thirteen or fourteen. A long time.
Sam: When you think back to your childhood, how did you first get interested in music?
Mark: My tastes in music are very eclectic. I guess it started when I was a very little boy and I would listen to the radio all the time. It was mainly what we would call pop songs and a potpourri of whatever they were playing on the radio in the late 40′s and early 50′s. I would listen to my grandmother’s classical collection and it would make me cry. I don’t know why, but it did. I listened to my uncle’s Spike Jones collection and that made me laugh. Then, of course, as I grew up, I listened to a lot of country and some jazz once in a while when I could hear it but I was influenced very early by R&B which we could only get in Idaho on AM stations from the east or from California. I loved all the black artists and the R&B sounds. It was just funky. I found a degree in rhythm in the early music that we didn’t have in early rock. In the 50′s rock n’ roll kind of clanked on with great rock n’ roll like Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran and Little Richard but then it kind of got insipid for a while. Kind of got into that [sings] “Go away little girl.”
Sam: That was Steve Lawrence.
Mark: Well not just Steve Lawrence but it kind of went out of hard edge rock like Rock Around the Clock to something else.
Sam: You mean the difference between Gene Vincent and Paul Anka.
Mark: Exactly! Of course when the early 60′s hit it was still kind of like that, but bring on the British Invasion and the American answer to that, I would like to think, was Paul Revere and the Raiders happily leading the charge. It was rock n’ roll again. But everybody from the British Invasion – Eric Burdon and Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones – all those guys were listening to all the same black artists that I was and they kind of gave us their take on how they interpreted Muddy Waters. We were doing the same thing and it all came together to make some great 60′s music.
Sam: The Raiders really bridged the gap between the British Invasion and the Psychadelic era of rock. Paul Revere and the Raiders really helped evolve rock n’ roll, but near the end do you feel that you weren’t able to evolve due to audience expectations? I mean, when listening to a later album, like Collage for example, The Raiders had a far more progressive sound but you guys were not really famous for being a progressive band. Was there something that held back The Raiders’ further evolution?
Mark: Yes indeed. Collage was my baby.
Sam: It’s an amazing album.
Mark: Thank you so much. It’s amazing when you think about all the effects. There was no digital boxes in those days so the only way I could get the depths and effects and things was that, at one time, I was mixing it down at four different studios at CBS and had as many as twenty two different tape machines running at different speeds to get the different echo effects. If you listen to the intro of Just Seventeen in stereo you’ll hear this weird back and forth panning. We had to do that with a Leslis cabinet with a variable speed on it so I could match the tempo of the record and then I overdubbed the bass, snare drum, and guitar just doing straight chords in time with that, and then put it through the Leslie and panned it back and forth through that and it became a little rhythm session under the drums. We had to use all kinds of tricks and it was all analogue tape manipulation and variable speed devices and it took a long long time. At one time, luckily towards the end of the project, we had guys stationed in each studio on telephone lines and when I said “One, two, three, go” they’d all press the go button on the tape machine but there was so much electricity pulled to start those old analogue reel to reel tape machines that a couple of times it blew CBS studios off the air. So the second time that happened they said “Mr. Lindsay, your going to be required to stay in one studio from now on” but luckily most of the project was over. So Collage came out and CBS even said in some of their ads “This may be the Raiders thirteenth single, or their first.” It was definitely a different direction for us and music had changed a lot from the mid 60s to the early 70′s. I was trying very hard to bring the Raiders along and evolve a little bit but when the record came out it was so different then what people thought the Raiders’ sound was that the Raiders fans that liked our music were likely to buy it but somebody else, if you said Paul Revere and the Raiders, they’d say “Those are those guys in those crazy suits” and nobody took it seriously. It was the only album that the Raiders that was reviewed in Rolling Stone and they gave it rave reviews. They said “Man, forget about it. These guys have arrived“ and I’ve heard them pan Beatles records so I thought that this was cool. But, unfortunately not everyone shared Rolling Stone’s enthusiasm and the record had pretty miserable sales. So what I should have done is gone to Clive Davis and said “Look. This is going to be a transition. Obviously we’ve really jumped a great distance here from the last record so what we need to do is do another album and help educate people, and if that doesn’t work, we do a third album and if that doesn’t work I’ll just throw in the towel.” It just broke my heart that I put so much time and psychic energy into Collage and it came out and after awhile it kind of squashes and nothing happened. I kind of lost my drive for a minute. It was a combination of the shock of going from mellow rock to a hard edge, more progressive rock and trying to shake off the image of the tights, high boots, three corner hats and lace dickies.
Sam: But that was a classic look and there is no denying that you guys were so cool. Perhaps I think it now because it’s so retro, but you guys really did have it going on.
Mark: It was a lot of fun and in the beginning, if you listen to the early stuff, you’ll hear a lot of R&B influences. If you saw the Raiders live, at those early frat parties and playing armories and stuff, we were totally irreverent. We just had a ball. We were just a hard, kick ass, rock n’ roll band. We showed up at one frat party and somebody said “Paul Revere and the Raiders? Who are you guys? We could have had Doug Clark and the Hot Rods.” I said “What’s so cool about them” and he said “They perform in their jock straps” so I said “Okay guys. Drop trous” We pulled off our pants and played that way. We were just having fun playing rock n’ roll and we were loud and rockin’ and irreverent. I had a hundred foot chord made on my microphone so I could crawl around in the rafters and go to the bathroom and relieve myself during a song and whatever. But when we went on TV for Where the Action Is we had to clean up our act a little bit. But we were a kick ass band and if you listen to the new three disc CD that has just came out on CBS you’re going to hear some good rock n’ roll, but if you look at the cover you’re going to see this goofy looking band. I wish they would have used a live shot of the band in action with sweat coming down us. It didn’t have to be glamorous but it is certainly a glamorous shot on the cover. But I think the image is kind of burned into people’s retinas and they think we just goofed around and had fun but they forget that we made pretty good rock n’ roll music.
Sam: Someone who is a huge influence on me and what I do is teen magazine mogul Gloria Stavers. It has been written many times that you and Gloria were very close. I was wondering if you could tell me about the relationship you two had together and the influence that she had on your image.
Mark: Gloria Stavers was very instrumental in crafting us. When Gloria Stavers first saw the Raiders, we were playing in New York City while The Rolling Stones were playing in New Jersey. She was going to cover the Stones but she missed the ferry. So she went to our concert and later on she said “I looked on the stage and I knew that that guy was going to make it.” She kind of took me under her wing in a way and said “Let’s amplify your stage persona.” She got me a tailor and hired him to make me outfits for off stage that would portray the image a little further with a lot of puffy sleeved shirts and to become more the swash buckling hero type that would help her sell magazines. We kind of made a deal. She said “I’ll increase your notoriety and help your career if you help sell magazines for me” and that was it. There is a picture in a booklet you can get on my web-site called The Tale of Mark Lindsay and [the cover] is a profile shot of me with a pony tail. It is a Richard Aeidon shot. She had set that up. It was actually for a Vogue layout but they passed on it because some other lady who was very hot at the time [came along] and they wanted to cover her instead. But [without Gloria] I would have never met Richard or a lot of more sophisticated venues than this little kid from Idaho would have found on his own.
Sam: Now when I was doing my research I found an interesting bit of trivia about you that really peaked my curiosity. Is it true that you lived with Terry Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive the year before Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate moved in, which, of course, was the setting for the famous Manson family murders?
Mark: That’s true. We were living together in an apartment in California and Terry and I kind of hit it off in the beginning. I loved the studio and he was a master in the studio. I used to hang around with him.
Sam: Well Terry produced a lot of your biggest songs, like Kicks and Hungry.
Mark: Yeah. He did Kicks and Hungry and Just Like Me and Ups and Downs. Just a slew of hits. So when we needed an album I started writing songs and I’d bring them in for album cuts and Terry was the guy who selected what cuts would go on what. He saw I was a fairly prolific writer and one day he said “Look. I think we could write something together” so we sat down and really hit it off as [a team]. So he said “I’m moving into this house up in Beverly Hills. Do you want to go in on it with me? I have a piano and we can do a lot of songs and stuff” and I said “Sure.” So we moved in and we did. Hungry and Kicks were written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Wile and one day Terry and I were sitting around in the garden at the house and he said “You know Mark, I think we could write a single if we really put our mind to it” and we sat down and wrote Good Thing and that was the start of a nice string of songs. At that time the Raiders were on the road maybe two hundred nights a year. We didn’t play two hundred nights a year, but we were on the road to get to the dates and when we weren’t on the road we were filming Where the Action Is and I was in the studio filming, which is what I loved to do. But I remember coming home from the airport one afternoon and I dropped my bag in the hallway and there was all these people in the living room. Dennis Wilson were there, and a couple of lawyers that I knew, and a couple of other guys. I saw that there was some kind of meeting going on so I walked into the kitchen to get something cold to drink and there was this guy sitting on the tile on the kitchen floor and leaning up against the refrigerator. He had jeans on and a blue work shirt and I said “Excuse me” and I tried to open the door but he wouldn’t move. He was like a doorstop. I said “Excuse me” again and he wouldn’t budge. So I went back into the living room and I said “Who’s the weird guy in the kitchen?” They said “Oh, that’s just Charlie. He’s okay. He’s a little eccentric but he’s alright.” So Charles Manson was there then. The deal was that Dennis had met him while riding in the desert one day and they sat down and got very very high and Charlie played him some songs and Dennis thought that they had some merit so since he knew Terry he thought maybe he could do something for Charlie. So they had two or three meetings but Terry decided that there was something a little off about ol’ Chas and decided to pass. So at the time Terry and Candice Bergen were kind of an item and I’d come home and feel like a third wheel. I told Terry “I only have six months left in the lease so I’m going to bail out and you and Candy can share the place and I’d feel better.” So I did and shortly thereafter Terry broke up with Candy and he moved out and subletted the house to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate and the rest, as they say, is an unfortunate part of history.
Sam: Now it has been well documented that you and your former musical partner Paul Revere have had a rivalry over the years. Were do you think that stems from.
Mark: Well, yeah, there is [a rivalry]. In the early days, back when we formed The Raiders in the late 50′s in Idaho, Paul was like a Jerry Lee Lewis type, pounding on his piano, and I was just the lead singer. He was going to be the star. That’s what he thought, although we both formed the band jointly, more or less. But, of course as you know, in the early sixties, The Beatles hit and suddenly Jerry Lee Lewis was out and a lead singer was in. Plus, suddenly the groups were playing organs and the piano was not the sound of the day. Paul was a great boogie woogie and blues player, but when he went from the piano to the organ he sort of lost interest in it. Obviously we were doing quite well so he kept it up. But there were too many concerts where after the show people would come up to me and go “Gee Paul! I really love your music” and I’d say “I’m not Paul. I’m Mark Lindsay.” And they’d say “Well who’s Paul?” I’d point over to Paul’s keyboards and they’d say “Oh, he’s just a piano player.” He heard that too many times and I think it kind of bruised his ego, which I can totally understand. But after enough time I think he got fed up with it. On the shows he would do his comedy bits and I would obviously sing. Now he’s performing in Branson and the show is mainly comedy with whoever the members of the band are now, and it changes quite often. They’ll play two minutes of a Raiders song between his comedy bits and that’s fine. If that works, great.
Sam: But what you do is something distinctly different.
Mark: I focus on singing and a little talking while he talks with a little music. I’m just a music junkie. I love to perform and love to sing and I do songs. There has been talk of a reunion and at one time it would have said no, but if there was a chance to play together, if only once for old times sake, I might. But unfortunately it would not be quite the same because Smitty, our drummer, is gone now and Drake, the guitar player who was like my right hand man, is gone. When we on stage together Drake was my biggest musical allie. So that leaves just me and Phil Volk left alive from the Raiders. It would still be fun to do but it’s up to Paul. The ball is in his court. I’m kind of past the animosity part. Life’s too short.
Sam: Now when you started doing music as a kid, and working with Dick Clark and doing all the TV shows, did you think that in 2010 you’d still be touring.
Mark: Absolutely not. I didn’t think I’d live to be past thirty years old. I had no desire to. I thought “What the hell do you do after thirty?” Because back then thirty was old. Believe me. I never thought I’d see Haley’s Comet come around. So I never thought that but I’m very grateful and glad. But who knew that rock n’ roll would last that long. Every genre of music has had maybe one or two decades of popularity and then fades away but rock refuses to die and I’m very happy with that.
Still today Mark Lindsay is the embodiment of cool. I took an instant liking to Mark during our discussion but was disappointed when it had ended. There was just so much more to ask and so much more that I wanted to know. I have no doubt that we barely scratched the surface of the experiences that Mark Lindsay has had and the stories and wisdom that he has to offer. Thankfully the pop culture journey is a long and winding road and hopefully one day my paths will cross with Mark once again.
However, if The Happy Together Tour is coming to your area don’t miss the opportunity to see Mark Lindsay for yourself with some of the other great acts that he is traveling with. Click here for tour dates, locations and tickets. Also, visit Mark’s web-site at www.marklindsay.com for more information on Mark’s appearances and thoughts. Still today, in 2010 Mark Lindsay is creating a happening. Don’t miss being a part of it.
POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE: We’d like to thank Jeff Albright from The Albright Entertainment Group for arranging the opportunity to help promote The Happy Together Tour and for connecting us with Mark Lindsay. Thank you Jeff for an incredible experience. We appreciate all you did for us.