Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mark Lindsay interview

Mark Lindsay: Just Like Him
Introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, December 2011 issue

Be it on TV, or on record, Paul Revere & The Raiders were a band that was always going to get your attention. From the moment that the Raiders stepped on Dick Clark’s “Where The Action Is” TV show in 1965, they commanded the audience’s attention, with their matching Revolutionary War outfits and Marx Brothers-esque humor. But it was their records that have stood the test of mine, a fun, garage-pop sound honed by years of touring the Northwest US. “Hungry,” “Him Or Me,” Kicks,” Just Like Me” and many others still sound great, a testament to the records that were made during those busy times.

At the center of it all was Mark Lindsay, a frontman that had the perfect look and sound to lead the group. Keyboardist Paul Revere may have had the group’s name, but it was Lindsay that took the reins on the group’s sound, becoming an adept songwriter, arranger and producer for many of their hits. After Lindsay left the Raiders in 1975, he was continued to tour, record, and live out the dream that began for him in Boise, Idaho in the late 1950s.

Lindsay is a lot of fun to talk to, as I did via phone earlier this year. Here, we talk about the beginnings of the Raiders, and the band’s evolution through the years.

Daniel: When you look at a collection like this, of these songs and your time in history with The Raiders, what comes to mind?

Mark: Well, if I skim over the different cuts, usually it’s kind of like looking at a menu and each song conjures up visions of either the time of year, or where I was living or what was happening at the studio at that time. Each one is kind of a little vignette of what was happening in my life at that time.
So, it’s all just a bunch of memories compressed in a little bullet there.

[For example], “Him or Me,” that’s one of my favourite songs that Terry [Melcher] and I wrote. And a great studio band that The Raiders played on. I think that some of The Raiders were there, I know that there are a whole bunch of guitars [on that song], Ry Cooder was there. We had three drummers on that cut. It was Jim Keltner, Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon. But we had some of the best studio drummers in the world on that. And then after we cut the tape, I went in with Terry a couple of days later and opened up some more toms. So…(singing), you can really hear that beat!

Daniel: Take me back to the beginning of The Raiders. 

Mark: At the time, I was playing in a group called, “Freddy Chapman and the Idaho Playboys”. It was a country band, and I was the Rockabilly singer. I was billed as, “Mark Allen. He balls and squalls, and crawls up the walls!” (laughter) I didn’t change my name deliberately, but Freddy Chapman, who was the leader of the band said, “What’s your stage name?” And I said, “Mark Lindsay, what do you mean?” And he said, “Well, you gotta have a stage name!” And I said, “Well I don’t.” And he said, well what’s your middle name? And I said, “Allen…Mark Allen Lindsay” And he said, “That’s good! Mark Allen! Yeah, that will work!”

So, I was Mark Allen with Freddy Chapman, and I was having a great time, but there was a new group in town, The Red Hughes band, and they were playing all these dances, and they used to rehearse across the street at [Paul] Revere’s house, next to the Reed N’ Bell Drive-In that he owned at that time.

And I could hear his rock and roll from the door, and I thought, “Man, that’s what I want is to get in is an all-rock-and-roll band, that plays nothing but rock and roll.” Nothing wrong with country, but rock & roll is where it’s at! So, low and behold, time went by and I was reading at McClure’s Bakery, and saw some posters that up the street at the Elks Lodge, they were having a rock & roll dance Saturday night. So Saturday night, I went up there.

At the time, I wore these thick glasses, and I was very shy and insecure about the glasses and about my appearance. So I wanted to sing, but I didn’t have my glasses on, and I couldn’t see a thing. I mean I was legally partially blind without my glasses.

I walked in the door ,and I could hear this band playing over in the corner. So I kind of walked through the crowd to make a bee-line towards the sound, and these people kind of parted the way for me, looking at me like, “God, this kid must be crazy!” Because I wasn’t dancing, just walking through the crowd. So I walked up to the stage, and the band finished the tune, and I said, “Hey, I’d like to sing a song.” And the lead singer, whose band it was, said, “No, no, get out of here. This is MY shot!” 

And Revere, who was the piano player, said, “No, let the kid do it, it might be funny!” So, he said, “What can you sing?” And I said, “Any song that you can name!” Which of course, was not true! I just thought I could! And he said, “Well how about, ‘Crazy Arms’ “ which was the flip-side on one of the early Jerry Lee cuts. I said, “Sure I know that!” And he said, “What key?” And I said, “ANY key!” (laughter!) I didn’t know what a key was!

So, we did “Crazy Arms” and for the time that I was singing the song, for about three minutes, I was totally transformed and transposed to another place, and everything was cool. And as soon as the song was finished, I was back in my body being that geeky Mark Lindsay with the thick glasses. And I said, “OK, bye,” and I kinda ran out the door, and that was it!

The next day, which was Sunday, Revere came to pick up his buns for his drive in, and since McClure’s Bakery where I was working didn’t deliver on Sunday , he came in. I’ve got my thick glasses back on, and I’ve got my baker’s apron on, and my baker’s hat ,and I’m all covered in flour and stuff. And I’m wrapping up his order and he said, “You know a funny thing happened last night, I was playing up the street at the Elk’s Lodge” And I said, “Oh, really? How was it?” And he said, “Oh great, great crowd! But the weirdest thing happened. During the middle of the show, this skinny, weird lookin’ kid came up and walked onto the stage and demanded to sing a song!”

And I said, “Well, how was he?” And he said, “He wasn’t bad!” So I whipped off my hat and my glasses, and I said, “It was me!” So he said, “You need to come and rehearse sometime with us!”
So I did, and one thing led to another and eventually Paul and I started a band that was then called, “The Down Beats” which became “Paul Revere and the Raiders”. And again, as they say, the rest is history!

Daniel: And also, later on, when Paul did his time in the army, you actually kept the band going.

Mark: We had a big hit [with] “Like, Long Hair,” and of course Revere was doing a stint for Uncle Sam. The president of the record company, John Guss, said, “You guys have to do a tour! You’ve got a big hit out there! You’ve got to tour!” And I said, “Sure.” And Revere said,  “You can’t. You can’t without a piano player.” So finally, [the record label] convinced him that he’d get another piano player, and that we’d go out not as, “Paul Revere and the Raiders,” but as, “Paul Revere’s Raiders”.
Of course, all the fliers said, “Paul Revere and The Raiders”, but no one knew who Paul Revere and The Raiders were anyway, so it didn‘t make any difference! At that time, it was our first hit.

So, the band that we put together was a band of studio guys hanging around California. Los Angeles. And the first piano player that we rehearsed with was Bruce Johnston, who was the Bruce who went on to play with The Beach Boys. But on the day of our final rehearsal, before we hit the road, Bruce didn’t show up. 

So we cancelled the rehearsal and we said, “We gotta find a piano player.” And I said, “What’s wrong with Bruce? We can reschedule it.” So I drove out to Beverly Hills, and I knocked on the door and the maid said, “Oh, he’s not here. He’s out at Sunset Beach surfing.” And so I drove out to the beach and I spotted his car, and I waited there, and pretty soon he paddled in, surfed in. And I said, “Bruce! You know we had a rehearsal this morning, what’s going on? We gotta go out on the road tomorrow!” And he said, “Oh, I decided I’m not gonna do it.” I said, “Oh no! Why didn’t you TELL me?!” And he said, “I was gonna. I just haven’t gotten around to it.” So I was fuming. So I went back in and told the manager, and he said, “There’s a new kid who just came into town, Leon Russell, from Oklahoma, we’ll see if he wants to do it.”

So the next day, with very little rehearsal, we hit the road with Leon Russell on keys. And I was really out of my element. It was the first time that I hadn’t played in the northwest. We were playing in Nebraska and Kansas and all these places, where The Raiders weren’t known, nobody knew my name, and I was totally panicked. I go out on stage the first night and after intermission, we did the first half and at intermission I went backstage with the guys and I said, “God this is a tough crowd. I don’t know what to do.”

And Leon said, “Look, kid,” and Leon was a couple of years older than I was. He said, “When you get back onstage, just kick it to me and I’ll get ‘em going for ya.” So we get back on stage and Leon walked up to the piano, and he kind of steps back like 2-3 feet, and he kicks the top off of this upright piano! And it goes flying and spinning, plop! Lands in the crowd! They got out of the way just in time! And he jumps up on top of the piano and screams, “Do you wanna fuckin’ rock and roll, or what?!!!” (laughter!) And the crowd goes, “YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!” And then he then jumps on the piano and does his best  Jerry Lee and, of course, the crowd starts rockin’ !!! And I thought, “WOW! So THAT’S how it’s done!” So, when we got back to Portland and reformed the band, I told Revere, “Look, it’s not good enough for us to just stand up there and play. We have to be a show band.”
That’s where some of those things developed. I decided that every night I was gonna try to be more outrageous than I was the night before. So we got a reputation of, or I got a reputation anyway of, being an insane guy who was either gonna commit suicide or die on stage. (laughter!)
So that was the early days. But I have to give the credit to Leon for giving me that little …INSIGHT into, you have to perform FOR the crowd.

Daniel: I knew that when you went back to Portland, you found Smitty, first. And then eventually you found Drake and Fang. What did those guys individually bring to the band, that finally made that first classic Raiders lineup that we know?
Mark: We decided to put the band back together, and I came up from California, and Revere was almost through with his stint at the state hospital, where he worked as a cook! (Laughter) But that is how he was working off his service to Uncle Sam, because he was C.O., Conscientious Objector.
He was almost through, and we put the band together.

So we heard from The Headless Horseman, which was this teenage nightclub in downtown Portland. So we went up there, and I had to go in, because Paul couldn’t go in, because he was over 21. And I wasn’t, so I went in. And I was looking for a guitar player. But the band that was supposed to be there, with this incredible guitar player named Steve West, wasn’t there that night. They had cancelled, or something.

So they had this guy up on stage playing guitar, just solo, just playing the blues or whatever, and I walked up, and he wasn’t bad, I mean he could play a little bit. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I walked up on the stage, looking at him. And later, Smitty said, “At first I thought you wanted to fight me or something from the way you kept staring at me and you got right in my face!” (laughter!)
But I just wanted to see what he looked like! To see if he was cute enough to be in the band, if you know what I mean! (laughter!) Anyway…not “cute” enough, but you know, if he had that “female appeal”.

We invited him out to rehearsal and he shows up and it turns out that what he was playing on stage, the blues, that was about all he knew,one or two songs, but he really wasn’t a guitar player.
So we were very discouraged. I said, “Smitty, do you know any other musicians, or do you play anything else?” And he said, “Actually, I played some drums.” And I said, “Let’s try that!”

And so we had a rehearsal with drums and he came in and it was perfect! I mean, he wasn’t the BEST drummer in the world, he didn’t do a lot of frills, but he kept this incredible funky beat and it was PERFECT. So Steve West, who was the original guitar player that we were looking for, we found him , but he was only sixteen so he didn’t last that long. So we got Drake Levin in. And the bass player that we had at that time had left, so Drake said, “I went to school with this kid, in high school in Boise, and I think he’d be a good bass player. He can play a little guitar, and I think he could learn bass.” So, we got him in, taught him all the songs and in two weeks he learned how to play bass! And of course he was very effusive! He wasn’t the best bass player in the world when he first started, but he turned into a GREAT bass player!

And Drake and he would dance and they were great buddies! The chemistry was just perfect! Smitty was just right on the drums, Drake was an incredible guitar player, Phil was just over the top with enthusiasm, and Revere was, of course, just pounding with the boogie-woogie piano and the Vox organ, and it worked out just real well!

Daniel: Later on, You guys were the first band signed to Columbia. What kind of presssure did you feel on that label? Obviously, it was great to be with Columbia, but also to be the first rock band on that label, and then succeed?
Mark: Actually being on CBS as the very first rock band really didn’t register. It was just, to me, we were just in competition with all the rock bands, on all of the labels.
Daniel: Was television and Dick Clark the right thing, at the right time for you guys? Because it seemed like it just came to you guys at the right point, when you were just starting to make headway on the charts.
Mark: It was the PERFECT vehicle. The formula for The Raiders’ success up til that time was, since we were only known in a small pocket in Idaho, and then eventually branched out to Utah, and Northern California, the formula was, we’d show up in a town and put up a bunch of posters and we’d have a curious crowd. Or half-crowd, or quarter-crowd the first time, but we’d put on such a show that word of mouth was so positive for us, that the next time we came to town it was full. But that would take a long time to break in to each little market that way.

By the time we got to CBS AND got signed to Dick Clark’s show, we were a working band and had been for a couple of years. Several years. So, we already had a lot of experience under our belt. We weren’t just like some new group out of high school stumbling onto the stage going, “What do we do now?” We were pretty confident. So when we got on television, it didn’t deter us, in fact it encouraged us, and it was, as I have said before, kind of a precursor to MTV. After the 80’s and MTV, you couldn’t get arrested with a record unless you had a video to go with it. And with us, since we were on five days a week, we had a video to go with each song we released! And it was great!

We were definitely unique, we didn’t look like any other band, and didn’t SOUND like any other band. And luckily the country took us to its heart, and I would say that Mr. Clark, and the medium of television were extremely instrumental in our success, and very timely.
Daniel: How many shows did you guys do a week, or what was your shooting schedule for, “Where the Action Is” ?
Mark: It was five days a week. And we would get to a location and just shoot all day, and maybe for two or three days. We’d put a lot of shows in the can because we were touring fairly extensively at that time.

Mark: But when we weren’t doing “Action”, we were doing a lot of other television shows. As a matter of fact, I guess I’m the most televised lead singer, based on the number of shows we did, than anybody in the U.S. and maybe the U.K., I don’t know. We did almost 1,000 television appearances.

Daniel: Along with that, too, you guys came out with, “Midnight Ride” and “Just like Us.” Those are two really strong records, that solidified what you guys were doing live. You could see it on TV,  but you also had the songs to back it up. It seems like you guys really focused on what you wanted the band to sound like in the studio, when the TV thing came along, as well.
Mark: Pretty much. And I would say that the lens of that focus has got to give a lot of credit to Terry Melcher, because he was really the “6th Raider,” because he and I did a lot the backgrounds ourselves. The group did a lot of them with us, but Terry was ALWAYS in the background, except on “Steppin’ Out” , when Bruce Johnston was in the background!
Daniel: He came back!
Mark: But he actually produced that record. Yeah, if you look on some of the early copies of, “Here they Come”, on some of them it says, “produced by Bruce Johnston and Roger Hart”. And they are pretty rare. I think they only pressed like about 25,000 or 50,000 copies of that. And then the other ones that came later than that, the next re-printing, give Terry Melcher the exclusive credit.

When I first met Terry, he was recording The Ripchords. “Shut ‘Em Down”. And Bruce was out in the studio with his head in a wastebasket, with a microphone INSIDE the wastebasket to get the resonance. And I met the two of them at the same time, and they of course were “Bruce and Terry,” a partnership, and Terry worked with us for a little bit, and I don’t think he really knew what to do with us at that time, early on. It was still mainly just spouting forth our repertoire of stuff that we already knew. And we had very few original songs.

So, he gave us to Bruce, but after, “Steppin’ Out”, which I wrote, I know Paul’s name is on it, but that’s OK, I wrote the song! (laughter!) And Terry found out about that. So he kinda took me aside and said, “Look, I think we can write some songs together.”
And sure enough we did.So he took us back under his wing and away we went!

Daniel: So you evolved more into a songwriter with both Terry, and on your own as the band progressed. It seems like you took more a hand in the writing all the material, and how the groups’, particularly the singles, were gonna sound.
Mark: Yeah, I guess so. I loved writing, and I was a voracious writer. And a lot of times we would finish a song, usually Terry and I would start a song, and then he’d get bored and go off, and I’d finish it (laughter). And we’d cut the track. And then in the studio, probably like fifteen minutes before I had to do my vocals, I’d suddenly get inspired, and I’d go in and I’d rewrite all the lyrics! But usually they were better than the original ones, so Terry went along with it!

Daniel: How did the sound of the band evolve over the latter part of the Sixties? The second lineup of The Raiders is also pretty well known, as well, and they played on a lot of hits.
Mark: It changed for two reasons. One, the sound was based on what we were hearing on our a.m. radios. And two, what was within the band, how we could temper and coalesce the sound of all the guys and their individual strengths and weaknesses and make that into a sound that would be commerical with what was happening on the radio. And so it was kind of like both.

The sound could change quite considerably when Keith [Allison], and Freddy [Weller] and Joe [Corroco], Jr. got in the band in the second wave. But because of Joe’s kind of jazz background, and we were heavier on guitars, I think, and a little bit different, and plus, Keith and Freddy were both pretty “country”. And so the band was pretty big at that time. And I think some of the band’s kind of, I wouldn’t say essence, but maybe their ambiance (laughter!) crept up on us a little bit, and it was very natural for us to kind of go there with a funky, country, semi-country kind of rock thing. And go for it. With a little touch of soul.
Daniel: What are your favorite records of that second era of The Raiders?
Mark: I think , “Let Me” is still a pretty good record. Joe played both drums and congas on it and he did just great drum breaks on it, it just rocks along. Keith’s doing a bassline and playing as well as Joe Osborn did. Well, ALMOST as well as Joe Osborn did, and Joe, of course, was part of “The Wrecking Crew,” and played on a lot of stuff , including some later Raider recordings.
Daniel: Backtracking for one question. The bio for this collection mentions that you and Drake were watching a Byrds session, and Drake saw The Byrds playing 12-string, and then got the idea to play 12-string on “Kicks.”  Is that true?

Mark: Yeah, that’s true. We were watching McGuinn do some overdub,s and I’m not sure whether it was on, “Tambourine Man” or what.  But, you know, he played 12-string on everything. He had that Rickenbacker, and I think that Drake even borrowed the “Ricky” on, you know, one afternoon to try out from Roger, and he liked it so much that he went out and bought one himself. And that appeared on the next record we cut, which was, “Kicks”.

Daniel: That was pretty heavy subject matter, for you guys or any band to cover, especially in 1966.  Did Terry find that song, or did you guys find that song?

Mark: Terry was looking for material for the group and he kinda sent out an APB, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil sent hi, “Kicks”. As a matter of fact, we had just cut, “Steppin’ Stone” and were ready to release it as a single, and then Terry got “Kicks” in the mail and he played it for me, and he said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Man, we gotta cut this NOW!”

So we did, and it came out great. And that same day we were driving back from the session, Terry and I, because we lived together, we were sharing this house, so we were both either in my Ferrari ,or his XKE, I’m not sure which, but we were on the way up to the house, and we stopped by the Whiskey A Go Go. We were having an adult beverage as I recall (laughs), and we ran into Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart,  who, of course were the authors or the writers of, “Stepping Stone” and they said, “When’s [“Stepping Stone”] coming out, man, when’s it coming out?!”

And Terry said, “Well, um, we got some pressure from CBS to put out this other song, so [“Stepping Stone”] be the next single [after “Kicks.]” And they really got pissed. And so they took our version, we’d given them an acetate of our version of  “Stepping Stone” and they took it over to The Monkees,  and said, “Here’s a demo of our new song!”

And so that is why, if you listen to The Monkees version, you’ll hear Micky doing MY adlibs, you know, like word-for-word in the end, they cut it, like in those days, it was the accepted thing to cut the song, as much like the demo as possible, because they figured that the writers knew how they wanted it to sound, and how it should be cut. So most groups didn’t take too much license, and they cut it pretty much, you know, they had their own sound, of course, but they cut it pretty much down the lines of the demo. And The Monkees  were following The Raiders so-called demo, just really closely. That’s why they sound so much the same. And I think that it would have been a hit by The Raiders, it certainly was a big hit by The Monkees. Hey, you know, we both got a hit record, theirs just sold more than ours. (laughter)
Daniel: What do you think about your life during the Sixties and just that whole time from ‘64 on, what comes to mind, what feelings come to mind when you think about that period in your life?
Mark: Well I remember the year, my favourite year, and someone said, “Would you like to relive one of your favourite years again?” It would be 1967. Everything was REALLY poppin’. It was just before,  ‘68, Haight Ashbury kinda collapsed and became the “non-love” Haight Ashbury, and more the “hate hate” Haight Ashbury, and the whole scene got really nasty up there. And rock & roll began to develop a sad, dark undercurrent.

Before that it was just great. I mean, Terry and my house, it was unfortunately, later became the infamous “house on Cielo Drive” that Charles Manson hit. But before then, it was kind of a party-pad. And everybody that was in the business dropped by. And I met Jimi Hendrix up there, and some of the Stones, and some of The Beatles. Everybody came by, and hung out. And it was just a great time.

Daniel: One last thing I wanted to ask you, about the ‘98 Reunion, with Drake and Smitty and Fang. How did that came about, and what that was like.
Mark: Well, everybody else was getting together, and we asked Paul , and he didn’t want to do it, so the four of us got together and went to Portland, which is kinda where we broke out, the second time. It was an interesting and a very great show, and I’m glad that we did it because now, as you know, Smitty is gone and Drake’s gone, so it’ll never happen again!

It wasn’t as good a show. I’m sure to the fans it was an okay show, but to me it wasn’t as good as the last show we played, so therefore, to me, it could have been better. But then again, I’ve always been a kind of perfectionist, anyway.

Daniel: Well, lastly, what do you want to say to the fans who have been following you and your music for all of these years?
Mark: Oh, I’d like to say, first of all, they’re probably crazy, but I appreciate that kind of insanity as far as it applies to me (laughing!) and the group, and I want to thank them for being faithful. And to stay tuned because we’ve got some stuff comin’ out that is gonna blow their little minds!
Daniel: So you’ve got some new stuff coming out!
Mark: You bet! I’m working on it right now. I’m writing it as we speak.


  1. Funny because Leon was actually a month younger than Mark Lindsay. Mark b/d is 3/9/1942 and Leon's is 4/2/1942.

  2. Leon Russell will never be equaled. The public has yet to scratch the surface of his accomplishments and contributions.