Q&A with Mark Lindsay
By Jim Caligiuri,
1:25PM, Wed. Apr. 13, 2011
I have distinct memories of rushing home from school circa 1965 to catch Where the Action Is, a musical variety show that featured some of the hottest bands of the day. One of the reasons I loved WTAI was the house band, Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Guys dressed up in Revolutionary War outfits frolicking on Southern California beaches doesn’t seem to make much sense right now, but back then who cared? The Raiders' organ-fueled garage rock had me in its grip and I thought they were much more exciting than the Dave Clark Five.
Legacy Records recently released The Essential Paul Revere & the Raiders, a two-disc overview of the band that explains their place in rock & roll history. Along with the Kingsmen, the Sonics, and the Wailers, the Raiders were an important part of the fertile Pacific Northwest scene of the early 1960s. The first rock band signed to Columbia Records, there’s long been controversy about whether they or the Kingsmen recorded pre-grunge classic “Louie Louie."
The Raiders produced a string of hits (“Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” “Good Thing”) that still possess a youthful buoyancy, thanks to renowned producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son. Beside WTAI, they were mainstays on television, hosting It’s Happening and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It wasn’t until 1971 that they had their first No. 1 record, Indian Reservation, ironic since lead singer Mark Lindsay had begun a solo career and the track was initially supposed to be his. I recently spoke to Lindsay, who joins the Happy Together tour this summer along with 1960s popsters like the Turtles and the Grass Roots.
Geezerville: The liner notes of the new set mention the band played an event in Oregon called the Seaside Riots. Were they literally riots?
Mark Lindsay: There was a place in Oregon where all the kids from there and Washington would come for spring break. But as kids will be, sometimes it would get out of hand. After a few years of being inundated by sex-crazed and alcohol-fueled teenagers, the town of Seaside got fed up and tried to close it down. So the kids just rioted. They called the National Guard.
G: And the Raiders were the soundtrack for it?
ML: We tried to soothe the savage beasts as they say.
G: The Raiders were the first rock band signed to Columbia Records. Did the label know what they were getting into?
ML: There was a lot of pressure on CBS. Other labels were having great success, like Capitol with the Beach Boys. So Mitch Miller, their head of A&R who hated rock & roll, thought, "It’s OK, this music can’t last, it’ll pass soon and I’ll get back to doing what I like." But it’s funny most music will have a decade, maybe fifteen years, but this thing just keeps on rolling.
G: How much input did Terry Melcher allow the band when he produced you?
ML: Well, he had a lot of influence. Early on Terry and I hit it off. I loved the studio and I would hang around even when he was doing other projects. Eventually he had his own studio and we ended up writing and having a string of hits together. He was an incredible producer; he knew exactly what to do. He was pretty much the sixth Raider, very instrumental in the sound of the group, picking the material, and helping to write it. I miss him. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago.
G: The Raiders appeared on Ed Sullivan only once. I understand there was a problem surrounding that.
ML: They wanted us to play live – nobody lip-synced on the Sullivan show. I went to the producers, because we had two new guys in the band and they didn’t really know the material. I told them there was no way we could do it and to not embarrass them and ourselves. So I arranged to have a backing tape of the music and I would sing live. When Sullivan introduced us, the backing tape didn’t start right away and he got mad. Mr. Warmth wasn’t too happy after that.
G: I bet a lot of people don’t know you wrote “Freeborn Man.” That song was a Southern rock anthem in the 1970s and has become a bluegrass standard.
ML: People think that Bill Monroe or Jimmy Martin wrote it. I heard Monroe do it on the Grand Ole Opry one night and went, “Yeah!”
G: Has it ever been settled who was the first to record “Louie Louie”?
ML: When we first started out in Portland that song was requested at least three times a night. We decided to record it the same time the Kingsmen did because they were also playing it three times a night at their gigs. Paul always said we cut it first, but my memory was of cutting the song and the flipside, which was “Night Train,” which I played sax on. I was putting my sax away and the engineer said to me, “If I were you guys I’d release this right away. The Kingsmen were in here two days ago doing a demo of the same song.”
I know they never cut it twice, so what was the demo probably became the master. So if the engineer was telling the truth and my memory is intact, which it is sometimes, that would mean they recorded it two days before ours. However, when both versions came out in Portland, the Kingsmen’s hometown, theirs sold 600 copies and ours sold 6,000. Ours took off like crazy up and down the coast, until Mitch Miller killed the record. He told his guys not to promote it anymore and soon as that happened, the Kingsmen’s version took off in Boston and the rest is history.