“I didn’t have a life. Music was all I cared about doing. When we got off the road, everybody went home to their wives and girlfriends or whatever. I went right to the studio. That was my second home.” Mark Lindsay readily admits in the third installment of an exclusive interview that music was an all-encompassing, driving passion.
The still active lead vocalist, songwriter, producer, and arranger of Paul Revere and the Raiders caught the entertainment bug as a four-year-old while boldly harmonizing with his big sister on “You Are My Sunshine” in front of a wildly appreciative Idaho audience, pretty much all spur-of-the-moment.
Lindsay largely spearheaded the creative path of the ’60s rockers (the band’s namesake preferred to handle concert and promotional responsibilities with a dash of sterling boogie woogie piano). AM radio airwaves were inundated by the two dozen singles released by the Revolutionary War costume-clad musicians that notched positions on the Billboard Hot 100. In the shoulda-been-a-hit category, the Raiders’ original take of intense garage rocker “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” actually rivals the better-known version served up by the Monkees.
When the final remnants of the most famous Where the Action Is band lineup imploded in 1967 moments before an appearance on the top rated Ed Sullivan Show, the seeds were sown for three new additions—Freddy Weller, Keith Allison, and Joe Correro, Jr.—talented musicians all coincidentally hailing from the South.
This swampier, more organic incarnation firmly cemented the “Rebel Raiders” latter band phase, perhaps best exemplified on their first gold-selling single, “Let Me.” Critic Lenny Kaye went so far as to give the subsequent Collage album a glowing review in Rolling Stone, although the teenyboppers turned their backs in droves upon taking a whiff of the heavier sounding material. Lindsay has rarely discussed this criminally ignored era in-depth. That is, until now.
In case you wish to revisit the previous installment of the conversation, entitled “‘Heartbreak Hotel’ Knocked Him Flat on the Ground: Mark Lindsay Salutes Elvis”, simply click on the highlighted link.
The Mark Lindsay Interview, Part Three
What makes you laugh?
That question makes me laugh. I don’t know. Probably looking back at a lot of stupid things that I did in the past. I used to worry about whether I was gonna be perceived as being cool or not. That is so unimportant now that some of that makes me laugh.
I also used to try to please everybody. Some people are gonna like you, and some people are gonna hate you. You just have to do the best you can and let the chips fly where they may [laughs]. That’s all you can do.
Is there a certain point where you knew that you wanted to be involved in music?
Oh sure. I always liked music. I remember listening to the radio when I was still in the cradle and still getting fed baby food.
When I was four my mother took my sister and I to a park. She knew we both loved music, and there was gonna be a live band there. She thought it would be a real treat for us to see a live band.
We got there, and the live band didn’t show up. The emcee said, “We’re kinda at a loss here. Does anyone know how to tell a joke, whistle, sing, or do anything?” My mom raised her hand, spoke up, and said, “My kids can sing!”
My sister and I—she was six, two years older than I—got up and sang “You Are My Sunshine” in harmony. I remember the emcee lowered a microphone down in front of my face that looked like it was the size of a football.
When we got through, all the people had big smiles on their faces and clapped. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is really cool!’ “Cool” probably wasn’t in my vocabulary at four [laughs], but I wanted to experience that feeling again.
I took a hiatus from music until I was about 15 years old and finishing my last year of junior high school. I said, ‘That’s it, I’m outta here.’ I left home and went down to southern Idaho to join a group called Freddy Chapman and the Idaho Playboys. I was a 15-year-old rockabilly singer. Of course, I lied about my age since you couldn’t play clubs unless you were 18. I pretty much wanted to do music all of my life.
Do you play any instruments in addition to saxophone?
I write on guitar or piano but you really don’t wanna hear me play them. My skills on piano and guitar are really limited. At one time I actually played rhythm guitar in the Raiders’ very early days.
I found out that I can either sing really well or play fairly well, but I couldn’t do both of ‘em worth a crap [laughs]. I just decided to concentrate on singing. Basically I’m a singer/sax player. You would never hire me for say guitar or keyboards in your band, I promise you [laughs].
When guys left the Raiders, who had the responsibility of finding replacements?
From very early on in the band, Revere was always the businessman and I was always the musician. I remember saying, “Look, I’ll handle the music. You handle the business.” He replied, “Great.”
When we needed a lead guitar player way back when the Raiders were still in Idaho, I was the guy that went to Drake Levin’s place. He was a 16-year-old kid from Chicago. I went in and said, “Play me some blues, man” [laughs]. Drake just blew me away. I was kind of the guy that picked the musicians.
Fast forward several years to 1967. We needed a drummer because Smitty [aka Mike Smith] was moving on. We were playing a Dick Clark tour, and there was a group called Flash & the Board of Directors that were opening for us. Joe Correro, Jr., was their drummer.
I said, “Paul, do you see that guy right there? That’s our next drummer.” He said, “No, no, no. I’m not sure he’s good looking enough.” “But you’ve gotta listen to him play!” [laughs]. I handled that because I think I had more of a passion for it than Revere did. It all worked out pretty well.
Was Revere always present on the Raiders’ studio sessions?
No. The last record that Revere played on was “Good Thing” [No. 4 Pop, November 1966]. Actually, Terry Melcher [the Raiders’ producer-chief songwriting collaborator between 1964 and 1967] replaced Revere’s organ on “Good Thing” [laughs]. The last record where Revere’s contribution was left in the final mix would have been “Hungry” [No. 6 Pop, June 1966].
Revere was a great boogie-woogie piano player, and our early records benefitted from his presence. When the music changed a little bit and the Beatles, Dave Clark Five, and everybody else came in and started using Farfisa organs, we had to go to an organ.
Revere didn’t like that—he preferred to pound the keys. When he couldn’t do that anymore, he kind of lost his passion for music. He would sit there and play, but it really wasn’t what he liked to do.
Once in a while he’d come to the studio. But mostly, I’d say, “Okay, here’s our next record, Revere.” Keith Allison would go over and show him how to play it, and he’d learn it for the road. You have to bear in mind that Revere had decided to move back to Idaho. He already had a family, including a couple of kids.
How does the latter-day “Rebel Raiders” lineup [i.e. lead guitarist Freddy Weller, bassist-guitarist-keyboardist Keith Allison, and drummer Joe Correro, Jr.] stack up today?
They were really good. Joe Jr. was the best drummer that we ever had in the Raiders. “Kicks,” “Hungry,” “Just Like Me,” “Steppin’ Out,” and “Good Thing” were recorded by the original lineup: Smitty, Drake, Phil “Fang” Volk [bass], Revere, and myself.
After “Good Thing,” we had the television show, Where the Action Is. We were gone like 250 nights a year. We weren’t on the road—we were filming a television show. We didn’t have a lot of time for recording, so Terry Melcher began to use studio musicians.
I didn’t have a life. Music was all I cared about doing. When we got off the road, everybody went home to their wives and girlfriends or whatever. I went right to the studio [laughs]. That was my second home. That’s where I wanted to be.
Terry and I would start other tracks. The other Raiders just wanted to relax a minute. They didn’t wanna go in the studio and record. Terry began to use the Wrecking Crew and various other guys. That lasted until Terry finished producing us.
[Author’s Note: According to Lindsay in the 2010 liner notes of Paul Revere and the Raiders: The Complete Columbia Singles, the label demanded a new single during the 1967 Christmas holidays. Melcher, whose mom happened to be legendary all-American girl Doris Day, was on vacation in Europe. Lindsay quickly obliged by writing and producing “Too Much Talk.” The A-side landed inside the Top 20, becoming the band’s best chart position in six months. Melcher was none too pleased, and ego problems—displayed by both artist and producer—led to the latter’s decision to relinquish his position].
Shortly after “Too Much Talk,” Keith, Joe Jr., and Freddy came into the group. I realized that they were all really good. I realized what an exquisite drummer Joe Jr. was, what an excellent bass player Keith was…if you get a bass player and drummer that can kick ass together, you have the foundation.
The Raiders actually notched five gold albums, but the only gold single that we ever got was for “Let Me” [No. 20 Pop, April 1969]. Keith, Joe Jr., and Freddy were the lineup on that single. We have since had a couple of records that have gone gold. I can’t remember them all, but “Kicks” and “Hungry” probably fall into that category.
I used Keith, Joe Jr., and Freddy pretty much right up to the end as much as I possibly could. They were good, especially Joe Jr. The man is just a monster drummer. He was a soul drummer, jazz drummer, and a heck of a rock ‘n’ roll drummer. Greenwood, Miss., the boy hailed from [Weller was from Atlanta and Allison grew up in San Antonio, Texas, hence the “Rebel Raiders” nickname].
What would a typical Raiders session be like with Joe Jr., Freddy, and Keith?
Basically, we’d go in the studio and sit around the piano. I’d show the guys the tune. Joe Jr. usually had a set of sticks or brushes, and he’d be playing along on a bench or chair. Keith and Freddy would probably have guitars to kinda figure out the chords.
We’d all kind of learn the song, and then we’d go in and cut the basic track with drums, bass, and sometimes a rhythm guitar. Once we got that foundation down, we just starting overdubbing stuff with some rhythm guitars, keyboards, lead guitar or whatever.
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! The fourth installment of the interview, entitled “The Boys in the Band: Mark Lindsay Explores the Rebel Raiders’ ‘Collage’ Album,” finds the “Indian Reservation” raconteur recalling his first composition, his approach to songwriting, why the beloved “Freeborn Man” was never released as an A-side, the soulful “Original Handy Man,” playing Collage rockers during an opening slot on an early Carpenters tour, why Collage bombed with fans, and whether Columbia label president Clive Davis successfully promoted the Raiders.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…dubbed the resident genius of The Monkees, a still-controversial band among some rock critics who rivaled The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for a time, Michael Nesmith knew he wanted to play music upon graduating from San Antonio College. The son of the inventor of liquid paper, Papa Nez participated in the incredible rat race of Monkee celebrity, but his heart lay in songwriting. After composing Linda Ronstadt’s first hit, “Different Drum,” Nesmith exited the band that made him a household name and ventured into the uncharted waters of country rock with his First National Band. The cosmically conscious musician surprised fans by spending much of 2013 on the road and agreed to spend some time with this writer on his musical back-pages, Elvis Presley, some tunes worthy of rediscovery, and the unimagined joy of touring again. Visit “Still Rollin’ with the Flow: Twists and Turns with Songwriter Michael Nesmith” for the juicy enchilada.
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Further Reading: Did you know that former Beatle George Harrison followed up his critically-acclaimed solo debut, the triple-LP “All Things Must Pass”, with another number one record featuring the drumming expertise of compadre Ringo Starr? Surprisingly, “Living in the Material World” contains one song that remains largely undiscovered by the general record buying public. “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” is a Beatlesque and pop-oriented track that deserved to be a hit single. No stone is left uncovered in the fascinating feature, “Rediscovering a Superb Love Song…”
Further Reading No. 2: When chanteuse Bobbie Gentry burst onto the psychedelic Summer of Love landscape with the mysterious “Ode to Billie Joe”, usurping The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” from its number one perch, who could have imagined the massive success awaiting her? She also recorded a fine duet album with Glen Campbell in 1968 on Capitol Records. Country artist Reba McEntire revived interest in the singer when she made “Fancy” her theme song, decades after Gentry had a moderate hit with the Southern Gothic recording. To read about Gentry’s enduring significance and exactly why she abandoned her career, visit the following link: “Ode to Bobbie G: The music and mystery of a Mississippi Delta Queen.”
Further Reading No. 3: Although originally covered by the Beatles (John Lennon on lead), Smith truly captured the counterculture’s collective consciousness during the summer of Woodstock and Easy Rider with a fiery rendition of “Baby It’s You”, written by Brill Building pianist Burt Bacharach. A resounding Top Five single captained by the gorgeous, pre-American Idol Gayle McCormick belting the lyrics with intense abandon, the band inexplicably never had another hit. For the complete lowdown on why fans of classic ’60s rock still hold the performance in such high esteem, head on over to “One Hit Wonder Flashback: The Timeless Allure of Smith’s ‘Baby It’s You'”.
- Exclusive Interview: Dennis Wilson personified the essence of a cool rock drummer. Wilson was a late bloomer compared to his mega talented brothers –Brian and Carl – but he ultimately emerged as the Beach Boys’ most underrated songwriter, producer, and vocalist. A Dennis-led performance was an emotionally wrenching experience, combining deeply personal lyrics, a majestic yet delicate instrumental track, and a vocal so weathered as to be almost ravaged. On the anniversary of what would have been Dennis’ 68th birthday, a slew of Beach Boys experts documented the drummer’s tragic trajectory and legacy among modern musicians in “Like Heat from a Blast Furnace: The Sheer Raw Force of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.” It is required reading into the window of a tortured yet extremely gifted soul.
Exclusive Interview No. 2: Rick Nelson was on the verge of a comeback when his plane tragically caught fire en route to a 1985 New Year’s Eve gig. A rockabilly-themed album was nearing completion, and the singer had found a new record label in Nashville – Curb Records. Unfortunately, the project was promptly placed in the dustbin whilst various figureheads argued over rights and whether Nelson’s vocals were satisfactory. The “Garden Party” songwriter’s manager, Greg McDonald, made a surprise appearance on satellite radio and gave a very encouraging lowdown on the current status of the project and whether it might see the light of day in time for the 30th anniversary of Nelson’s passing.
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