Gary James' Interview With
Mark Lindsay

When you turned on the TV in the 1960s, chances are you'd see his face before you knew it. If you turned on the radio, it wasn't long before you'd hear his voice coming over the airwaves. If a concert tour was coming to your town, most likely it included Paul Revere And The Raiders, the group which featured Mark Lindsay, who just happens to be the co-founder, lead singer and sax player. If you picked up a teen magazine of the day, it's safe to say a good many pages were devoted to Mark Lindsay.

These days you'll find Mark out on the road as part of the Happy Together Tour, with The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, The Turtles and Mickey Dolenz. In between concert dates, Mark Lindsay took time to speak with us about his days with Paul Revere And The Raiders, his solo career and the Happy Together Tour.

Q - Mark, when you go out and do your solo act, you have your own band. When you're on the Happy Together Tour do you have a band that's backing you? How does that work?

A - Yeah, we have a band that backs me. I also have an additional player or two. Everybody sings. There are five vocalists including myself, so we pretty much sound exactly like the records.

Q - At the time you were starting out, Rock 'n' Roll musicians had a life expectancy of maybe two years on the road before they stopped and moved onto something else. How does it feel to still be singing and performing?

A - Pretty amazing. I remember in an interview with Mick Jagger years and years ago when I think he was in his late 20s, he was asked: do you think you're going to be onstage performing when you're 40? He said "Absolutely not. I wouldn't be caught dead doing that." (laughs) Of course Mick I think is maybe a year or two younger than me, so he's well into his 40s these days. (laughs)

Q - I remember Dick Cavett interviewing Mick Jagger during The Stones' 1972 tour. He said "Can you see yourself doing this when you're 62?" Jagger said "Oh, sure." And the audience just laughed and laughed. They just thought that was so funny.

A - He changed his tune by then. He certainly has done that and more.

Q - So, when you're not onstage, what are you doing with yourself?

A - Well, I write. I try to stay healthy, so I... well part of the routine is boring. You probably don't want to hear it. Part of my maintenance I do an hour, an hour and a half of vocal exercises every day. Probably two hours of physical exercises, including yoga and weights and treadmill.

Q - Hey, that's good!

A - But it keeps me in shape so I can get out and do the Rock 'n' Roll thing. If I couldn't hit the notes or couldn't jump around or I didn't feel as I was as vital for the most part when I recorded these songs. I wouldn't be out there doing it. So, that helps me keep the energy level up and kick some butt.

Q - Does that mean you've always maintained a healthy lifestyle?

A - Well, pretty much. Of course there were times in the '60s and '70s when the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle meant some adventures, (laughs) in various other directions. But for the most part, yeah, I've pretty much stayed healthy.

Q - According to Lillian Roxon of The Rock Encyclopedia - "The Raiders were the first Rock group with Columbia Records to have a million dollar, Gold album, "Just Like Us", in 1966 and there was much looking down of noses by rivals." Who was looking down their noses at you guys?

A - Well, I'm not sure. I think she's right in the fact that we had the first Gold album for C.B.S. In fact, we were the first Rock group, Rock 'n' Roll group signed to C.B.S. Records, much to the chagrin of Mitch Miller, who was head of A&R at the time. He hated Rock 'n' Roll with a passion. In fact, it was his personal dictates that caused The Raiders' "Louie Louie" to be totally killed. Then there was a hiatus for six months and then some guy on the East coast started playing The Kingsmen's version. But no, he hated Rock 'n' Roll. So, I'm not sure if he's one of the people looking down on us. Probably so. C.B.S. was always based on those big records with the little holes. They weren't really 45 oriented and they were more into Doris Day and Mitch Miller and Johnny Mathis. Good music, you know? We were kind of a shock to their system I guess.

Q - As time went on, I think they changed their tune. They started signing acts like The Byrds, Blood, Sweat And Tears and Janis Joplin.

A - I think somebody at C.B.S. began to look at the charts and say "I don't see Kay Starr on here anymore." (laughs)

Q - Are you and The Raiders a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

A - No, we are not. Would we like to be? Sure. Will it happen? I don't know. I think if you listen to The Raiders music; as a matter of fact, they just put out a three CD volume of all the A and B sides we ever recorded on Columbia Records. It's like 78 sides I think. It's a complete history of The Raiders. There's some great, great tunes on there. Some great music. But when you think of The Raiders, the first thing a lot of people have in their head is three quarter hats, tight pants and these goofy guys jumping around on a beach wearing these idiot outfits. I think the music has kind of suffered in retrospect 'cause people think of us as clowns first and musicians second. I don't know whether the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame voters will ever get past that, but they should because I want to just be judged on our music and not on our antics. (laughs)

Q - If you're never inducted into the Museum, you really don't care do you? It won't bother you, will it?

A - No, no. Hey, look, the music is there. You either like it or you don't. It stands on its own or it falls on its own. So, the record is there for anybody to examine if they want to. I'll stand by that.

Q - Back in the mid '60s, when Where The Action Is was on, they would run the program at 10 AM in Central New York. 10 AM? Kids who would have loved to watch it were in school.

A - That was probably not the best scheduling from the station's standpoint based on their demographic since it was mainly high school kids who watched it, but in most parts of the country I think it came on at 3:30 or 4:30 in the afternoon. So, if you ran home fast, you could park yourself in front of that little bitty, black and white TV and glory in all the babes on the beach in bikinis.

Q - They should put those shows on DVD, don't you think?

A - I would think so, except part of the reason might be; I know there's a tremendous licensing problem because they had so many different acts that it would be so hard to get all the publishing and performing rights. But the main reason I think it hasn't re-surfaced in that format is it was stored on kinescope.

Q - Oh, boy.

A - And as you know, kinescope was nothing more than an eight millimeter motion picture of a TV screen. So, going on, first generation it was pretty crappy. Comparing it to HD-TV today in color - black and white, it looks like a scene filmed in a driving snow storm. (laughs)

Q - I would still think the restoration process could be done.

A - I would think so. It's a piece of history. Whether it will ever happen or not, I don't know. I know there's some bootleg copies out here and there. But for the three years it was on, it was amazing to me because I got to see all the people that I saw on the charts then, my contemporaries, people that I had worshipped from after a couple of years before that. So, it was really a trip for me.

Q - Your first record was in 1961, "Like, Long Hair". I have to honestly say I've never heard that record. What is particularly interesting is the pairing of those words Long Hair together. Is that talking about a man or a woman there?

A - Well, actually it was a reference, a tongue in cheek reference to long hair music, meaning classical music. It was loosely based on Rachmaninov's...I forget what movement it was, but was the opening chords of a Rachmaninov suite which is then quickly developed into a boogie-woogie song. But that's where the "Like Long Hair" came from. Hey, like long hair, man. Like, it's classical, dude. Victor Borge had a bit where he would do classical references from classical pieces and then do a boogie-woogie thing. And I think it might have been based on that. Victor's no longer around, so there you go.

Q - Back in 1975, Tom Snyder of NBC's Tomorrow show interviewed John Lennon. He asked Lennon if The Beatles were sending out messages in their songs, like other groups were at the time. John said "No. We were just commenting on what was going on around us." He asked Tom Snyder "What groups are you talking about?" Tom Snyder didn't have an answer. I believe Paul Revere And The Raiders might have been one of the groups Tom Snyder was referring to, especially with your song "Kicks" and the line "You don't need kicks to help you face the world each day."

A - I suppose. That song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, a pair of incredible songwriters who wrote everything from "On Broadway" to "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and of course "Kicks". "Kicks was written as a cautionary tale for the male member of another writing team. They wrote it for another writing team, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Gerry Goffin I think was dabbling in things that people who were friends of his thought were kind of harmful for him. So, it was basically written as a warning to him to maybe not be so involved in the drug scene. When we recorded the song, I was so naive, being this kid from Idaho, I didn't realize that it was an anti-drug message at the time. I thought the lyrics were, Hey man, it's harder to have fun than it used to be. Kicks just keep getting harder to find. I didn't realize until Newsweek called me a couple of weeks after it peaked on the charts and said "Well, Mr. Lindsay, how does it feel to have recorded the first anti-drug song?" I said "I did?" (laughs) But I guess there was a message in there and probably a good one. Hopefully, and again I didn't write the lyrics, but it was a good cautioning tale I think.

Q - I think many people would like to know why Mark Lindsay isn't with Paul Revere And The Raiders today?

A - Paul and I started the group. We were co-founders of The Downbeats, which later became Paul Revere And The Raiders. He was the keyboard player and business man and I was the lead singer and writer and musician. So, he pretty much handled the business and I pretty much handled the music and it was a wonderful partnership for many, many years. But in the mid-'70s, after "Indian Reservation", we'd been together for almost 15 years, well actually more than 15 years because we started I think in '58 in various forms. So, it's a good decade and a half. At the time I really thought The Raiders were really like passé in a lot of ways. Our music wasn't really being looked at as fresh or new. I just thought we've kind of seen our hey-day. I went to Paul and said "It's time we broke this thing up." So we did. When I left, the band broke up for several years and then a few years later Paul started a new group with the name Paul Revere And The Raiders and continued. But it was just kind of like a marriage that had lasted long enough, I think.

Q - I don't suppose a reunion tour would ever be in the works then.

A - It wouldn't quite be the same thing because we've lost a few members along the way. There's been a lot of guitar players and a lot of drummers, but I think the guitar player and drummer that stands out in most people's eyes would be the Action era group, which would be Drake Levin on guitar and Mike "Smitty" Smith on drums. And they're no longer with us. Drake passed last year (2009) and "Smitty" a couple of years before that. But it's really up to Paul. He has a group of guys he calls Paul Revere And The Raiders. I think he works down in Branson a lot. The ball is in his court. If you'd have asked me this a few years ago, I would have said absolutely not. But now I've mellowed a little bit and enough time has gone by that if people wanted to see me singing with The Raiders on a one-off kind of thing, maybe so. But again, the ball is in Paul's court, so you'll have to ask him.

Q - How much stage time do you get in the Happy Together Tour?

A - It depends. It's usually pretty close to half an hour.

Q - There's no doubt in my mind that 200, 300 years from now, people will be talking about the musicians of the 1960s, just as people today are talking about Beethoven and Mozart. What would you like people to remember about Paul Revere And The Raiders?

A - Well, I think, hopefully we'll be remembered as a kick-ass Rock 'n' Roll band that had quite a few hits. I know you mentioned John Lennon a little while ago. On his jukebox in England, we found out later, he had a 45 of "Steppin' Out". He was a big fan of the band, which I never knew until after he was gone. It's only Rock 'n' Roll, but I like it. (laughs)

© Gary James. All rights reserved.