With their bright Revolutionary War-style outfits, tri-cornered hats, and energetic antics, Paul Revere and the Raiders were certainly one of the most visual pop/garage rock bands of the 1960s. But beyond that aspect laid a tight, five-piece combo who notched up a string of hits ("Kicks," "Hungry," "Good Thing," "Just Like Me," "Him or Me - What's It Gonna Be"), and a No. 1 smash in 1971 with the socially conscious, pro-Native American "Indian Reservation."
Though the band was named for the keyboardist (actually born Paul Revere Dick!), it was lead singer/saxophonist Mark Lindsay, with his jocularity and teen-idol looks, who usually stood out. And while he left the band in 1975, their best material from 1963-72 is collected on the new double disc The Essential Paul Revere and the Raiders (out today).
Lindsay spoke to Rocks Off about the band's beginnings, supporting Burgess Meredith for political office, and coming face-to-face with one of the most notorious psychopaths of the past century.
Rocks Off: With a two-disc anthology, you get a better overview of the band's entire catalogue rather than just the hits.
Mark Lindsay: When we first signed with CBS - and we were the first rock group on the label - we had been together for three or four years. And our repertoire was a lot of R&B-based stuff. Then I started to write stuff like "Steppin' Out," which was our first hit. But it gives you an early look into the Raiders when we were playing a lot of dance halls in the northwest.
RO: The second CD shows you branching into psychedelia, hard rock, and even country. Were you responding to pressure from what was happening in music at the time?
ML: The pressure was internal pressure from yours truly! (laughs). CBS pretty much left us alone as long as we were having chart hits. Terry Melcher was our first producer and then Jerry Fuller. They were both in tune with what was happening on the radio. And as music changed, I wanted to use what the Raiders had within them.
RO: The costumes certainly got you instant attention. But it also kept a lot of people from taking you seriously.
ML: It definitely got attention, especially when we got on Where the Action Is. Eventually, we made [more than 700] network TV appearances. It was a great gimmick. But it's also what's going to keep us out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I mean, the first thing people think of with Paul Revere & the Raiders are these guys jumping around in these goofy suits, and they forget the music. If you could hear that without thinking of the lace dickeys hanging from our necks, you might take us a bit more seriously.
RO: These days, musicians will play concerts to support candidates on all sides of the political spectrum. But what possessed you to play at the "Penguin for Mayor" rally on Batman. What has the Penguin ever done for Gotham City?
ML: (laughs): Well, you see, they gave us the wrong political brief (laughs)! They spun the information, and we were just these green guys from the Northwest, and what did we know when we got to Gotham?
RO: Why was the Pacific Northwest such a breeding ground for garage rock bands? There was you, the Kingsmen, the Wailers, the Sonics...
ML: The Northwest was always a hotbed of music - first Seattle, then Portland. The garage-rock thing came out of groups like the Dynamics who were premiere R&B groups playing the horn charts and almost into jazz. And a lot of guys couldn't play that, so it evolved into a much rawer form of music. At least that's my theory!
RO: It was an interesting move to put out the anti-drug song "Kicks" when a lot of bands were celebrating the drug culture.
ML: I was so green, I thought the song was about how hard it was to have as good a time today as you did in the old days! I had no idea there was drug connotations, honestly. It wasn't until Time or Newsweek called me up to say that we were the first group to have a hit anti-drug song. And I said "Really?" I just thought it was a great pop song with great hooks!
RO: And I assume you get a lot of Native Americans tell you how much they enjoyed the sentiment behind "Indian Reservation."
ML: Every time we play a casino, I get a lot of bear hugs from my Indian brothers (laughs). And I'm part Cherokee!
RO: I saw you once here in Houston at the Arena Theatre in the late '80s. You were with Flo & Eddie of the Turtles, Herman's Hermits, and Rob Grill of the Grass Roots. Any particular memories of Houston?
ML: We played Houston a lot...but it's really tough to have specific memories because it all blurs over the years...oh, wait, yeah, there is one! But, um, I can't tell you what it is (laughs). Let's just say that I remember once having a great time in Houston (laughs).
RO: Finally, is it true that at one point, you lived with Terry Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive in L.A.... the same house that was shortly later the site of the Charles Manson-led Sharon Tate murders of Helter Skelter?
ML: Terry Melcher and I lived in that house in Benedict Canyon, and it was a party pad. Jimi Hendrix came by, everybody did. I was on the road a lot, and one day I came home and walked in the door and there was a business meeting going on. Terry was there and Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys and some high-powered attorneys.
So I walked into the kitchen to get a drink and there was this guy squatting against the refrigerator on the floor wearing this work shirt and jeans and looking really scruffy. So I said "Excuse me" and tried to open the door, but he wouldn't move, he was just like a doorstop and stared straight ahead. After trying a few times, I walked into the other room and said "Hey, who's the weird dude in the kitchen?" And someone said "Oh, that's just Charlie. He's okay!"
So the deal was that Dennis had gone out into the desert and got really high with this guy and all these girls he had with them, and brought them back to the house. This guy Charlie said he was a songwriter, and he came up two or three times to make a publishing deal. But after a few meetings, it was apparent to Terry that there was something drastically wrong with this gentleman. So Terry [backed off] and Charlie got really pissed.
So there are two theories about [the Helter Skelter murders]. One is that Charlie sent his minions up to the house to get Terry. But Terry told me when he was still alive that Manson knew he had moved up to the beach, and that Manson had chosen that house because he had been in there and knew the layout. And that was how he was going to get back at the establishment.
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I do know that by the time that happened, I had moved out because Terry was going with [actress] Candy Bergen, and everytime I came home, I felt like the third wheel! And then they broke up, and Terry sublet the house to Roman Polanski. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For more about Mark Lindsay, visit www.marklindsay.com.