It happened so quickly that if you weren’t paying close attention you could have missed it–or if you weren’t 14 years old like Sally Draper in 1968 it would have been meaningless–but there it was–a seemingly innocuous throwaway buried in the dialogue of Favors uttered by Sally’s friend Julie (that-little-player-in-the-making): “You’re living with Mark Lindsay”!
I’ve been waiting to see if Mad Men would pick up on this unique cultural reference–and to those of us who were the same age as Sally in 1968, it’s literally music to the ears.
For those of you who were either in diapers back then or still just a gleam in their parents’ eyes, Mark Lindsay was the lead singer of Paul Revere (yes that was his real name) and the Raiders, a popular party band from the Pacific Northwest, who caught the attention of Dick Clark and shot to fame in the mid-sixties as hosts of a daily afternoon musical variety show, Where the Action Is.
Where the Action Is–along with Hullabaloo–was required viewing if you wanted to stay ahead of the musical curve. It came on either before or after Dark Shadows–talk about a great double bill–and I remember getting hooked on it when it first started in the summer and later rushing home breathlessly after school to catch this glorious dose of pop culture.
A show with virtually no budget, Where the Action Is was shot on location all over the country (although sadly I can’t remember them shooting in my hometown of St. Louis), and featured audiences of local teens grooving to the latest pop singles. Looking at old clips on YouTube, it looks hopelessly quaint by today’s standards, but in its heyday, its influence on the teenage Baby Boomers had Don Draper and his ilk salivating.
On any given day you could hear The Turtles, The Temptations, The Association, and scads of others. It was more than just the music, though. Where the Action Is taught you all the latest dance moves–remember The Pony, anyone?–showed you the latest clothes and hairdos, and above all fostered this great sense of community. Here, even before Woodstock, was McCluhan’s global village. Even if you were stuck in some dead-end Palookaville, you never knew if Where The Action Is would show up in your town, bringing fun and music with it. And even if they didn’t, the show gave you hope that somehow, someday, you would be somewhere cooler. You realized that there were hundreds of other kids just like you who were united by the music of the day, all brought together by the show.
And it was Paul Revere and the Raiders who presided over this merry mix. Although ostensibly the hosts of the show, Clark gave them generous air time, thank goodness, because they were a really great band. Capitalizing on bandleader Revere’s name, they were costumed in 18th century regalia, including 3-cornered hats, which added to their stage presence but may have detracted from the fact that they were actually a quite decent group, who had a string of hits through the mid to late sixties when they were at their peak. Listen to their version of “Louie Louie” and see if you don’t agree that Mitch Miller, who was the A&R man of Columbia Records at the time, made a grievous error in declining to promote it, allowing the much lesser Kingsmen version to become a nationwide hit. And if “Good Thing” wasn’t made for cranking up up on the AM radio, then I don’t know what is.
Fronting Paul Revere and the Raiders was Mark Lindsay, possibly America’s answer to Paul McCartney. Those eyes! That pontytail! And above all those lips! Be still my beating heart! It’s good to know even at this late in the day, the memory of a teen heartthrob lives on.
Maybe it was the silly costumes, maybe it was the “commercial” exposure of “Where the Action Is” and the resultant jealousy–what group wouldn’t have wanted daily tv exposure?–but it remains a mystery to me why Paul Revere and the Raiders have never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe that will happen and maybe it won’t–but hey, getting a shout-out on MM is a great consolation prize. Guys, you were and remain a “Good Thing.”