Once Upon a Time: Mark Lindsay on the Raiders’ ‘Good Thing’

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Once upon a time, there was a rock band that charted a series of hit singles, one after the other, in the mid-’60s. The photogenic group parlayed its success into a regular gig on a popular afternoon TV series aimed at teenage audiences.

In this case, we’re talking about the Los Angeles-based Paul Revere and the Raiders, who were in the midst of three straight Top 10 albums. Starting with “Just Like Me” in 1965, they were en fuego at Top 40, with five Top 15 hits over the next two years.

Two of those hits are among the four Raiders songs that are featured in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, which opened in theaters over the weekend. The comedy-drama, the director’s ninth feature, is set in Los Angeles in 1969 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a fictional one-time TV star who’s come onto tough times, and Brad Pitt as his stunt double. The plot weaves in several real characters, including actress Sharon Tate, actors Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen, as well as Charles Manson and several members of his notorious “family.”

Back to the Raiders. In the film’s trailer, released two months prior to the movie, one song in particular caught our attention.

1966’s “Good Thing” was the fourth of those hits from the red-hot Raiders.

How did the song come about? The Raiders’ lead singer, Mark Lindsay, and their producer, Terry Melcher, were sharing a house on Los Angeles’ Cielo Drive. “It was an incredible place, a very peaceful house,” recalls Lindsay.

“We had just recorded ‘Hungry’ and had gotten our first vinyl copy and we were listening to it over and over again as we were wont to do. (“Hungry” was written by the hugely successful husband-wife songwriting duo, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.) And after one play, Terry said’ ‘You know, Lindsay, I bet we could write a hit like that.’”

Ah, youth… Lindsay and Melcher were both just 24. “I had been writing a lot of the stuff for the albums and collaborating with Terry on most of it,” says Lindsay. “And we hadn’t really moved on a single yet. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I bet we could.’

“Terry said: ‘What’s a good title?’ The line in ‘Hungry’ is ‘I’m hungry for those good things, baby.’ So I said, ‘How about ‘Good Thing’?

“We sat down at the piano and kind of pounded it out. The verses were my idea and the breakdown and the middle, with an almost Beach Boys-type vocal… that was Terry’s idea. And a great one.”

No surprise: Melcher was intimately familiar with the Beach Boys, having performed on Pet Sounds. (Earlier, he was part of a duo with future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. Years later, Melcher co-wrote “Kokomo.”)

“Terry and I had a formula,” says Lindsay. “I’d come up with a piece. He’d come up with a piece. And then in the studio, we kind of melded everything together. That’s basically how it happened.”

He’s asked about the song’s great, snarling vocal. “I always thought of myself as an instrument and I would kind of tailor my voice to the track I was singing. ‘Good Thing’ was hard-edged rock and roll except for the vocal breakdowns in the middle and I adopted my style for that.”

Listen to the studio recording of “Good Thing”

As it happened, “Good Thing” was the last song those Raiders members recorded together. That’s Revere on organ, Mike “Smitty” Smith on drums, Phil Volk on bass, Drake Levin on guitar, and Lindsay, of course, singing lead.

“The band was on fire,” says Lindsay. “We were in a very unique place [being] on [the afternoon TV variety show] Where the Action Is five days a week.”

“Good Thing” was surrounded on the chart by many all time classics

The single, released in December 1966, quickly climbed the charts, reaching #4 on January 21, 1967, blocked at the top by the Monkees, among others.

“We were in the unique position to cut a single, go on TV and premiere it. It wasn’t the digital age where you can say something or do something and everyone in the world knows about it in six seconds. AM radio was king then. A lot of times it came like a wave. It would start on one coast and head to the other, until everyone was on it. But with the TV show, everybody saw us at once. Everybody either liked the single or didn’t. But it was great exposure and helped us jump up the charts maybe faster than we might have.

“After that, we were touring a lot so Terry began using [Los Angeles session musicians] the Wrecking Crew more and more on tracks because we didn’t have the time to record. I’m come back from tour and do vocals and that was kind of how things went after that.”

Related: Lindsay on recording the Raiders’ #1 hit, “Indian Reservation,” with the Wrecking Crew

As for that home that Lindsay and Melcher shared on Cielo Drive, “Terry leased the place in ’66 and I moved in shortly after that. I lived there for almost two years; it was a great place to be. Terry had started a romance with [actress] Candy Bergen and I was on tour a lot. We probably toured a couple hundred dates that year.

“I’d come home from a tour and I’d walk into the living room and Terry and Candy were on the couch in compromising positions. After a while, I told Terry, ‘I really like being here, we’re writing a lot of good stuff, but I’d be more comfortable if I let you and Candy have the place.’”

Melcher chose to renew the lease for two years. “So I moved out and as fate would have it, shortly after that, Terry and Candy had a fight and broke up. So he sublet the place to Roman Polanski.”

Sharon Tate starred in the 1967 film, Valley of the Dolls

That’s right. The home that the singer described as a “peaceful” house was the site, on August 9, 1969, of the murders of Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, and five others.

Melcher, the only son of actress Doris Day, himself died in 2004 after a long illness, at just 62.

Of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Lindsay says, “I’ve been a big fan of Tarantino’s for a long time. The movie really captures that time of the ’60s… the feel of it… his attention to detail is incredible. Every shot is full of things that tie it to the period. It’s so dense, and so well documented that I have to go back and see it again to catch the things I missed.

“It’s an honor to have a song in the movie. But to have four songs in the movie… (laughs) that blew me away.”

Watch the Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood trailer

The film earned $40 million in its opening weekend, a career-best for the filmmaker. Its soundtrack, which also includes songs from the era by the Bob Seger System, Simon and Garfunkel, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and more, debuted at #1 on Amazon.

As for Lindsay, who turned 77 on March 9, he’s spent much of the past year away from the stage, after having a pacemaker installed in 2018. He will return to the Happy Together tour in 2020. “I’m ready to roll,” he says. Tickets for many of the dates are available here and here.

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Greg Brodsky

Best Classic Bands Founder/CEO Greg Brodsky earned his first professional bylines as a reporter for the music trade weekly Record World. He still has all his vinyl albums and enjoys going to flea markets and garage sales to grow his collection.
Greg Brodsky
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  1. jonnyo
    #1 jonnyo 30 July, 2019, 05:02

    Time to get the guys together to do…….something Mark!!

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  2. Dougdenslowe
    #2 Dougdenslowe 18 August, 2019, 15:02

    I saw Paul Revere and the Raiders when I was 11 or 12, when they were still playing night clubs.My father’s best friend owned The Peppermint Tree on Broadway in San Francisco, and before they, like all the other nightclubs, went topless, had all the L.A. bands before they made it.Being with other kids my age ,we were real rude and unappreciative of what PR&R brought to the table.During their brakes they’d play Beatles records, and we would clap and shout.They were cool and just smiled, considering the source.I started appreciating them after their string of hits, Good Thing and Kicks being two of my favorite songs of all time.Sorry about Paul, I just didn’t know any better.

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  3. MicheelW-Tn
    #3 MicheelW-Tn 20 November, 2019, 14:43

    No doubt about the song , “Good Times” reaching No 4 on the list. And, to be bettered by The Monkees at No 1 is no slouch but to be behind “Snoopy and the Red Baron”.. . . . geez, I don’t know. I loved the Raiders. With that original lineup, they should have been even bigger than they were. They had talent all through that lineup.

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