At the Happy Together concert on Thursday night, Mark Lindsay, the former vocalist for Paul Revere & the Raiders, recalled looking at his calendar and thinking, “Holy crap, I’m back in the ‘60s again. But this time, it was my 60s.”
Jokes aside, the concert setlist for the five bands might make one think that they were in fact back in the 1960s, with five U.S. No. 1 songs that spent a total of 13 weeks at the top of the charts, plus many other Top Ten hits. (OK, if you want to nitpick, one of them, “Indian Reservation”, was a No. 1 in 1971 — but close enough, man!)
The show began with The Buckinghams, which sounded great with original members Carl Giammarese on lead vocals (rather than guitar as in the 1960s) and Nick Fortuna on bass guitar. They told a story that when they showed up to the rehearsal for their debut appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, they were surprised that the backdrop was British flags — based on their band name the producers thought that they were British, whereas they were actually from Chicago and of Italian heritage. Fortuna was especially bummed that they were served fish and chips in their dressing room. Their set included the R&B infused “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and their No. 1 hit single “Kind Of A Drag,” which knocked The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer” off the top spot.
Next up was The Grass Roots, which had at least one song on the Billboard charts for an amazing 307 straight weeks. Sadly, lead vocalist Rob Grill passed away a month ago, and thus none of the band members from their heyday in the late 1960s and early ‘70s performed. However, it must be said that Mark Dawson on vocals and bass and Dusty Hanvey on lead guitar did a great job of capturing the band’s heavier sound, which has aged nicely. “Let’s Live For Today,” which was dedicated to Vietnam War veterans, had a particularly smoking guitar solo from Hanvey. Their set also included their biggest hit, the Motown-influenced “Midnight Confessions.”
The music turned to sunshine pop with the next band, The Association, which was the first band on the bill at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This incarnation included 1960s members Jim Yester, Larry Ramos and Russ Giguere, who joked that “We are The Association, and we did inhale — very deeply and often.” Their harmonies weren’t as sharp as on the old records, but they still did an admirable job revisiting their hits, including the No. 1 songs “Cherish” and “Windy,” plus “Never My Love,” which is the second most played song on the radio ever and was dedicated by Ramos to his wife of 47 years and his 92-year-old mother who was in audience. They also played “Along Comes Mary,” their first U.S. hit, which was somewhat controversial due to its drug connotations, and a cover of “California Dreaming” in tribute to The Mamas & The Papas.
The “voice of Paul Revere & The Raiders” Mark Lindsay came next. At 69 years old, Lindsay was full of energy and of great voice as he sang hits that included “Kicks,” his solo song “Arizona” and the No. 1 “Indian Reservation,” which he joked was the biggest selling record in the history of CBS Records until that “little twerp” Michael Jackson came along with “Billie Jean.” Lindsay also amusingly recalled the 1960s as an era of “free drugs, free love, and, thank God, a Free Clinic.”
The last, and arguably most beloved, band in the evening’s lineup was The Turtles, with Mark Volman (aka “Flo”) and Howard Kaylan (aka “Eddie”), who came onstage to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” wearing blond wigs and meat-print capes, an homage to Gaga’s infamous meat dress. The vocals were impeccable, and Volman’s manic stage antics were a delight to behold. While they “just missed being The Beatles by three letters,” The Turtles still generated an epically memorable catalog, from which they played “She’d Rather Be With Me;” “You Baby,” a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe;” “Elenore;” and, of course, their No. 1 hit, “Happy Together,” which was sung by one and all in the room.
The evening ended with a reprise medley of “Kind Of A Drag,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Windy,” “Kicks” and “Happy Together.” I’d have to say that the concert was truly a reflection of Lindsay’s words when he ended his set: “Rock ‘n’ roll keeps you young!”
Don’t You Care
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)
Kind Of A Drag
The Grass Roots
Wait A Million Years
Sooner Or Later
Let’s Live For Today
Never My Love
California Dreaming (The Mamas & The Papas cover)
Along Comes Mary
She’d Rather Be With Me
It Ain’t Me Babe
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.