Just some of the major hits from Paul Revere & the Raiders
(No. 24 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
Except for the Coasters and the Monkees, no major group has had more fun with Rock & Roll than Paul Revere and the Raiders. Dressed in Revolutionary War garb, the band put on live appearances that produced as much laughter as musical appreciation
But behind the enjoyable stage show resided a talented collection of young musicians who held their own with the British Invasion groups as far as quality output is concerned. It wasn’t easy to do, considering that every day a terrific band had a great new single or album out. A lesser conglomeration could get crushed by the competition, and many did, swelling the ranks of one-hit wonders. But Paul Revere and the Raiders became a staple of Rock’s greatest era and, consequently, deserve induction into Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame
Some critics (yes, one is the same guy who ripped the Moody Blues) will tell you not to be fooled into thinking this group was relevant, as if that matters. After all, how relevant does Rock & Roll have to be? “Awopbopalubopawopbamboom.“ “Bebopalula she’s my baby.“ “I’m itchin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree.“ “Goodness gracious, great balls of fire.“ Where’s the relevance? And to what? Rock & Roll can be just fun, ya’ know? And many critics can’t tell a bass (pronounced base) from a bass (pronounced fish) anyway.
The obviously fooled Bruce Eder writing for allmusicguide.com noted, “One of the most popular and entertaining groups of the 1960s, Paul Revere & the Raiders enjoyed seven years of serious chart action, and during their three biggest years (1966-1969), sold records in numbers second only to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. And their hits “Steppin’ Out,” “Just Like Me,” “Hungry,” “Him or Me-What’s It Gonna Be,” and “Kicks,” in particular, are now seen by compilers as bold, unpretentious pieces of ’60s rock & roll with a defiant, punk edge.”
The material, almost all group written, since has been covered by The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, The Flamin’ Groovies, Sammy Hagar and others.
Leading the band was Mark Lindsay, one of the most underrated vocalists in Rock. Lindsay could croon, but he also could shout down any set of hard-rock lyrics and do it with great style.
As Eder described, “Mark Lindsay sounded the way every male teen 14 through 17 pictured himself looking and acting at the age of 21, free and ready to say what he felt like and make it stick.”
Eder is one who knows what he’s writing about here. If you were 17 and cruising in an old Oldsmobile with an AM radio complete with a six-inch speaker in the dashboard, you know what he’s writing about, too.
But Lindsay’s vocal prowess wasn’t to emerge in the band’s first sessions, which produced a series of instrumentals. They included the group’s first hit single “Like, Long Hair” that generated an album of the same name.
The quick success was interrupted when Revere was drafted. When he returned in 1963, the group we grew to love – Revere, Lindsay, drummer Mike Smith, guitarist Drake Levin and bassist Philip “Fang” Volk – emerged.
Columbia signed the band before the year was up, but they quickly lost a battle with Northwestern rivals – The Kingsmen – when each group released “Louie Louie” as a single. The Kingsmen version soared to No. 2, eventually gaining status as one of Rock’s all-time classics. The Raiders’ version died. Why? Because the Kingsmen’s take was far superior.
The Kingsmen went on to release a string of hit singles and LPs, but eventually the Raiders recovered and blew by them. Their outlandish stage show at times included the destruction of a piano (in fun, not anger), their distinct garb and synchronized dance steps that would have gotten three 10s on today’s “Dancing With The Stars.” It wasn’t long before they drew the attention of Dick Clark, who installed the group as house band on his daily ABC TV show “Where The Action Is.” The constant nationwide exposure of over 500 appearances, made the difference.
“Steppin’ Out” and “Just Like Me” were raveups from the band’s 1966 breakthrough album “Just Like Us!,” which peaked at No. 5. Their follow-up, “Midnight Ride,” stopped at No. 9 though the single “Kicks” reached No. 4. Supposedly written for the Animals who turned it down, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann’s “Kicks” became the first major hit featuring an anti-drug message. Though it has grown in stature over the years, it further alienated the “hip” community, already turned off by the group’s attire and carefree attitude. But the album is one of the best released in the mid-60s, featuring the original version of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,” which destroys the Monkees’ hit version. The rest of the disc was group written.
Two more rock-solid albums, “The Spirit Of ’67″ and “Revolution!,” followed and the Raiders appeared on every major television outlet for music, even hosting their own show. But the onslaught of the psychedelic era further damaged their credibility in spite of continued quality recordings from both the group and Lindsay as a solo artist. One, a cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Indian Reservation,” actually became the group’s first No. 1 single in 1971. But in truth, it was recorded during a Lindsay solo session as the Raiders were almost non-functional as a unit by then.
Eventually, Revere – billed as the last madman of Rock and Roll – put together other sets of Raiders, keeping the group’s name and image alive through the years, and the entertaining live shows continue today. Lindsay also continues to make appearances as does Phil Volk with his group “Fang and the Gang.” But the image of Paul Revere & the Raiders is one that wouldn’t be forgotten by those who lived through the 60s even if Revere had retired in 1971. Their music should not be forgotten, either.