Paul Revere (center) and the Raiders
I woke this morning to the sad news that Paul Revere, leader of the Raiders, had passed away at the age of 76.
Oddly, I had just finished prepping two different posts about Pacific Northwest bands (the Kingsmen and Don and the Goodtimes), but I’ll have to push those back a few weeks.
I’ve decided to devote next week’s edition of the Iron Leg Radio Show entirely to Pacific Northwest bands, so stay tuned for that.
The music of Paul Revere and the Raiders has been featured here at Iron Leg a bunch times in the past, in posts and as part of the podcast.
I’m one of those old timers that’ll take time out of my busy day to bend your ear about how the Raiders were one of the great underrated/underappreciated bands of the 60s.
The irony built into that particular conversation is the fact that they were, for a few choice years, very, very successful and big stars.
They were a regular presence on the charts, and on TV, appearing on just about every show that presented rock bands, and as regulars on a couple of Dick Clark vehicles, like Where the Action Is and Happening ’68.
The band, but especially lead singer Mark Lindsay, was fodder for the Tiger Beat crowd as well, appearing in teen magazines and no doubt tacked to the bedroom walls of a healthy percentage of America’s teenage girls.
Oddly enough, it was this popularity, and the band’s highly polished showbiz schtick, with the Revolutionary War uniforms, synchronized steps and clowning, that sank them like a brick in the estimation of the ‘serious’ rock crowd, when that part of the scene rose to prominence in the late 60s.
When the festival and mud thing took over, and rock singers became something a lot less finely tuned and more ‘underground’ (though their records were still being manufactured, marketed and sold by the same gigantic corporations) Paul Revere and the Raiders fell out of fashion.
They still had records on the charts, but my the mid-70s they were by and large relegated to the oldies circuit, with Mark Lindsay gone, and Paul Revere leading a revolving cast of Raiders through the state fairs and night clubs of America.
I first became aware of the Raiders through oldies radio in the early 70s (when their oldies were less than half a decade gone), largely oblivious to their image and the era when I was too young to notice them.
What I heard, was a band that mixed pop hooks with fuzzed out power better than just about anyone else.
At their best, Paul Revere and the Raiders made records that – had they been recorded by some obscure pack of long-haired basement dwellers and released in a run of five hundred singles, sold out of car trunks and at pizza parlor gigs – would be changing hands for hundreds of bucks today.
They were a big part of the Pacific Northwest sound (and its most successful proponents) , having cranked out their first hit in 1960.
When I came of age, in the late 70s and early 80s, while alt rock was emerging, the classic Raiders vibe couldn’t have seemed less cool.
These were the days when bands cultivated an ‘organic’ look, in which everyone tried their hardest to seem like they couldn’t care less. Paul, Mark, Fang, Harpo and Smitty yukking it up on Hullabaloo was the very antithesis of Michael Stipe peeking through his mop while emoting to a bar full of hipsters.
Yet, by 1984, something weird started to happen.
While most of the alt rock world was wearing their hearts on their sleeves, a bunch of us made a U-turn, going back to 1966 for attitude, fashion, and most importantly music.
This was less of a reach than you might imagine, since 60s sounds, jangle, pop, and even fuzz had been a big part of New Wave and power pop, but what my friends and I were onto was something much more explicitly retro.
We were tunneling backward and appreciating the (mostly) lost sounds of the mid-60s, garage punk, mod, R&Beat, folk rock and psychedelia, trading bootleg tapes of shows like Hullabaloo, Shindig, Action, Beat Club, Ready Steady Go and Upbeat, and (to varying degrees) resurrecting the fashions of the times in clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, London and anywhere else there were enough devotees to muster up a scene.
While all of this was going on, a generation of kids, most of whom weren’t nearly old enough to realize what a big deal Paul Revere and the Raiders had been the first time around, started to dig their music.
Nearly twenty years removed, with most of their fame buried in cobwebs and the fan magazines mildewed, their music struck a nerve for all the right reasons. The big booming sound, power chords, fuzz and most importantly the hooks drilled their way into fresh, unspoiled minds.
Sure there were still the hardcore obscurantists, hipper than thou, who insisted that the Raiders were uncool, and way too mainstream to stand alongside barely-heard local 45s from 1966, but those types pop up in every scene and are (and were) best ignored.
The tracks I bring you today are some of my favorites by the band, as well as an obscurity that I only recently put my hands on.
Here you get all of the aforementioned elements, the hard charging side of Paul Revere and the Raiders, with the fuzz, tremolo, pounding drums and memorable melodies.
‘The Great Airplane Strike’ – maybe my fave Raiders record, was co-written by Revere, Lindsay and Terry Melcher, and is still a mind-blower. Not their best-known song, but not exactly obscure (it grazed the Top 20 in the Fall of 1966) is a throbbing tornado of guitars. The production by Melcher is amazing, with the fuzzed-out lead cutting through waves of rhythm guitar, bass and drums.
‘Louise’, written by Jesse Lee Kincaid of the Rising Sons was recorded by both Keith Allison, and the Raiders (who he would soon join). Released by the Raiders first, ‘Louise’ was a minor 1967 hit for Allison who recorded his vocals over the existing backing track. It’s a classic slice of pop-garage, with a pounding rhythm guitar line.
‘Louie Go Home’ (co-written by Revere and Lindsay) is one of the more interesting cuts in the Raiders discography.
The original version, a minor hit early in 1964 is a bit of classic PNW R&B stomp, covered by both the Who and Davie Jones and the King Bees. A few years later, the band rebuilt the song on a more 1966-friendly frame for the ‘Midnight Ride’ album, turning it into a completely different, much groovier beast.
Raiders SS396 Picture Sleeve (water damage included!)
The last track was a promo for the Chevy SS396 released on a 45 with a tribute to the Camaro by the Cyrkle on the other side. Released in 1965, and sounding like the band had been hanging around with Jan and Dean, it wouldn’t be the last time they pushed muscle cars, doing a commercial for the Pontiac GTO ‘Judge’ a few years later.
The cool thing is, you can easily find some excellent collections of their stuff (The Legend of Paul Revere, and the Complete Columbia Singles) over at iTunes, or head to your nearest flea market or garage sale where you’re likely to find some of their 45s (or LPs if you’re lucky).
So take a moment to hoist a tankard of ale to the memory of the mighty Paul Revere.
I’ll be back next week with that all-PNW edition of the Iron Leg Radio Show.