Saturday, February 7, 2009

Da Raidas! (extended dance remix)

As with my original Black Oak Arkansas tribute post, I was displeased with the drive-by quality (only two paragraphs?!?) of my initial salute to Paul Revere & The Raiders, which is literally where it all began for me musically, so I will elaborate some more on this wonderful and very unappreciated Rock ‘N’ Roll band.  This is kinda long, but well worth the trip, especially for all youse Raider aficionados out there…

Long before Ted Nugent, long before Gene Simmons, long before Elton John even, my original Rock idol was Mark Lindsay, lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders.  My earliest memories of being alive are of standing atop my toy box in our basement, rocking out to PR&TR with my plastic guitar (with the broken strings) at age 3 in 1967, and dreaming of being this cool-looking dude with the ponytail.  The Raiders were MY group almost from Day One, and always will be—they were certainly my first taste of Rock 'N' Roll, and don’t even get me started on why these guys aren’t in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.  Paul Revere & The Raiders are the Rodney Dangerfields of Rock 'N' Roll, because they sure don't get no respect.  I'd put their stuff up against the Monkees’, Beach Boys’, the (Young) Rascals’, Dave Clark Five’s and Lovin' Spoonful's best stuff any day!

Oddly enough, I can partially thank my ultra-conservative old man's narrow-mindedness for my devotion to this wonderful band.  Dear ol’ Dad deemed The Beatles to be Communists because of Lennon's "We're bigger than Jesus" quote.  This coming from a man who rarely (if ever) attended church himself, yet constantly pissed and moaned about the people who ran our family’s church (shades of A. Bunker), but I digress.  Anyway, Dad deemed the Raiders patriotic (and tame) enough for their records to be allowed in our home when the Fab Four’s weren't.  I can also thank their constant TV exposure on Dick Clark’s “Where The Action Is” for PR&TR being popular at our house, as my older sister really dug their music, as did my older brother, to a lesser extent.  I discovered the magic of The Beatles in my own time as I grew older, so I didn’t miss a thing, and I’m so grateful for being raised on these crazy guys from the Great Northwest with the tri-cornered hats and tight white pants.

Originally known as the Downbeats, Paul Revere & The Raiders had an ever-changing lineup of musicians throughout their history, with Revere and Lindsay being the only two constants during the ‘60s and early ‘70s.  Even Paul had to bow out for a time when he got drafted and one young Leon Russell even subbed for him (Leon Russell & The Raiders?) on tour in 1961.  The Raiders were local favorites in and around the Portland, Oregon area in the early ‘60s and even scored a couple minor instrumental hits on the Gardena label, “Beatnik Sticks” and “Like, Long Hair”, both emphasizing featuring Revere’s piano playing.  The band got its big break when Columbia Records woke up (almost too late) and realized Rock ‘N’ Roll existed in the mid-‘60s and added the Raiders (as well as Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel) to their stodgy roster of artists like Doris Day, Mitch Miller, Rosemary Clooney and Ray Conniff.  PR&TR’s first hit for Columbia was the classic “Louie, Louie”, which of course was an even bigger hit in 1963 for The Kingsmen (also from the Great Northwest) and recorded in the very same studio, no less.  If you listen closely to the Raiders’ version of “Louie x 2”, you can hear Mark Lindsay in the background during the guitar solo utter, “Does she fuck?”

The band’s other big break came when Dick Clark came along and put them on TV to basically serve as the house band on “Where The Action Is”, where they performed other people’s music in addition to their own, as well as zany comedy skits that presaged what the Monkees would later do.  They even appeared in an episode of “Batman”, among other shows, and if anything, the band may well have been a little overexposed on TV, which probably hurt them a bit in the long run.  And while their stage act was highly visual with their Revolutionary War outfits, sex appeal (front man Lindsay, in particular) and intricate dance steps, unlike today’s amateur-ish lip sync-ers, PR&TR actually played live in concert and they were all very capable musicians.

The Raiders’ halcyon days were between ’65 and ’67 with their classic lineup of Drake Levin on guitar (at right in this pic), Phil “Fang” Volk on bass (in the back) and Mike “Smitty” Smith on drums (lower left), in addition to Revere (lower right) on keyboards and Lindsay (upper left) on sax and lead vocals.  While Revere chafed a bit at what he deemed the “cheesy” Farfisa/Vox organ sound of the day (preferring his Fats Domino-inspired boogie-woogie piano sound from those early Gardena records), he couldn’t argue with success, as the Raiders gave even The Beatles a nice run for their money during this period, churning out hits like “Steppin’ Out”, “Just Like Me”, “Good Thing”, “Hungry”, “The Great Airplane Strike”, “Ups And Downs” and their classic anti-drug tune, “Kicks”, all produced by Doris Day’s son, the late Terry Melcher, who also co-wrote several songs with Lindsay.  Their early albums contained mostly cover tunes, but over time, the Raiders played more and more original material and developed their own trademark riffy careening guitar-driven Rock sound that was embraced by all those budding garage bands of the day, not to mention teen audiences on TV and in concert, and a little kid in Raytown, Missouri.

By this time, PR&TR were doing so many TV appearances that the band often couldn’t devote proper time to working in the recording studio, so they sometimes utilized session players on their records like guitarist Ry Cooder and veteran drummer Hal Blaine, whom I believe plays on “Him Or Me-What‘s It Gonna Be?”.  Following this peak period, numerous changes ensued.  Drake Levin left the group to join the National Guard just after to the release of Spirit of ‘67 (in 1966—confused yet?) and was replaced by guitarist Jim Valley, who kinda/sorta bore a resemblance to a certain Marx Brother, hence the nickname “Harpo”.  Less than a year later, Fang and Smittyirked by the constant use of those session musiciansleft the group to form The Brotherhood with Levin (after his Guard hitch ended) and did a couple albums for RCA.  Harpo left not long after that, so by late ’67, Lindsay and Revere overhauled the group by adding guitarist Freddy Weller, bassist Charlie Coe and drummer Joe Correro, Jr.  The first LP release under the re-tooled Raider lineup, Revolution!, was a solid effort with the hit singles “Him Or Me…” and “I Had A Dream”.

After Revolution!, the band began to lose focus.  First, there was the musical (and literal) detour Mark Lindsay took to Tennessee, where he cut a Stax-like R&B album under the band’s name called Goin’ To Memphis with producer Chips Moman in early ’68.  With ML ill-advisedly trying to do a junior James Brown impression, the album yielded just one minor hit, “Peace Of Mind” (not the Boston song), although it did contain a serviceable version of Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man”.  Also by this time, the band ditched the stage get-ups in favor of street clothes, and Paul Revere began a long slow fade to the background of the group.  Lindsay also ended his collaboration with Terry Melcher and more or less carried the group on his back from then on, writing and producing nearly all of the music himself.

By the summer of 1968, the musical landscape had changed vastly from just a year or two before when PR&TR were at the height of their popularity, and the Raiders found themselves at a creative crossroads as heavier bands like The Doors, The Who and Jimi Hendrix Experience now ruled the scene.  Their next release, Something Happening was a schizophrenic album that reflected the musical hodge-podge of the day.  It included a little of everything—a heavy, driving message song (“Too Much Talk”), a little psychedelia (“Get Out Of My Mind”, “Free”), some sugary Archies-like pop fluff (“It Happens Every Day”, “Don’t Take It So Hard”, “Love Makes The World Go ‘Round”), a touch of jazz/fusion (“Communication”) and (at the end of “Burn Like A Candle”) even a bass fart!  The album also included the theme song from the band’s latest TV series, “Happening ‘68”, which morphed into “It’s Happening” in ‘69.

Early ’69 brought the release of my personal favorite Raider album, the appropriately-titled Hard ‘n’ Heavy (with Marshmallow), which is pretty much what you got here.  This time the actual band members played on the entire record, including new bassist and former “Action” regular Keith Allison (cousin of drummer Jerry Allison of Buddy Holly's Crickets), who replaced the departed Charlie Coe.  Hard ‘n’ Heavy was a good mix of Pop pabulum (“Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon”, “Cinderella Sunshine”) and rockers (“Time After Time”, “Without You” and “Out On That Road”).  H 'n' H (w M) also sported what was easily the coolest Raider album cover ever.  Unfortunately, the band’s popularity was beginning to wane as their audience was rapidly outgrowing them.  In the summer of ’69, Paul Revere & The Raiders adopted the pseudonym “Pink Puzz” to test-market their new single “Let Me!” with radio stations and see what response it would render.  Top 40 radio programmers seemed to initially like the song a lot—until they realized they’d been duped and there was a bit of a backlash on the band.  Sounding like it was recorded at the Hard ‘n’ Heavy sessions, “Let Me!” was a killer song, but the rest of the Alias Pink Puzz album was pretty bland, especially compared with its predecessor.

In 1970, the band tried to re-invent itself even more by dropping ‘Paul Revere &’ from their name, thus pushing PR even further to the back of the bus, and creating a major (and understandable) resentment towards Mark Lindsay that I don’t think to this day has been fully resolved.  It also probably didn’t help that Lindsay was distracted by his newly-launched solo career, which yielded hits like “Arizona” , “Silver Bird” , “Miss America” (not the Styx song) and Neil Diamond’s vastly-underrated “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”.  Guitarist Freddy Weller also pursued a solo career and had moderate success on the Country charts, including a successful cover of Joe South’s “Games People Play”.  Meanwhile, the next Raider album, 1970’s Collage, was critically well-received, but a commercial flop, and included the semi-lewd jailbait tune “Just Seventeen”, a track I really like called “Boys In The Band”, and a couple unnecessary remakes of tunes from the Revolution! album, “Tighter” and “Gone, Movin’ On”.  Uh, guys, the originals were better!  Drummer Joe Correro left the band in mid-’71 and original drummer Mike “Smitty” Smith returned, but by this time Paul Revere was practically a non-factor, and things were looking dire, indeed.  But, just when everyone was about to stick a fork in The Raiders, along came a thing called “Indian Reservation (The Lament of The Cherokee Nation)” in the summer of ’71 that became the band’s first and only #1 record.  The follow-up single, “Birds Of A Feather” charted a disappointing #23 and the rest of the Indian Reservation album was largely forgettable, as was their last full-length original LP for Columbia, 1972’s not-really-Country Country Wine.

From ’73 to ’75, the Raiders put out a few singles that stiffed out and Mark Lindsay finally had enough and left the group.  Paul Revere retrofitted the group with some new Raiders and reattached his name to it and has played the nostalgia circuit ever since, including their current semi-permanent gig in Branson, MO with Righteous Brother Bill Medley.  While it’s great that he keeps the group’s name alive, it's too bad Paul Revere himself doesn't revere the band's history more appropriately in Branson, as his act is more like a '60s music revue than a PR&TR show where you get just as much non-Raider fare like “Mony, Mony" and "Heard It Through The Grapevine" as you do “Kicks” and “Hungry”.

There have also been various brief Raider reunions over the years, including one in 1979 of the Levin/Volk/Smith lineup on a Dick Clark TV special, but nothing that truly amounted to anything.  Lindsay, meanwhile, has recorded and performed sporadically since he left the band, and I had the great pleasure of meeting my original idol backstage after a 2001 concert, and he was every bit as cool as I imagined him to be—very gracious and accommodating in signing otto-graphs for everyone in line, and quite a nice man to speak to.  Nearly everyone in that line reminisced about the 1971 Raiders show at Starlight Theater in K.C., which was my very first Rock ‘N’ Roll concert at age 7.  Mr. Lindsay quipped, “I must have been about nine, then…”  The man still looks every bit the youthful stud of a front man he was in the ‘60s in HIS ‘60s.

As often as Paul Revere & The Raiders appeared on television, you’d think there would be a wealth of ‘60s/’70s video offerings of the band on DVD, right?  Guess again. For reasons untold, Dick Clark apparently holds the marketing rights to most of the Raiders’ TV appearances, and to date hasn’t chosen to release any of it.  Come on, Dick, don't be a dickput this stuff out, already!  Fortunately, a few things have snuck through the cracks and wound up on YouTube, which I’ve provided links to throughout this post for as many of their songs as I could find.

My All-Time Paul Revere & The Raiders Top 25:
Honorable mentions:
“Undecided Man” (1966)  This may well be the most blatant song rip-off in music history, loaded with cellos that sounded suspiciously like “Eleanor Rigby”, which The Beatles had just come out with.  And they thought George Harrison ripped off the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine”…
“Steppin’ Out” (1965)/“Good Thing” (1966)  Just wanted to acknowledge these two big Raider hits in case anyone wonders why they aren’t in my Top 25.  It’s certainly no slam against these two great tracksthere are just so many other Raider songs that I like even better.
“Why? Why? Why? (Is It So Hard?)” (1966)  It took me many many years to discover what a dirty song title this was!  Cool song, all the same...

25) “I Had A Dream” (1967)  One of the better wet dream songs in Rock history!
24) “Just Like Me” (1966)  You youngin’s out there might be familiar with Pat Benatar’s cool 1981 remake of this one.  Killer guitar work from Drake Levin throughout.
23) “Leslie” (1967)  A little comic relief from Revere on lead vocal, all about a domestic servant and her kick-ass housekeeping prowess.  Paul rips off the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley-Oop” with the line, “Ooooh, she sho’ is hip, ain’t she?”
22) “Kicks” (1966)  One of the greatest anti-drug anthems of all-time.  Gets its point across without going overboard or being too preachy.  The video here is a bit of an odditythis is the Weller/Coe/Correro lineup performing a Levin/Volk/Smith-era song.
21) “Mo’reen” (1967)  Cool song off Revolution! that would make the Fuzz Guitar Hall of Fame (if there was one).
20) “Louie, Go Home” (1966)  The sequel to “Louie, Louie”, so to speak.  I have distinct memories of spinning around and making myself dizzy in time to the guitar breaks in this one when I was three or four.  This video is of a different version of the song than the one the Raiders did on record.  The Who also did a similar tune called "Lubie (Come Back Home)" in 1965.
19) “Get It On” (1966)  In a rare show of democracy for a Rock band, the Raiders spread the wealth and let nearly everyone do a lead vocal on each album, and here’s a dandy one from Phil “Fang” Volk.  Not to be confused with the 1971 hit by Chase of the same name.  If you want 30 minutes of pure '60s garage Rock, I highly recommend the Raiders' Midnight Ride CD.
18) “Tighter” (1967)  Short, sweet and trippy tune off Revolution!.  Why they saw fit to remake the song on 1970’s Collage is beyond me—this one was just fine.
17) “Boys In The Band” (1970)  This might’ve been a good hit single had it not been for the band’s flagging popularity at the time. I  love the verse about where each guy is from:  “Mississippi’s on the drums and the bass guitar is from Texas…”, etc.
16) “Ballad Of A Useless Man” (1966)  Not really a ballad, but a humorous ditty with Mark Lindsay posing as a down-and-out suicidal bum who sings, “I done lost my job, I done lost my girlI'm a no good, useless man…”  Sadly, the song would fit right in during today’s hard economic times.
15) “Out On That Road” (1969)  Fun little romp about being on tour that managed to mix in lines from previous hits like “Kicks” and “Good Thing”.  Check out the suit Mark Lindsay wore in this videomust've borrowed it from the Riddler on "Batman"!
14) “I Hear A Voice” (1967)  This beautiful song off Revolution! was totally different than anything else the Raiders ever did.  It’s just Paul (I assume) on a very echo-y piano and Mark on vocals, all about receiving contact from a female from the beyond.  Reminds me so much of a friend who’s no longer with us.
13) “Too Much Talk” (1968)  This one has a wicked bass line in it during the choruses (by whoever played it).  With its theme about changing the world, it would’ve been perfect for the Obama campaign.  A still photo from the show this video came from adorns the back cover of the Something Happening album.
12) “Cinderella Sunshine” (1969)  Bubble-gum music at its finest!  This one could’ve almost been done by The Archies, but I love it, anyway.  Go with the album version off Hard ‘n’ Heavy instead of the choppy single version, which is featured in this video.
11) ”Get Out Of My Mind” (1968)  Psychedelic song about a guy taking a long drive along the PCH in California in his Ferrari to forget about a girl—sort of a trip within a trip.
10) “Louie, Louie” [Live] (1965)  Skip past the Raiders’ original studio version and go with the live cut from Here They Come!.  Drake Levin just cooks on his guitar solo here.
9) “Louise” (1966)  Hidden gem off Spirit of ‘67 that epitomizes mid-‘60s garage Rock to a tee.
8) “Indian Reservation” (1971)  It’s so strangely ironic that when this one shot up to #1, it was the beginning of the end for the Raidas.  That is indeed Mark Lindsay on lead vocals, not Freddy Weller, as urban legend once had it.
7) “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (1966)  The Monkees had the big hit with this one, but the Raiders recorded it first and their punchier version is far superior.  It packs more of a wallop than the Pre-Fab Four’s cut, and Mark Lindsay’s macho growl blows away Mickey Dolenz’ rather wimpy vocal.
6) “Ups And Downs” (1966)  This virtually-forgotten hit came out as a single during the transitory period between the Levin/Volk/Smith and/or Valley lineup to the Weller/Coe/Correro one.  The Spanish horns during the choruses totally elevated this one into a (lost) classic.  This video is a rare TV appearance by Jim Valley with the Raiders.
5) "Him Or Me-What's It Gonna Be?" (1967)  A high-energy hit that featured some nifty guitar from Freddy Weller (I think) and Mr. Revere (I think) on the rather prevalent piano.  This video from the "Ed Sullivan Show" features the odd combo of Weller/Volk/Smith as the power trio.
4) "Let Me!" (1969)  The only stellar track off Alias Pink Puzz—this one would also make the Fuzz Guitar Hall of Fame (if there was one).
3) "Hungry" (1966)  One of their biggest hits, and one of the last with Drake Levin playing on it. Boyce & Hart practically stole the ending from it on their only hit “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight”.  Not sure why Revere has a puppet that looks an awful lot like Kermit The Frog in this video...
2) "The Great Airplane Strike" (1966)  Hilarious song about a poor musician’s travel travails at LAX featuring one of the coolest descending guitar figures you’ll ever hear, played by session musician Jerry Cole.  Ironically, it sounds even better in mono with the actual airplane sound effect on it.  The stereo version has something taking off that sounds like aircraft that NASA would be concerned with instead of the FAA.  Even better, go with what I call the "extended dance remix" version on their excellent Essential Ride 1963-67 CD collection, complete with the airplane and extended jam after the original fade-out.  I made sure to play this one on my iPod as I wandered around that L.A. flyway back in Augustbut I didn't build myself a fire in the bathroom, as the lyric suggested!
1) "Time After Time" (1969)  Long-forgotten song (except by yours truly) from Hard 'n' Heavy about two times in a row with a killer opening riff, and another entry for the Fuzz Guitar Hall of Fame (if there was one).  The backing track from “Time After Time” was also used in a Pontiac GTO TV ad featuring the band.  That was one bad-ass car, too...


RR said...

Excellent post, sir. PR&TR are also one of my formative bands (along with the Buckinghams) but I only got into the stuff on the radio. They indeed did rock with the best of them, my personal fave happens to be "Hungry", just thought the whole song was killer. "Arizona" reminds me of late nights alone in my room down in the Ozarks, looking for a way to get out of the isolation that consumed me at the time. Very good work, my friend.

dr sardonicus said...

This has to be the definitive Paul Revere & The Raiders source on the web. The biggest things hurting their reputation are probably that they didn't make the transition to the progressive 70's and that Columbia really didn't know how to market rock groups then. Their ever-changing lineup also hurt them; I think a lot of people just saw them as Mark Lindsay's backup band.

"Good Thing" was as fine a piece of power pop as any American group made in the 60's, and it doesn't make your Top 25. Obviously their talents stretched far beyond their handful of Top 10 hits; I defer to your expertise here. I have their version of "Louie Louie" on a 60's various artists compilation - I guess I need to get that sucker out and play it again to see if I can catch some things I missed before, if ya know what I mean.

Brian Holland said...

Thanks a million, both of you gentlemen! If you're looking for a good taster that goes beyond their Top 10 stuff, check out 'The Essential Ride: 1963-67'--it has several of the songs I listed in my Top 25.

Like I said, Doc., "Good Thing" was indeed a good thing, but you have to remember, I listened to their albums religiously when I was a kid, and there are so many other faves ahead of GT in my book--no slam intended on the song. I agree with your assessment about the constant lineup changes hurting them, as well as the way they jacked around during some of their TV appearances--no small wonder people didn't take them seriously as musicians.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that Time After Time is not forgotten by me. It's the best song on their best album in my opinion. Anyone got a link to the lyrics?