What’s the A to Z Team up to today? Click the pix to find out!
I was chatting with Anna Cottage (Anna’s Blog) from Clacton-On-Sea in Essex, England about music the other day. She and I are on the same page about our favorite music being that of the 1940’s. I asked her what music she liked when was a teen. She said she couldn’t get enough American music. I had to laugh because for me, I couldn’t get enough of the British groups — save for ONE American group I doted on. That was Paul Revere and the Raiders. And even THEY wore British costumes! LOL (I’ve even given my Siri a British accent on my phone! 😉 )
It was their energy that drew me in at first. They would play at Lagoon, the amusement park by our house, every summer. My best friend and I were always in the first row. She was in love with Freddie Weller (who went on to forge a career in country music) and I was smitten with Jim Valley (who has been writing children’s books). I can honestly say they were the only America group I liked.
One of the most popular and entertaining rock groups of the 1960’s, Paul Revere & the Raiders, enjoyed seven years of serious chart action, and during their three biggest years (1966-1969), sold records in numbers behind only 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 60’s rock & roll with a defiant, punk edge.
Paul Revere was born Paul Revere Dick on January 7, 1938 in Harvard, Nebraska. He learned to play the piano as a boy, and developed a keen appreciation for the work of Spike Jones & His City Slickers. He joined his first real band while in his teens, and was later joined by 16-year-old Mark Lindsay (b. March 9, 1942), a singer/saxman who ended up replacing the group’s vocalist. Called the Downbeats, they were popular at local dances, and cut a demo for Gardena Records in Los Angeles, where the company’s owner was interested in issuing a record, but only if they changed their name. Revere’s given name was such a natural as a gimmick that they became Paul Revere & the Raiders. Their third single, a Jerry Lee Lewis-style instrumental, charted low in the Hot 100, and by the middle of 1963, they were one of the major music attractions in the Pacific Northwest.
The song “Louie, Louie,” which they’d picked up from their rivals the Kingsmen, got them a local release that was picked up by Columbia Records, which not only released it nationally but signed Paul Revere & the Raiders to a contract. Their next big break came in 1965 when their producer, Terry Melcher (who also handled the Beach Boys), suggested that they update their sound. He got them to create music that was a mix of fast-paced, guitar-and-vocal-dominated Beach Boys-style rock & roll, and also the more intense and intimidating brand of R&B produced by the Rolling Stones. Their new sound debuted with the single “Steppin’ Out,” a Revere-Lindsay original that was released during the summer of 1965. And they suddenly sounded punk — like cool (yet frustrated) suburban white teenagers, which was the audience they were aiming for. 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.
Just Like Us! “Steppin’ Out” coincided with the group’s debut on the new Dick Clark afternoon music showcase Where the Action Is, which went on the air on June 27, 1965. The band members had gone through a visual metamorphosis, adding Revolutionary War-style outfits to their look, and they stood out for playing straight-ahead rock & roll and having fun doing it. Their second album. Just Like Us!, released in early 1966, was a landmark record, filled with great songs and even better performances, and earned a gold record award. The group also learned quickly, under Melcher’s guidance, how far they could go in making records. By the time of their next album, Midnight Ride, released three months later, and, Spirit of ’67, issued in November of 1966, the group members were playing multiple instruments. Those albums went gold, lofted high and long into the charts by the hit singles “Kicks” — a great song that managed to be cool and anti-drug — “Hungry,” “Good Thing,” and “Him or Me — What’s It Gonna Be.”
Their fortunes took a downturn, however, when Where the Action Is went off the air in the spring of 1967, and by 1968 the Raiders were looking for a newer sound; and in addition to trying to figure out what would sell for the group, Lindsay developed aspirations as a solo singer (later enjoying a huge MOR hit with “Arizona”). And suddenly it was 1969, the era of the “Woodstock Nation,” and “Paul Revere & the Raiders,” with their goofy costumes, seemed more than a little outmoded.
In a quest to shed their 60’s image, the group switched to the name “the Raiders” in 1970. And suddenly, the Raiders tried to sound serious, heavy, and very modern. The result was the Collage album, a very strong rock record, built largely on songs by Lindsay and new member Keith Allison, that never found an audience. And the “Raiders” name change only seemed to confuse wary fans — where was Mark Lindsay?
The group kept plugging along, however, and seemed to strike gold with their next single. The Raiders took a John D. Loudermilk song called “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” and cut a version that shot all the way to number one, their first chart-topper in their history. The problem was that they just couldn’t sustain the momentum, or translate the sales of the single into parallel LP sales, or hold the public or radio programmers’ interest from one single to the next. By 1975, Columbia Records had abandoned the group, and Lindsay had parted company with Revere.
In the following decades, a version of the group that was as much devoted to comedy as music performed under the leadership of Paul Revere. Meanwhile, their old music continued to command respect, with a parade of serious reissue labels — spearheaded by Sundazed, France’s Magic Records, and Australia’s Raven Records — reissuing audiophile-quality expanded-disc versions of the group’s entire Columbia Records library. Revere continued to front the band on the nostalgia circuit into the new millennium, although health issues prevented him from touring during July of 2014; in October of that year he died of cancer at his home in Garden Valley, Idaho at the age of 76. The group continued performing as “Paul Revere’s Raiders,” led by Paul’s son Jamie Revere and featuring Darren Dowler on lead vocals.
On October 13, 2007, Paul Revere & the Raiders were officially inducted, along with their Manager Roger Hart, into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. In attendance were Mark Lindsay, Phil “Fang” Volk, and Roger Hart to accept their awards. In 2010, the band was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Revere announced his retirement from the band in August 2014; the group plans to tour without him as “Paul Revere’s Raiders”. In October 2014, the band’s web site announced that Revere had died “peacefully” on October 4, 2014, at his Garden Valley, Idaho home, a “small estate overlooking a tranquil river canyon”, after a battle with cancer. He was 76 years old.
The song “Kicks” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for The Animals, but the band’s lead singer Eric Burdon turned it down. Instead, Paul Revere & The Raiders recorded and released it as a single in 1966. The single was a number one hit in Canada, and reached number four in the United States. “Kicks” was included on the band’s fifth album, Midnight Ride, released in May 1966. A live version of the song was recorded on the band’s 1996 Greatest Hits Live compilation album.
Considered one of the earliest anti-drug songs, “Kicks” was composed and released during an era in which pro-hippie, pro-experimentation, and other counterculture themes were gaining popularity on U.S. FM radio stations. The song’s message was consequently perceived as outdated by the emerging youth counterculture, as popular artists ranging from The Beatles to Jefferson Airplane had written songs whose themes sharply contrasted that of “Kicks.” However, the song has received generally positive reviews by music critics in the decades since its release. In 2004, “Kicks” was ranked number 400 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Mann and Weil wrote the song as a warning to a friend about the dangers of drug use. The lyrics consist of a narrator telling a girl that drug use causes addiction and that soft drugs can lead to the use of hard drugs. Musically, the song’s lead guitar lines recall the Beatles, while its bass figures are similar to those popularized by The Byrds. The song contains closer harmonies and a more euphonious melodic arrangement than the band’s previous single, “Just Like Me”. Lead singer Mark Lindsay’s R&B vocal style, combined with the song’s guitar and organ instrumentation, is reminiscent of British bands such as The Kinks and The Yardbirds.