Saturday, September 24, 2011

Paul Revere & The Raiders

Paul Revere & The Raiders These guys were funny. That’s what I remember thinking. They’d show up regularly on Where The Action Is, Dick Clark’s rock and roll TV show from the mid 60s, or American Bandstand, and they’d be funny. They’d perform in Revolutionary War uniforms (I assume that’s what they were) and they’d clown around while did their song. Like The Beatles, they all had names and personalities: Mark and Paul, and Drake and Smitty and Fang.

After a few years the members started to leave, and the band became more anonymous, and so did its style, its garage band grit giving way to highly commercialized soul-rock fusion. Their chart placings got lower the farther the spotlight moved away, and within five years the band became has-beens. Welcome to the 60s. I can’t think of a better example of how the lightning fast changes of musical style happening then affected the pop stars that couldn’t quite keep up.

This collection is mostly All-Time Greatest Hits, which I picked up at Sam The Record Man after a long until-then fruitless search, plus Like Long Hair and the b side of Just Like Me from the singles, Over You from a Rhino Nuggets collection, and Indian Reservation from I don’t remember where.

Paul Revere & The Raiders:

Like Long Hair – Funny to think that “long hair music” once referred to the classics, but the title here is an obvious reference to what were then recent hits by the likes of Kokomo and B. Bumble & The Stingers, records that took their themes from Grieg and Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. The Raiders’ initial foray into the top 40 was likewise an instrumental, but the musical theme was original, at least in detail if not in spirit. It was a one-off shot on the Gardena label, from the spring of 1961, following which they would not be heard from again for 4 years.
Louie Louie – The Raiders’ take on this frat rock anthem was epic making, and, in my book, beat out the better known and bigger selling hit version by The Kingsmen by a garage rock mile. It wasn’t a hit, but it seemed to have made its way onto radio playlists anyway. If you want to hear The Beatles’ best North American pre-Byrds competition, this is a good place to start.
Over You – This cover of Aaron Neville’s ode to abuse was an obscure single by the band, and in those days you could do a song like this without batting an eye.
Steppin’ Out – Righteous anger personified, deserved to be way higher than the 46 that it ultimately placed in the fall of 1965. The Raiders’ first hit for Columbia, it kicked off a series of kick-butt-no-nonsense singles that lasted through the early part of 1967.
Just Like Me – Musically a Louie Louie rewrite, lyrically a manic tribute to out-of-controlness. Helped along by their ubiquitous TV presence, the group finally makes the big time, just missing the top 10. From late 1965.
Kicks – Mann and Weill wrote this musical anti-drug lecture well before Haight-Ashbury was a fact, and the song would rocket up to number 4 in the summer of 1966. A bit preachy, but also a bit catchy. Covered by Del Shannon, and later by The Nazz.
B.F.D.R.F. Blues – The flip side of Just Like Me, never on an album, a generic blues, more or less, and I have no idea what the initials stand for.
Hungry – Mark Lindsay sings like a man possessed, and the band plays like its collective life depends on it. An ode to ambition on steroids, and that fact that it is diametrically out of whack with the counterculture that was taking over didn’t prevent this song from going top 10 in the summer of 1966.
The Great Airplane Strike – It amazes me that this song was top 20 in the fall of 1966, not because it’s bad or anything, but because I don’t remember hearing it. I probably had the radio off for a few months. Labour unrest was never this much fun.
Good Thing – Not that the group never did a love song, but they certainly weren’t given to romantic mush. Here’s what happens when they get “sentimental.” From the winter of 66 / 67.
Ups And Downs – And here’s what happens when they get philosophical. The group was starting to disintegrate, the original personalities were flying the coup, and the sound was becoming more generic. From the winter of 1967.
Him Or Me – What’s It Gonna Be – We’re not taking any guff here, no begging or pleading, just lay it out. At least he’s giving her the chance. They are transitioning here to the soul-rock band they’d become by the end of the decade, but this may be the last single they made with the original spirit still intact. From the summer of 67.
Legend Of Paul Revere – Musical autobiography. Not the only group to do this – Them did The Story Of Them and The Animals did the story of The Animals masquerading as Bo Diddley. On this one they don’t forget to mention Dick Clark about a million times (ok maybe once, but you get the idea). This was the flip side of Him Or Me.
I Had A Dream – Not the John Prine song, but same idea. Nothing to do with Martin Luther King, this is just a love song. From the fall of 1967.
Too Much Talk – Here is where the group wants to be part of “what’s happening.” In fact they launched a new TV show; it was called Happening ’68, but it wasn’t happening. The song did better. That was the winter of 1968.
Do Unto Others – A sermon delivered with enough groove to redeem it. The B side of Peace Of Mind.
Peace Of Mind – A few years later Loggins & Messina did a song called Peace Of Mind that was quite peaceful. This one isn’t. Paul and Mark and the boys deliver a plea for tranquility that uses hysteria to get the point across. One hopes that the irony was deliberate. From the late part of 1967.
Don’t Take It So Hard – The love words of a cad. This ode to insensitivity was a hit in the summer of 1967.
Just Seventeen – Boyd Bennett sang Seventeen, Chuck Berry sang about the girl who was “too cute to be a minute over seventeen,” and The Beatles added “and you know what I mean.” There was always a touch of salaciousness, but the touch here becomes a clobber, as the group comes as close as it ever did to heavy metal. From the winter of 1970.
Cinderella Sunshine – About a girl who disappears when the sun comes up. Isn’t it the guy who typically disappears? From the fall of 1968.
Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon – In the grand tradition of Please Mr. Sun, the boys plead with the elements themselves to do cupid’s bidding. From the spring of 1969.
We Gotta All Get Together – Getting into that Woodstock spirit, a grand singalong, from the fall of 1969.
Let Me – No question that there is something unsavoury about a song like this (I mean “no means no” after all, right?) but there is also something unsettlingly refreshing about the honesty, because after a bit, one gets the feeling that so many of the love songs one hears are really just saying this in the end. From the summer of ’69.
Indian Reservation – This song is a bit of an anomaly in the group’s career. It was their last major hit, reaching number 1 (the group’s only) in the summer of 1971, temporarily reversing what had been a long downhill skid. They were billed as “The Raiders,” leading some, me included, to guess that Paul Revere had absconded, though in fact he had not, and it was a clear message song, by a group whose repertoire consisted of songs of lust, macho posturing, and vague social sentiment. The song was written by John Loudermilk, (Sittin’ In The Balcony, Tobacco Road etc), and had been a hit of sorts of Don Fardon in 1968, whose version reached number 20 though few remember it (I certainly don’t). A few months later they hit the top 20 for the last time, with Joe South’s Birds Of A Feather.

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