Steppin’ Out With The Raiders & Paul Revere

Last month’s post reviewing all the Dave Clark 5’s LPs was such a blast that it seemed only fair to do the same with your blog-master’s other fave early teenage years group – Paul Revere & The Raiders.  To this day, I still love a musical act that puts on a show while playing their music.  While the Raiders didn’t have the laser lights of Genesis or Pink Floyd at their disposal in 1966, they did have revolutionary war costumes, choreographed dance steps and humorous mayhem on stage.  The second rock and roll concert I ever attended was this band at the Denver Coliseum around early 1967.  As opposed to my first (Freddie & The Dreamers), I recall this one as being essentially in a big echo chamber which made the concert experience less than musical, but at least it was fun to see them (along with a cavalcade of local bands).  Here is the old program:

From June 1965 till it was cancelled in March 1967 the Dick Clark created TV show Where The Action Is gave us kids a musical reason to race home from school to watch regulars like Steve Alaimo, Tina Mason, Keith Allison and Revere’s Raiders host.

There were also musical guests like The Turtles, Donovan, The Supremes, etc.  When that show folded, Revere and lead singer Mark Lindsay hosted a new Clark venture Happening ’68 on Saturday after American Bandstand plus It’s Happening during the week (1968-69).  Certainly that exposure went a long way towards making the Raiders stars, but they had the musical chops and the songs to make them America’s answer to U.K. bands like The Kinks and The Animals.  Whether it is some feeling of American inferiority or the costumes and comedy that have worked against their induction in to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, they certainly deserve to be enshrined strictly on their musical merit.  (But then as of this writing Jethro Tull, Neil Sedaka, Pat Benatar, The Doobie Brothers, Nilsson, The Go-Gos, et al are also not in – a hall of fame’s worth of snubs.)  The DC5 and The Raiders shared some similarities.  They were a five piece band with a sax player, guitarist, bassist, drummer and a keys man playing standing up behind a Vox Continental.  They also were good looking photogenic guys in sharp threads.  Their singles were catchy rockers that the band may or may not have played on.  Both bands took some time to settle on their classic line-ups, but unlike the DC5 whose membership during the hit years was stable, Revere’s band saw some major upheavals during their recording career.

Back in 1958, former barber and then Caldwell, Idaho restaurateur Paul Dick (age 20) decided to put a band together with him playing piano.  The story goes that a shy gawky nearly legally blind teenager took off his glasses at one of Revere’s shows and jumped on stage to sing a song then disappeared.  When Revere went to a bakery to pick up the buns for his restaurant he reconnected with that kid who worked there (with his glasses on) Mark Lindsay and an 18 year partnership was born.

The Downbeats played mostly rockin’ instrumentals with Lindsay on wailing sax.  Dick was always a hustler and got a demo to a small record label in California – Gardena Records.  On signing the contract, owner John Guss saw that Dick’s middle name was Revere and suggested naming the band after Paul Revere (either Night Riders or Raiders were debated).  The first Gardena single was a boogie woogie version of “Chopsticks” – “Beatnick Sticks”.  Eight singles were released with the third one (“Like Long Hair” – a boogie piano take-off on Rachmaninoff) making the U.S. charts at #38 in 1961.  The band used Leon Russell on piano for tours while Revere served his military obligation as a cook in an Oregon mental institution (due to his conscientious objector status).  Later, Lindsay relocated to Oregon and he and Revere put a new version of the band together with club owner and guitarist Mike “Smitty” Smith shifting to drums.  The rowdy Paul Revere & The Raiders played a style of music that became known later as frat rock since the bands all played amped up music for boozy fraternity parties and the like.  These bands mostly played the same covers including the song “Louie Louie” written and recorded by Richard Berry.   Within days of each other, two Northwest bands recorded that song in the same studio, but only one (The Kingsmen) had the hit with it.  Revere’s Raiders were given $50 by their new manager KISN DJ Roger Hart to record the song and formed the Sande label to release it.  During this time, as a gag Revere rented Colonial costumes for the band including jackets and tri-corner hats.  Crowds loved it and this became their trademark along with on-stage craziness and dance steps between the bassist and guitarist.  This all attracted the attention of the rock and roll shy Columbia Records label who signed the band as they sounded black but were white kids (Lindsay possessed one of the greatest rock and roll voices of that era).  A few months after the recording of “Louie Louie”, a new guitarist came on board – Drake Levinshefski.  The stage-named Drake “The Kid” Levin (since he was 16 at the time) inspired a young Seattle black kid during a show at the Spanish Castle Ballroom who complimented him that night.  Jimi Hendrix was impressed with Drake’s showmanship including playing on his knees and holding his guitar behind his back to play.  After recording their initial sessions for Columbia, bassist Mike “Doc” Holliday was replaced by a University of Colorado student – Phil “Fang” Volk and the classic line-up was cemented.

During their heyday they were a singles juggernaut, but what about their forgotten albums?  If you let me, I plan to recall an album track from each of their 12 inch pieces of vinyl.

1.Like Long Hair (1961)

To capitalize on the success of “Like Long Hair” nationally, Gardena Records released the only long player ever on the label – a rare piece of vinyl today (though you can stream the songs much cheaper).  The LP was made up of singles sides plus a few songs that Revere cut with the band on his off days serving as a mental institution cook.  Production was handled by Gary Paxton of the Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”).  The album didn’t chart and if you are looking for The Raiders of the later ’60s, forget it soundwise.  This is, however, a pretty good album of rockin’ instrumentals.  The Revere/Lindsay original “Groovey” shows what an outstanding sax man “Mad Man Marcus” was.

2.Paul Revere & The Raiders (1963) also In The Beginning (1966)

When the band reconvened they recorded a cover of “Louie Louie” (inspired by The Wailers) plus an album of instrumentals and frat rock covers.  Songs like “Work With Me Annie” and a pretty good version of Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lu” were released on the Sande label (which I think manager Roger Hart created for them – but don’t quote me).  Note that when The Raiders became successful, Jerden Records re-released this album as In The Beginning and the album track “So Fine” was sent out for potential chart action.  I recall hearing it a few times on Denver radio back in ’66 and wondering why it didn’t sound anything like “Just Like Me” or “Kicks”.  It tanked.

3.Here They Come! (July 1965)

Columbia Records picked up Paul Revere’s band and re-issued “Louie Louie” to no success, but didn’t give up on them releasing three more non-hits on 45.  In Sept. 1964 to capture their live excitement, Columbia paired the band with Bruce Johnston (The Rip Chords) as producer in a faux concert setting on a soundstage.  In front of an invited crowd, The Raiders played their stage show which was still rockin’ instrumentals and frat rock covers such as “Big Boy Pete” and “Money (That’s What I Want)”.  For me the stand-out track was a really hot version of “You Can’t Sit Down” with each guy in the band getting to shine.  The rhythm section of Smitty and Doc Holliday were like a driving machine and Lindsay’s sax is simply en fuego.  Keep in mind that at this time, British Invasion acts like The Beatles and Peter & Gordon had pretty much swept the charts of music like this, however.  Parts of that session ended up ten months later as the top side of their first Columbia long player while studio guys backing Lindsay in the spring of 1965 recorded so-so songs that made up the flip of the album (“Fever”, “Sometimes”, etc.).  Those sessions were produced by Terry Melcher (The Rip Chords) who would become like a sixth Raider for many years (his voice blended well with Mark’s).  When it came out, the back liner notes were fairly simple and listed the bassist as Mike “Doc” Holliday.  After their success on Where The Action Is, a newer version was released with longer Dick Clark liner notes listing Phil “Fang” Volk on bass (who by then had taken over from Holliday).  As a kid, it was that version I bought (after getting their next release first) and I was extremely confused by the cover picture who showed a guy holding the bass that definitely wasn’t Fang.  The album charted at #71.  By far the best way to get this music now is on the two CD Sundazed album Mojo Workout! which includes all the songs from the live set, soundcheck tracks plus studio tracks and alternate versions.

4.Just Like Us! (Jan. 1966)

Well this is where it all began for most of us kids with these guys after hearing the great singles “Steppin’ Out” and “Just Like Me”.  We bought enough for it to go gold and hit #5 early in ’66.  This was one of three albums that mom and dad let me pick out from the Columbia Record Club and I played it to death on their old KLH stereo.  Aside from the Animals/Kinks-like hits, the rest of the album was not unlike their old stuff being covers and even including an ancient instrumental version of “Night Train” in mono from the flip of “Louie Louie”.  They looked great on the jacket in their Colonial suits and played the heck out of their instruments (it has been reported that Revere didn’t like to record and “Steppin’ Out” was one of his last appearances playing keys).  Each guy got to sing and they all did pretty well including Revere on the old U.S. Bonds single “New Orleans”.  Smitty gets the humorous one with a silly version of “I Know” that was pretty endearing.  There is also a short band vocal version of “Action” from their TV show (Freddy Cannon had the hit version the summer before).  It would be unfair to say any of the band members could sing anywhere nearly as well as Lindsay, however, who did have one of the greatest voices of rock and roll.  Production was by Terry Melcher again.

5.Midnight Ride (May 1966)

This album came out to capitalize on their monster hit “Kicks”, an anti-drug song by “Mann and Weil who had offered it to The Animals as well.  Since I owned the 45, there didn’t seem to be any reason to get the album plus the cover was pretty non-descript.  The flip of the single would have made this a better record – a jammy harpsichord remake of their old Gardena single “Shake It Up”.  The album was okay, but had too much junk like “Little Girl In The 4th Row” and “Melody For An Unknown Girl” for my taste.  Nine of the eleven were originals – six by Paul and Mark (Smitty and Fang again got to sing as well).  Aside from “Kicks” the only other cover was the first waxing of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” which would give The Monkees a hit six months later.  “Louie, Go Home” was a reworking of their single follow-up to “Louie Louie” that had tanked.  This Melcher production also went gold and charted at #9.

6.Spirit Of ’67 (Nov. 1966)

Around this era is when I saw the band with a new guitarist – Jim “Harpo” Valley late of the fine northwest band Don & The Goodtimes.   Valley’s picture was on the eye-catching cover, but Levin still supplied the guitar parts on record (he was serving in the National Guard and couldn’t tour).  Outside players augmented the band for sessions with Hal Blaine drumming on the big hit from the album “Hungry” which is perhaps the toughest song they ever recorded (another Mann and Weil cover).  With two other hits (“Good Thing” and “The Great Airplane Strike”) I decided to buy it rather than the singles and was rewarded with a pretty decent record.  This, however, was the last album I bought for many years as musical tastes were changing drastically.  They wrote all but “Hungry” with Melcher getting involved with that end of things for the first time.  The album track Louise” was good enough that it deserved to be a single and had a driving bass riff (Volk or session player?) and fine Melcher harmonies.  Fang wrote and sang “In My Community” and “Why Why Why (Is It So Hard)” while Smitty did the duty on “Our Candidate” – all worthy though not sounding like the hit Raiders.  This album also went as high as #9 in the charts and was given a gold disc.

7.Greatest Hits (May 1967)

By this point The Raiders were a band in turmoil though the cover showed the same band as was on the previous LP (though mostly with hands carefully placed to cover bulges in overly tight tights).  Valley left angry that he didn’t have a song on Spirit Of ’67.  Levin came back briefly but was rebuffed by Revere from appearing on their only Ed Sullivan Show appearance April 30, 1967 (he had hired Freddy Weller instead).  Volk and Smith had quit and knew that Sullivan’s TV show was their swansong with the band (they formed Brotherhood with Levin who released a couple of okay albums on RCA).  This hits album went back to “Louie Louie” and included a non-LP single in “Ups & Downs” plus a biographical song titled “Legend Of Paul Revere”.  This album was their third in a row to hit #9 and go gold.  Columbia charged a higher price for this record, but did include a booklet.

8.Revolution! (Aug. 1967)

A new trio of Raiders was resplendent in white uniforms with black trim and tight tights (this time mostly the bulges are hidden).  Keeping in mind that Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band had changed the game two months early, this album had little to do with what was going on musically then but I liked it alot.  This was the best album Paul Revere & The Raiders (now featuring Mark Lindsay in print on the cover) ever released.  The songs were all composed by Melcher and Lindsay and are all memorable plus the production is great as ever.  Session players abound with Ry Cooder supplying some swampy slide guitar.  The singles “Him Or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?” and “I Had A Dream” were great if totally different animals.  The former is a classic guitar pop rocker with pounding drums on the chorus while the latter is a lazy organ driven production with a nice guitar riff over it.  “Mo’reen” and “Gone – Movin’ On” are fine pop songs while “Tighter” had a psychedelic production touch and was the hit that never was (Lindsay tried to make it a hit under the band-name The Unknowns on Parrot with no chart success).  Revere got a rare vocal on the humorous “Ain’t Nobody Who Can Do It Like Leslie Can”, but new guys Freddy Weller (guitar), Charlie Coe (bass) and Joe Correro, Jr (drums) were content to let Lindsay sing the rest.  The album closer “I Hear A Voice” was a very pretty piano driven ballad with celeste.  The chart action was slipping as they only hit #25.  I admit that I didn’t buy this till college when I found it as a cut-out.

9.A Christmas Past…And Present (Nov. 1967)

Pretty much Terry Melcher’s swansong with the band, this Christmas album wasn’t one of my faves frankly.  It tried to be a message album, but didn’t deliver musically.  The song about the post office (“Rain, Sleet, Snow”) was really the only song I liked.  The driving drum and cellos accompany a distorted Lindsay vocal.  I guess “Wear A Smile At Christmas” is decent, but if you can make it through the whole album you are doing better than me.  It charted at #10 on the Christmas charts that year.

10.Goin’ To Memphis (Feb. 1968)

In all but name, this is a Mark Lindsay solo album.  As a white man with a black man’s voice, it was decided to have Lindsay record with the funky studio band in Chips Moman’s American Sound Studio (plus he produced) and do mostly soul covers.  Songs like “Boogaloo Down Broadway” and “Soul Man” are not bad but do you need these versions?  The best of the lot were “I Don’t Want Nobody (To Lead Me On)” and the Lindsay original “I’m A Loser Too”.  The final Melcher holdover is the heavy single “Peace Of Mind” which is the best thing here though the use of wailing soul sisters on the chorus was pretty un-Raiders-like.  The cover drawing was from a never finished Hanna-Barbera Studios cartoon show idea.  The chart action saw a #61 placement.

11.Something Happening (Sept. 1968)

Lindsay was now the producer and songwriter.  He wasn’t up to a full album at this time I seemed, but there were a few nice pop songs including “Happens Every Day”.  That being said, the old Raiders sound is gone – this is pure pop.  The singles are “Don’t Take It So Hard” (bright guitar pop with an acoustic interlude) and “Too Much Talk” (very heavy fuzz guitar) and could only get the album a #122 chart placement. The version of the latter on the LP, however, inserts a wimpy middle section best forgotten.  There are attempts at psychedelia (“Free” and “Burn Like A Candle”).  Gone are the old costumes to be replaced by a casual look.

12.Hard ‘N’ Heavy (With Marshmellow) (March 1969)

This is the best post-Melcher Raiders album thanks to some good songs like “Ride On My Shoulder” which recalls the bubblegum pop of “Dizzy”.  The title of the album says it all really – sweet hard-edged pop (i.e. “Time After Time”).  They could have left off the attempts at humor between many of the tracks, but I guess it fits with their history.  There is a new member with old Where The Action Is pal Keith Allison taking over the bass from Coe making this a very southern band.  The #18 single “Mr Sun, Mr. Moon” is one of your bloggers’ guilty pleasures being very bright, poppy and very different than the heavy bands of the day.  The take of “Cinderella Sunshine” on the LP is a lighter version than the better and heavier single.  “Trishalana” is a gorgeous ballad with organ and an odd staccato plucked sound on the chorus.  The chart action was a least better than last time with a #51 placement in the U.S.

13.Alias Pink Puzz (Aug. 1969)

On the singles chart the song “Let Me” had managed to hit #20 and had first been released as by Pink Puzz since the band thought their name now carried a stigma of being uncool.  Frankly they were correct as they were still a singles band that were best at pop and needed to embrace it.  The song “Thank You” was a nice pop confection whose hook was a pounding drum on the catchy chorus. Six of the eleven songs were by producer Lindsay while the rest shared a co-credit with Keith Allison.  “Frankfort Side Street” is also catchy pop while the album closer “Freeborn Man” has become a country standard recorded by players like Glen Campbell and Jimmy Martin.  The album got to #48 on the charts.

14.Collage (April 1970)

Well, this is the most drastic attempt Lindsay made to toughen up the sound of Paul Revere’s band now known as simply The Raiders (maybe logical since his keyboards are nowhere to be heard).  The mix on this album is incredibly bass heavy with the bass drum being so deep and strong in the mix as to sound distorted.  Laura Nyro’s “Save The Country” and the Lindsay/Allison original “Think Twice” are my fave album tracks.   The single version of “We Gotta All Get Together” is a better mix frankly (and is shorter) while “Just Seventeen” with all the horns sounds very unlike the Raiders (and only got to #82 on the Hot 100).  Oddly Lindsay opted to remake two of his old Melcher co-writes in “Tighter” and “Gone Movin’ On” making them either faux southern rock (the former) or unfocused heaviness (the latter).  At this point Lindsay was having some success as a solo singer in a more adult vein.  A #154 chart placement showed how far they had fallen from favor in 1970 when The Beatles wanted us to “Let It Be”.

15.Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1971)

Paul Revere & The Raiders were a spent outfit at this point with lead singer Mark Lindsay now a solo artist with hits like “Silver Bird” and “Arizona” so Columbia decided to try to milk some more cash out of the last batch of singles.  That didn’t work out so well as this LP only hit a dismal #209 on the charts.  I found this album in the cut-out bins back in the day and did enjoy the alternate mix of “Do Unto Others” which was the flip of “Peace Of Mind” and had charted here in Colorado.  This mix ended with a percussion solo track as the rest of the song had already faded out.  This stereo version isn’t on CD to the best of my knowledge.  They were still billed as simply The Raiders.

16.Indian Reservation (June 1971)

This song had been a smaller hit for Don Fardon in 1968 and was to be a solo Mark Lindsay track.  Instead the folks at Columbia suggested that this might be a great time to revive The Raiders name especially since there was a prominent organ part in the mix (played by Artie Butler – the same guy who played the same part on Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child”).  The single version of the old John D. Loudermilk song got to #1 so an album was needed.  By now Joe, Jr. had left so Mike Smith returned on drums (though Hal Blaine played on the single).  The other hit from the album was the Joe South tune “Birds Of A Feather” which helped make the album a #19 success.  There were okay cover songs such as the Wild In The Streets tune “The Shape Of Things To Come” and the old Easybeats track “Come In, You’ll Get Pneumonia”.  “Prince Of Peace” was a fair pop song while “The Turkey” (the only Lindsay composition) was a weird attempt at humor, I guess.  Melcher had a solo composition in “Take Me Home”.

17.Country Wine (March 1972)

This was the last Mark Lindsay produced and sung Raiders album and featured a couple of decent singles.  Back in the day I bought the excellent title track on 45 which got to only #51 on the charts.  The other charter was the Lindsay composition “Powder Blue Mercedes Queen” which was a heavy track sharing a guitar sound with bands like Mountain.  That #54 single couldn’t make the album get any higher than #209 for only two weeks.  “Ballad Of The Unloved” was an okay album track along with the Allison/Lindsay track “Golden Girls Sometimes”.  Lindsay helmed two more minor non-LP chart singles in “Song Seller” and “Love Music” then gave up.  He did appear as singer on the 1983 Era album The Great Raider Reunion which was re-recordings of their old hits.  Mark has gone on record saying that he was the only Raider on that album (the band pictured on the cover besides Lindsay were the group that Revere lead back then – Ron Foos, Doug Heath, etc.).

18.Special Edition (1982)

Well this version of the band wasn’t the version we want to remember, I fear.  Revere had a whole new cast that sounded nothing like the old band.  The only reason to see these guys was if you were desperate to hear the old songs played along with second-rate covers like “We’re An American Band”.  They self-released this new-wavy album with one side devoted to awful re-recordings of their old music (“Louie Louie” is especially horrible) and the other to band originals.  This track “Do You Really Mind” was the best of the lot and sounded like the current pop music of the day at least.

19.Ride To The Wall (2001)

I am going to include this for completeness sake since I really don’t consider this Rhino album to be any more than Paul Revere & The Raiders in name only.  Till Revere passed away, he lead a version of this band that had little to do with the old days other than the costumes and the cover songs they played.  He interspersed music at his shows with comedy along the lines of Rip Taylor (look him up if you care).  This album featured this title track tribute to the folks who went to Vietnam and never returned – a very noble cause to be sure.  You would be forgiven, however,if you didn’t recognize any resemblance to the sound of the Raiders on this record even though it does include a cover of “Hungry”.  Mike Smith left us at only age 58 in 2001.  Drake Levin passed at age 62 on the 4th of July in 2009.  Revere was 76 when he went to rock and roll heaven in 2014.  Phil Volk was for years leading a band known as Fangs Gang and has remained married to Action album Tina Mason.  Mark has off and on performed including a fine show several years back in Golden, CO at which I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet him after a truly rockin’ performance.  Thanks for the rock and roll, guys!

 

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