Monday, May 23, 2011

Paul Revere's Midnight Ride

by J.S. Holland

The Paul Revere & The Raiders story begins not in 1770, but in 1958, when a rock-n-roll organist named Paul Revere Dick met aspiring rocker Mark Lindsay at a bakery (Mark worked there; Paul had come to pick up a shipment of hamburger buns). Paul fronted an instrumental band called The Downbeats, but by 1960 the name had changed to Paul Revere & The Raiders, with Mark Lindsay appointed lead vocalist and the whole combo decked out in Revolutionary War uniforms.

In 1961 they released their first single, an instrumental called "Like, Long Hair" that sounded like it was standing on the corner of Jerry Lee Lewis' "The Hawk" record and B. Bumble & The Stingers. The B-side, "Sharon" foreshadowed the British Invasion with a frantic electric skiffle sound.

In 1963 they had a hit with their version of "Louie Louie", recorded in the same summer and the same studio as the even bigger hit version by The Kingsmen. To this day scholars argue over whose version came first by a nose, but our partial panel of judges here at Transylvania Gentlemen HQ are tempted to call it a photo finish in favor of Mr. Revere.

The Raiders scored hit after hit across their golden decade of 1962-1972: "Ups And Downs", "I Had A Dream", "Good Thing", Him or Me, What's It Going to Be?", "Out On That Road", "Just Like Me" (which was a hit all over again for Pat Benatar later), "The Great Airplane Strike", "Let Me", "Louie Go Home", "Powder Blue Mercedes Queen", "Indian Reservation", "Country Wine" and "Steppin' Out" (which is a direct ancestor of the Billy Childish & Thee Headcoats sound.)

But there's two songs in particular that stand out for me in the Revere/Lindsay oeuvre. "Kicks" is my favorite Raiders song of all time, being a surprising anti-drug song in the midst of the swinging Sixties with very on-point lines like "Don't you see, no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you." Then there's "Hungry", which KISS simply has to cover - the song is pure Gene Simmons, with its lyrics that start out leading you to believe it's about sex addiction but then you realize he's talking about money.

Mark Lindsay had a couple of solo hits of his own - "Arizona" and "Silverbird" - but by the mid-70's both he and the Raiders were washed up. To this day their contribution to rock and roll history is all but ignored, and they're unfairly classified as a third-tier post-Beatlemania band. I had a girlfriend once who slagged them off as "no different from Sir Douglas Quintet", but hell, I love Sir Douglas Quintet too!

(Keyboardist Paul Revere never stopped touring the oldies-package circuit, and continues to do so to this very day, without Mark Lindsay. The less said about this version of the band, the better.)

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