By Alan L. Chrisman
Paul Revere, leader and keyboardist for American 60’s and 70’s band, Paul Revere & The Raiders just passed away recently. They had several big hits in the 60’s and the 70’s, such as “Kicks”, “Hungry”, “Just Like Me” “Him or Me-What’s it Gonna Be?” and “Indian Reservation”. They were known for their American Revolution costumes and pop songs, but would later be considered a garage band by the punk era. Their image and sound was created an American reaction to The Beatles and The British Invasion in the mid-60’s and they wrote and played some very catchy and popular hits.
Paul Revere (his real middle name) founded the band, when he met lead vocalist, Mark Lindsay, in 1958, who was delivering buns to Revere’s restaurant in Idaho. Revere was drafted into the military, but as a conscientious objector, worked in a mental institution for a year and a half. They formed a band called The Downbeats and had a few regional hits and toured, at one point, with Leon Russell on piano. They got signed to Columbia Records because they had an early hit with the later garage band classic, “Louie Louie” in ’63.
The song,”Louie Louie” has its own fascinating history: Originally written by Richard Berry in 1955, it was a minor R&B hit for him. Berry was the uncredited lead vocal on “Riot in Cell Block #9” by The Robbins who later turned into The Coasters. He also sang on Etta James’ “Roll With Me Henry”. But Berry’s “ Louie Louie” continued to remain popular around the American Northwest, which is where The Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders heard it. They recorded it at the same time and in the same studio as The Kingsmen, who would also have a big hit with it in ’63. I can remember it causing a controversy and being banned in Indiana, where I was growing up in the early 60’s, with even the F.B. I. investigating its supposedly obscene lyrics! They concluded that the words were so hard to understand that it couldn’t be determined, either way. The legend is that the Kingsmen’s version was recorded while they were drunk. But, of course, this only made the song more popular with college students and added to its underground myth. “ Louie Louie”’s raw energy and controversy would make it also become adopted by the punk-rockers in the 80’s. It has the distinction, next to Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”, as the song with the most covers in rock history at over a 1000.
Paul Revere and The Raiders, were the first rock band to sign with the biggest U. S. record company, Columbia, and were ahead of their time with their outfits and outrageous stage antics (they would set their hair on fire), and helped American audiences accept raw pop. They became the house band on Dick Clark’s follow-up TV shows to American Bandstand, Where the Action Is, and Happening ’68. ”Kicks”, “Hungry”, “Just Like Me” and “Him Or Me” were all top 5 hits in the mid-60’s. “Kicks” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil about songwriter, Gerry Goffin’s drug problems, and then-husband of Carol King. They also did the first version of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”, written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, later a signature hit for The Monkees. The Raiders were the top selling Columbia Records act at the time. The Raiders, as they were now called, had another giant smash in 1971 with their “Indian Reservation”, a socially conscious song about the plight of native people. It was written by John D. Loudermilk., who also wrote hits for many other artists, ”Abiline” (George Hamilton 4th), “Ebony Eyes”(Everly Bros.), “Tobacco Road”(The Nashville Teens), “ Road Hog” , etc. “Indian Reservation” would go on to sell 6 million copies. Mark Lindsay, lead vocalist, had left the band and had his own solo hit, “Arizona”, in 1969.
As I say, Paul Revere and The Raiders, considered a pop band then, would later become seen as an early garage band and a punk influence. Several of their songs were covered by British punk and new wave bands later, such as The Sex Pistols, The Circle Jerks, Flamin’ Groovies, Joan Jett, David Bowie, The Who, etc.
But it was Paul Revere who founded them and was their brainchild and Paul Revere and The Raiders is now considered ahead of its time with its raw pop sound.
See Paul Revere and The Raiders on Ed Sullivan doing “ Kicks, 1967: