Paul Revere and the Raiders‘ fourth Columbia LP, The Spirit of ’67 – issued at the tail end of the year before – was the first album I ever bought. It is still one of the best I own, a perfect mid-Sixties nexus of euphoric pop, crisp-riff garage rock and subversive-Top 40 songwriting invention. And it was value for money, with three hit singles: “Hungry,” “Good Thing” and “The Great Airplane Strike,” a topical romp based on a labor dispute that grounded airlines for five weeks in 1966. I still hear that one going through my head every time I have the dubious pleasure of getting on a plane.
By that point, Revere and the Raiders were two years into a wild ride of AM radio success and pop-TV celebrity – the first serious, sustained Yankee competition to the British Invasion and the biggest-selling rock band on Columbia’s roster. Ironically, the Raiders’ founding namesake, organist-pianist Paul Revere, who died on October 4th of cancer at 76, was an underrated member of his own phenomenon: overshadowed at the Raiders’ commercial peak by singer-heart throb Mark Lindsay, who co-wrote and co-produced many of the group’s hits; then marginalized as Lindsay attempted to modernize the band in the face of psychedelia, progressive rock and fading airplay. The Raiders’ only Number One single, 1971’s “Indian Reservation,” was cut at a solo-Lindsay session.
But Revere – born Paul Revere Dick in Nebraska in 1938 and raised in Idaho – was, in his way, a bonafide revolutionary: an independent spirit and entrepreneur who applied his early lessons in running barber shops and a drive-in restaurant to shaping and driving the Raiders on to the national stage, with tri-corner hats, high-stepping choreography and a fundamental devotion to the joy in classic rhythm and blues, “We were the party band from hell,” Revere told me proudly in 2000 for my liner notes to the raucous, early-Raiders anthology, Mojo Workout! (Sundazed). “When we did ‘Fever,’ we would all get into a big pile on the floor and play. I’d lay down and play the piano with one hand.”
“But we were honest,” Lindsay said in an interview for that release. The singer, who was a teenager working at a bakery when he joined Revere in 1958, put it this way. “A crowd can smell when somebody’s faking it. And even though we weren’t the Isley Brothers or the Contours or Huey Smith and the Clowns, we were playing those songs as best we could with all the enthusiasm we could muster.” That never changed for Revere. As late as last summer, almost thirty years after Lindsay left the Raiders (in 1975), Revere was still on the road, leading his latest version of the band through its hits and dance steps, in trademark colonioal plumage.
This playlist, honoring Revere and my first, favorite band, goes back to the early Sixties – when the Raiders issued their initial, small-label sides and were one of the top draws on the Northwest teen-dance circuit – and mixes golden crunch with deeper jolts. Revere left the singing, songwriting and limelight to others; he didn’t always play on his own studio recordings (co-producer Terry Melcher often used session men). But Revere was a constant presence, a charging, effervescent leader. In 2000, he told me a story about a gig in San Francisco, when he hit that long, meaty organ chord at the start of “You Can’t Sit Down.” A guy in the back of the room yelled “Stop that shit!” and threw an ashtray at Revere, who ducked. “But it hit Smitty [drummer Michael Smith] in the head,” Revere recalled, laughing. “He fell right off his stool. But, man, he was right back up, going right into the song – although I don’t think he could see anything but stars.”
That was show biz – the Paul Revere way.