The Beatles and the Beach Boys set the standard for 1960’s rock ‘n’ roll groups. The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Hollies and many more followed. Rock groups sprang up like dandelions in the spring because every kid wanted to play the guitar and started a band in the family garage.
Paul Revere and the Raiders actually began before the Beatles got to America. That’s rather ironic if you think about the Revoluntionary War imagery.
Some groups used a gimmick to get noticed. Colonial attire with the three-cornered hats. It worked for PRR. Until it didn’t. But from 1965-1971, the group was on fire: 11 top 20 songs including two number 4 singles; and a number 1 hit in 1971.
The group’s success specialized in guitar-driven singles, often written by Lindsay but sometimes by outside writers. The Raiders specialized in singles, not albums, although they did try to be more than singles artist. The band went through a lot of membership changes aside from Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere. By the end of the 1960’s, music had changed, a lot, and singles artists were having a rough time of it.
Lindsay, because of his good looks, vocal ability and musical chops, would fashion a career as a solo artist but would not have the chart success he enjoyed with PRR. Mark Lindsay is now in his late 70’s and still entertaining crowds, although on a more limited schedule.
In the Beginning…
The Kingsmen made famous “Louie, Louie” but it was recorded at three days later by Paul Revere and the Raiders, and in the same exact recording studio! While PRR didn’t make the song famous, it did lead to the group being signed by Columbia Records, who would release the rest of their recordings.
The first hit was “Just Like Me” in 1965 which reached number 11 on the charts. You might remember the group from Where the Action Is! and other Dick Clark-produced afternoon music programs in the mid-1960’s. Paul Revere and the Raiders got a lot of visibility through their television work and on tour with headlining groups like the Beach Boys.
PRR were fortunate to be assigned Terry Melcher as their producer. Melcher also produced The Byrds and several other Columbia artists, and Melcher gave them a great recording sound that still sounds good today. The records were made with good instrument separation, a good low end and not the compression that other bands of the era suffered.
PRR’s best singles:
1966 “Steppin’ Out” “Kicks” “Good Thing” “Hungry” “The Great Airplane Strike”
1967 “I Had a Dream” “Him or Me, What’s it Gonna Be?” “Ups and Downs”
1968 “Peace of Mind” “Don’t Take it So Hard” “Cinderella Sunshine”
1969 “Let Me” “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon”
That is a lot of charting singles. In the beginning, Columbia selected songs for them but the band members soon wrote most of their own material and Lindsay was the main writer for their singles. After Melcher vacated the producer’s chair, Lindsay filled that too.
Paul Revere and the Raiders were a squeaky-clean band that Dick Clark wanted as the house band on his TV shows. Into the late 1960’s, the costumes worked, and PRR appeared on other television show and even commercials. The kitschy days eventually turned into more serious and darker times in 1968 with Vietnam, assassinations and the political upheaval of the Presidential campaign.
In 1968, three of the Raiders left, in part over the musical direction of the band. PRR’s music did embrace a slightly rougher edge but you would never mistake them for Cream, The Greatful Dead or Pink Floyd.
To help change with the times, the group’s name was shortened to The Raiders and they ditched the costumes. They continued to release material but failed to achieve the success they previously had and their concerts were playing to smaller audiences. In 1975, lead singer Mark Lindsay, who maintained a solo career on the side, left the group.
Even after Lindsay left, the group contained on, and eventually returned to their full name, and the costumes as they embraced their oldies status. Paul Revere fronted the band until he passed away in 2014, but a version of the band soldiers on.
If you listen to their greatest hits collection, including some deeper cuts, you instantly recognize that this was a not only a tight musical group, they knew how to produce clever and memorable songs.
“Kicks” revivals “Day Tripper” or “Satisfaction” as a superior riff-based song. The core of the band was the guitar-bass-organ interplay behind Lindsay’s lead vocals, that could cut a groove but also rock. Guitar players Drake Levin, Jim “Harpo” Valley and Freddie Weller, along with bassist Phil Volk never got their dues. While the Wrecking Crew did help with their records, the Paul Revere and the Raiders delivered the mail.