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Around this time, the Raiders left an indie label for Columbia Records, becoming the first band to sign with the once staunchly anti-rock label. This seemed like manna from heaven to a band yet to break nationally in a big way. But it cost the Raiders a hit single. A big one.
"Columbia had absolutely no distribution to the rock stations. It was the worst choice," Revere chortles. "After they got into the rock 'n' roll business, it was good to have a big company. But they blew it on 'Louie Louie' and they knew it. Here they were the biggest record company in the world, and they let the Kingsmen and Wand Records walk all over us when we were out there first. We were already on all the charts in the Northwest everywhere. And it was just sitting there going nowhere, and it was making me sick," he moans with still palpable regret.
Since every frat-party moron and his piano teacher warbled this ditty, it's easy to forget that the Raiders recorded the first vocal version of "Louie Louie" on April 25, 1963, at a cost of $40.
According to Dave Marsh's definitive Louie Louie book, they beat out the Kingsmen by at least a week--at the same recording studio, even!
The Raiders scored their first Top 5 hit, "Just Like Me," right about the time the band was hosting Where the Action Is. How hot were they in 1965?
Consider that the Rolling Stones were opening up for them in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Long Beach. Compared to the badass Raiders, the Stones were relatively meek onstage; witness Jagger's lame attempts at duck walking on the TAMI Show for the proof. Still, the Stones garnered a bad reputation while the Raiders lost theirs.
"We totally became more of a goody-goody image," Revere says. "Because we were on ABC, they were very staunch about what you could and couldn't do, and they wanted us to be squeaky clean. All of our dancers on the beach on Where the Action Is couldn't show their belly buttons, so they wore two-piece, high 1940s stupid bathing suits. Dick Clark had a clean image, and I was very concerned that the band stay away from drugs or anything that could cause embarrassment to Dick Clark or ABC. It was a different world then."
The group released one of rock's first anti-drug songs with "Kicks," a Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil song originally intended for the Animals. After its follow-up, another Mann-Weil hit called "Hungry," the band began releasing its own compositions on the A-side of singles.
"Looking back in hindsight, if I had to do it over again, I would not choose to let the guys in the group do most of the writing," he admits. "As far as I'm concerned, every damn hit that Three Dog Night had are songs we should've had. Most of the songs the Monkees had were written by Boyce and Hart, and those were songs Boyce and Hart were begging us to record. I should've stuck with using outside writers. We could've had 'Last Train to Clarksville,' 'We Gotta Get Outta This Place,' that was written by Mann and Weil, who wrote 'Kicks' and 'Hungry' for us. [Producer] Terry Melcher and Mark became tight-ass songwriting buddies, and I let it go, but I should've put my foot down and said, 'I don't think these songs are that damn great,' and 'I wanna compare these songs to other songs being sent to us.' A lot of songs got swept under the rug because Terry was feeding his ego."
Soon Melcher was tracking the Raiders records while the band was out on the road, just like the Beach Boys did. "Then we'd come in and double tracks or pull stuff off; it would depend. It became more of a manufactured Terry Melcher thing. I don't want to throw any stones, but he was Doris Day's son and he was the son of a big movie producer, Marty Melcher, and I think he wanted to make his mark in the world. He was very excited about writing songs and producing, having his name show up as many times as possible on an album."
The dispute over songwriting led to three Raiders and producer Melcher defecting by the end of 1967. But the band had a bigger problem facing it: The importance of singles shifted toward albums, and the hip press began tagging the Raiders as "bubblegum."
"There was a lot of phony hip bullshit going on, a lot of program directors and magazine writers," he grumbles. "Because we had this humongous teen-idol image that the Monkees and numerous groups from that era had, I mean, if you had anybody in the band that didn't have a third eye and a hump on his back, he became a teen idol. It became a detriment if you had a teen-idol image for the group or the lead singer. That was a no-no in the Rolling Stone magazine world. The Beatles had shed their cute image by being totally open about their drug use, grew beards and got weird. For groups that were not accepted, it didn't matter what you recorded. You were bubblegum in their mind."