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Revering the Raiders

"We accidentally had some hit records along the way, accidentally got lucky and had some television shows along the way and in the meantime my philosophy still holds: Just get on stage, have fun, create a party and that's it."
Paul Revere's pragmatic nature tends to downplay any talk of innovation or predisposition to greatness. Perhaps Paul Revere and the Raiders' goofball antics pre-empted some from taking the band seriously during its tenure and a good many years after, but when you line up all the American bands of similar stature and compare their achievements, the Raiders were indeed "revolutionary."

No other band in the world has ever hosted two network TV shows. Only the Raiders can make that claim, first stomping into our national conscience wearing three-cornered caps, thigh-high boots and colonial costumes on Dick Clark's Where the Action Is from 1965 to 1967 and later in the Age of Aquarius they hosted Happening '68. And few, if any, can boast a lineage that stretches from rock's first golden era right on through the British Invasion, where their minutemen costumes proved a happy coincidence at staving off a complete British takeover of the American charts.

And of course none of this would matter if the Raiders' records sucked the wazoo. Happily, that's not the case. The Raiders were the real deal, combining the raw excitement of Jerry Lee Lewis with the instrumental muscle of the Stones, Beach Boy harmonies with Spike Jones' stage show.

Revere was a veteran of the Northwest dance circuit as far back as 1958, where he made a name for himself by playing frenzied R&B in Boise, Idaho. Forty years later, Revere and another crop of Raiders (if you can consider them new; he's been playing with the current touring group more than 20 years) perform anywhere from 150 to 250 dates annually.

Though off the charts since the early '70s, Paul Revere and his latter-day Raiders are potent reminders of a time in rock when it was all right for your band to look like it was enjoying itself, a day when zaniness was something to aspire to and a catchy gimmick was yours to run into the ground. If you were starting out in a career in music in 1958, it was okay to admit you were in it to make a pile of money.

In that sense, there was a generational divide within the Raiders that continues to this day. Although Revere prospered with the commercial sound that singer Mark Lindsay and producer Terry Melcher concocted, it was a sound the older Paul was less interested in, save for publishing the band's originals. When Dick Clark entered the picture, the Raider sound Revere was responsible for was largely relegated to the back burner.

"We were very R&B-oriented, as opposed to our hits like 'Kicks' and 'Hungry,'" he recalls. "All those songs were influenced by the new sound, the English thing. But I always preferred the R&B sound. I'd rather have been Otis Redding than The Beatles.

The band's earliest days were wild indeed. The Raiders used to destroy pianos and guitars onstage every weekend! "In those days, you could buy an upright piano, a great one, for 50 bucks," Revere says. "No big deal, and you could go to the hock shop and buy a guitar for 50 bucks.

"That was part of our reputation of being bizarre and crazy and destructive and over the edge. If you made 500 bucks and you had to spend 100 of it on destruction, then the next weekend you'd draw 200 more people because of the reputation."

Two decades before Michael Jackson screamed "Tito! Tito!" the Raiders came up with yet another gimmick still light-years ahead of any self-abuse Courtney Love's attempted.

"Setting fire to my hair?" chokes Revere with laughter. "That probably was an accident. We used to use flash paper a lot. Put wadding in an old musket gun and fire would shoot out of it. It was a very off-the-wall show."

Heavy-metal, grunge and the Nelson twins also owe the Raiders big time for their first prophetic recording. In 1961, they released the daringly titled single and album Like, Long Hair on the Gardena label.

"The hair we had was long for those days, Tarzan length," Revere says laughing. "Long hair had a double meaning; people who liked classical music, it was considered longhaired music. And then the kids were starting to grow longer hair. I just happened to hear that Rachmaninoff thing and put a boogie-woogie thing to it." That this constitutes one of the earliest graftings of a classical tune to a rock song is probably just another happy Revere coincidence.

Not content to leave long hair alone, lead singer Mark Lindsay began sporting a ponytail as early as 1964. When Lindsay cut his first solo single in 1970 (remember "Arizona, cut off your Indian braids"?), he defiantly chopped his hair appendage off. Maybe the ponytail was the intellectual property of Paul Revere!

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic