By Lloyd Carroll
Paul Revere & The Raiders “The Essential” (Legacy)
When the discussion turns to the names of rock bands that are not enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, very few pop musicologists get worked up about the omission of Paul Revere & The Raiders. That’s a shame because it borders on the criminal that these guys are forever being ignored by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner and his snooty friends who are the arbiters of who gets rock’s highest honor.
Paul Revere (yes, he is a descendent of Sarah Palin’s favorite patriot) and the Raiders were the first rock band ever signed to Columbia Records; sold more records than any other American group during the British Invasion’s 1964-67 heyday; and logged more hours on television, thanks primarily to Dick Clark, than any rock group in the 1960s. Yes, that includes the Monkees.
Although there were numerous personnel changes from the time the quintet got its start in Boise, Idaho in the late 1950s, the nucleus always consisted of keyboard player Revere and occasional saxophonist/lyricist/lead vocalist and perennial heartthrob Mark Lindsay.
Things did not start out swimmingly for the Raiders. They lost a chart battle with a rival group from the Pacific Northwest, the Kingsmen, in the spring of 1963 for who would have the national hit with the controversial “Louie, Louie.” It would not be the last chart war that the guys would lose. They came up second best in their battle with Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon in1965 with “Action” and again in 1966 when the Monkees had a Top 20 hit with “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” after the Raiders cut the track first. It is a shame that Legacy couldn’t find room for those recordings in this 2-CD “Essential” package.
Paul Revere & the Raiders have often been referred to as a garage band because of their deceptively simple sound. They say that the greats often make things look or sound easy and that is certainly the case here. A lot of credit also has to go to the Raiders’ producer, the late Terry Melcher, who was Doris Day’s son. Songs as “Hungry, ” “Good Thing, ” “Him or Me” and “Ups And Downs” do not sound dated despite being around 45 years old.
While the vast majority of their records were catchy tunes about relationships, the Raiders were capable of cutting hits that had serious meanings. 1966’s “Kicks, ” a tune written by Songwriter Hall of Fame members Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was the first rock hit to point out the negatives of drug use. The guys scored a number one hit in 1971 with a John Loudermilk-penned tune, “Indian Reservation.” Mark Lindsay’s on-point phrasing of the lyrics brought more attention to the shameful treatment of Native Americans than any televised news documentary could have.
Chuck Berry “Icon” (UME)
It is hard to believe that it is nearly impossible to listen to any of Chuck Berry’s songs on any New York City radio station. You have to dial in to the right side of the AM dial to try to find low watt New Jersey stations as Morristown’s WMTR (1250 AM) and Eatontown’s WHTG
(1410 AM) to hear his or any other of the great pioneering rock & roll hits.
Universal Music Enterprises’ “Icon” is an excellent 12-song primer of why Berry’s compositions have been recorded by a who’s who of rock including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Electric Light Orchestra, and Johnny Rivers, just to name a few.
Choosing a dozen tunes from Berry’s sizable catalog is a daunting task. It is hard to argue with the end results since all of the Mount Rushmore tunes as “Maybelline, ” “Roll Over Beethoven, ” “Rock And Roll Music, ” “Johnny B. Goode, ” “Sweet Little Sixteen, ” and “Carol” are included here.
Although it wasn’t one of his biggest hits when it was released, “You Never Can Tell, ” is wisely part of this reissue since it was used in a very memorable dance scene involving John Travolta and Uma Thurman in the classic 1994 film, “Pulp Fiction.”
Also included is Berry’s suggestive 1972 hit, “My Ding-A-Ling, ” that was recorded live in London. WABC and a number of other powerhouse radio stations at the time banned the song from their playlists but it still wound being Berry’s only number one hit of his glorious career. The lyrics still make me laugh nearly 40 years later.