The cauldron of discontent did not snuff out our natural human longing for joy. Thus I present another musical exhibit. This exhibit was arguably No. 3 on the list of popular music groups appealing to the young. I'm referring to Paul Revere and the Raiders.
I recently felt a spasm of nostalgia when calling up the song "Happening '68" on YouTube. The irony is that such joy is felt in connection with a time, the 1960s, in which such incredible conflict was fomented. Mark Lindsay sang at the group's peak. The group gave us a string of such tasteful and yet intense songs that were on the cutting edge of popular music. This at a time when the older generation tuned in to Lawrence Welk.
Years later we would engage in revisionist thinking re. those older folks. Tom Brokaw gave us his book "The Greatest Generation." I guess time heals all wounds. The boomers put their parents on a pedestal. But how could we not? They sustained us in our younger years. They had become frail and were leaving us. We loved them dearly but in an earlier time, the bond wasn't quite like that. That greatest generation could have done more to help us with the bothersome issues of the '60s. Like war. Really it was the Viet Nam war that cemented many of our concerns. It reminded us of how dangerous ignorance can be.
Mobilized by the war, we got involved on other fronts like civil rights. Through it all, so many of us were attracted to the innocent, pulsating music of Paul Revere and the Raiders with Mark Lindsay. They were quite my cup of tea. They sprang from the Pacific Northwest. The organist and founder was Paul Revere himself, actually Paul Revere Dick, born in Nebraska. Revere was a restaurateur when in his early 20s. He actually owned several restaurants which indicated he came from an affluent background. He met Lindsay when picking up hamburger buns from a bakery where Lindsay worked. Sometimes I'm skeptical about stories like this - I feel there had to be more to the story. But maybe I should push my skepticism aside.
Lindsay joined Revere's band in 1958. At first they were called "The Downbeats." In 1960 they took on the name that would endear them to us. They had a regional hit in '61 with a song name that was so 1960s: "Like, Long Hair."
Dealing with Viet Nam war
Revere also had an ordeal that was typical of what U.S. males experienced in the decade: he was drafted and asserted himself as a conscientious objector. The war, in addition to being tragic on the face of it, impeded our economy because all young men were profoundly distracted by having to confront the specter of the draft. This has been cited as a reason why the British recording industry was ahead of ours. "The British invasion" didn't happen by accident.
Revere was given deferred service and became a cook at a mental institution. Meanwhile Lindsay got a job "pumping gas," an example of outdated Americana now. "Do you want me to check the oil?"
All this would give way to a renewed commitment to music. In 1965 the group emerged with a string of "garage rock" classics. They moved to Los Angeles. Their sound echoed British invasion bands. At the same time they gave us a generous American R&B feel.
These clean-cut lads got their first national hit in "Just Like Me," No. 11 on the charts in '65. The song's double-tracked guitar solo made an impression. Dick Clark took a real liking to the group. There was nothing like TV to vault an artist to national prominence. Carl Perkins would have been a bigger star had he not had car trouble on the way to an Ed Sullivan appearance.
Television gives a boost
The Raiders upped their popularity through the Clark TV show "Where the Action Is." This show was succeeded by "Happening '68" with its wonderful theme song, and then an iteration called "It's Happening." Revere and Lindsay co-hosted the "Happening" shows which I well remember watching. Lindsay was a hero to me!
In 1966 the group performed on an episode of the campy "Batman" TV series! The Raiders were the first major band to tour with all members amplified, even the horn players.
Drake Levin left the group in 1966 to join the National Guard. Gee, I wonder why. Why did George W. Bush join the National Guard? Or Rod Carew of our Minnesota Twins? Us Minnesota kids would groan when Carew had to fulfill his National Guard commitment. The National Guard was a famous haven for young men seeking to avoid combat in Viet Nam. Boys of privilege, CW told us, could get gently guided into Guard service by influential family members. I cannot blame anyone for using whatever means necessary to avoid the war. As the colonel character in "First Blood" said at the dramatic ending of that movie: "It was a hard time for all of us." The Raiders' music sort of floated out there as an elixir supplying comfort. We retained the tools for finding joy. Call it the resilience of the human spirit.
Joy bubbled from the Raiders song "Kicks." The song had an anti-drug message but was still totally cool. Other songs flowed like "Hungry," "The Great Airplane Strike," "Good Thing" and "Him or Me - What's It Gonna Be."
"Kicks" became a signature song for the group and reached No. 4 on those charts. The tech of today with its democratizing effect has enabled everyone to find precisely the music of their choice, to the extent that I think talk of the "charts" (a la Casey Kasem) has become quaint. We're not as beholden to the big music industry anymore. The barriers to distribution have come down just like in book publishing (where self-publishing has become respectable). Incidentally, "Kicks" was originally written with the group "The Animals" in mind.
The Raiders had racked up three Gold albums by mid-1967. They were Columbia Records' top rock group.
I found Nirvana when listening to the "Greatest Hits" album. That album, we are reminded years later, was a test for a higher list price for albums! Actually I considered it priceless. Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits was another such test. Of course, the fan base for all the popular new music was very young. You might think those artists made a fortune, but remember that so many of their fans were young and with negligible economic means. Today all these artists can play at the likes of casinos as "retro" attractions and make a true fortune! Well, I'm happy for them.
Tastes began changing in the late '60s. The Raiders were deemed not quite as fashionable. Still they churned out songs of note like "Too Much Talk," a strong personal favorite of mine. My, what a sense of "beat" it had. Also in this rather twilight period we got "Let Me," their first gold record. The group sought a newer sound, something more "relevant" (a buzzword from the decade).
But. . . The song could not be parlayed into an overall pattern of success. The vagaries of the pop music industry could be strange. And depressing.
By 1975, Columbia Records had dropped the group. Lindsay and Revere went separate ways. Fortunately we have YouTube today to remember it all. If only we could wipe aside memories of the Viet Nam war.