With their bright Revolutionary War-style outfits, tri-cornered hats, and energetic antics, Paul Revere and the Raiders were certainly one of the most visual pop/garage rock bands of the 1960s. But beyond that aspect laid a tight, five-piece combo who notched up a string of hits ("Kicks," "Hungry," "Good Thing," "Just Like Me," "Him or Me - What's It Gonna Be"), and a No. 1 smash in 1971 with the socially conscious, pro-Native American "Indian Reservation."
Though the band was named for the keyboardist (actually born Paul Revere Dick!), it was lead singer/saxophonist Mark Lindsay, with his jocularity and teen-idol looks, who usually stood out. And while he left the band in 1975, their best material from 1963-72 is collected on the new double disc The Essential Paul Revere and the Raiders (out today).
Lindsay spoke to Rocks Off about the band's beginnings, supporting Burgess Meredith for political office, and coming face-to-face with one of the most notorious psychopaths of the past century.
Rocks Off: With a two-disc anthology, you get a better overview of the band's entire catalogue rather than just the hits.
Mark Lindsay: When we first signed with CBS - and we were the first rock group on the label - we had been together for three or four years. And our repertoire was a lot of R&B-based stuff. Then I started to write stuff like "Steppin' Out," which was our first hit. But it gives you an early look into the Raiders when we were playing a lot of dance halls in the northwest.
RO: The second CD shows you branching into psychedelia, hard rock, and even country. Were you responding to pressure from what was happening in music at the time?
ML: The pressure was internal pressure from yours truly! (laughs). CBS pretty much left us alone as long as we were having chart hits. Terry Melcher was our first producer and then Jerry Fuller. They were both in tune with what was happening on the radio. And as music changed, I wanted to use what the Raiders had within them.
RO: The costumes certainly got you instant attention. But it also kept a lot of people from taking you seriously.
ML: It definitely got attention, especially when we got on Where the Action Is. Eventually, we made [more than 700] network TV appearances. It was a great gimmick. But it's also what's going to keep us out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I mean, the first thing people think of with Paul Revere & the Raiders are these guys jumping around in these goofy suits, and they forget the music. If you could hear that without thinking of the lace dickeys hanging from our necks, you might take us a bit more seriously.
RO: These days, musicians will play concerts to support candidates on all sides of the political spectrum. But what possessed you to play at the "Penguin for Mayor" rally on Batman. What has the Penguin ever done for Gotham City?
ML: (laughs): Well, you see, they gave us the wrong political brief (laughs)! They spun the information, and we were just these green guys from the Northwest, and what did we know when we got to Gotham?
RO: Why was the Pacific Northwest such a breeding ground for garage rock bands? There was you, the Kingsmen, the Wailers, the Sonics...
ML: The Northwest was always a hotbed of music - first Seattle, then Portland. The garage-rock thing came out of groups like the Dynamics who were premiere R&B groups playing the horn charts and almost into jazz. And a lot of guys couldn't play that, so it evolved into a much rawer form of music. At least that's my theory!
RO: It was an interesting move to put out the anti-drug song "Kicks" when a lot of bands were celebrating the drug culture.
ML: I was so green, I thought the song was about how hard it was to have as good a time today as you did in the old days! I had no idea there was drug connotations, honestly. It wasn't until Time or Newsweek called me up to say that we were the first group to have a hit anti-drug song. And I said "Really?" I just thought it was a great pop song with great hooks!