TRACK-BY-TRACK: KICKS! 1963-1972

Kicks! 1963-72
Paul Revere & the Raiders (2005)

Paul Revere & the Raiders have been lucky with comps in the CD era. For those who just want the garage band essence, The Essential Ride is unbeatable. The Collector’s Choice set of their complete singles easily sustains three long discs.

But for the best overview of everything they meant in their decade of prominence–a decade that made them the one true garage band (in the narrow sense of the term–there’s a case to be made that all rock and roll bands are garage bands of some sort) to transcend the genre (which, like most rock and roll genres, was retroactively named).

I loved them at every phase. And at every phase, they may have wandered in this direction or that for a record or two–a little folk rock, a little psychedelia, a little pop–but they always came back to the same place.

Stomp.

Track….by….track:

“Louie Louie”–Not as chaotic as the rival Kingsmen’s monster hit and, oddly, not as focused either. But it does have its own unique thrill. Right at the top. “Grab your woman, it’s Louie Louie time!” Now that’s a band announcing itself.

“Steppin’ Out”–They made plenty of other gut-bucket sides, chasing a way to put the jet-fuel energy of their live shows on wax. This segue takes you past all that and straight into their greatest period. Meaning they managed the trick. The narrator’s been in the military. Just got home. Found out his girl’s been running around. He’s not happy. He wants answers. Released in 1965 and only a modest hit at the time, it was enough to get their career started. Within a few years, it was as much an autobiography of a generation as “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” or “Run Through the Jungle” and the true birth of what came to be called Heartland Rock. I don’t think much has changed.

“Just Like Me”–And then they go bigger. Mark Lindsay was already one of the period’s great vocalists, able to purr on one beat and roar on the next without sounding like he had played a trick….or contradicted a thing.

“Kicks”–A specific anti-drug song, courtesy of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. As un-hip as anything could be in 1966 and one of the few records that saw around the corner as clearly as it embodied the times.

“Action’–This one I could do without. As TV show themes go, it wasn’t “Come On Get Happy” let alone “Theme from the Monkees.” Placed here, it just breaks the momentum of one the great singles’ runs in the history of singles.

“Hungry”–Back on track. Mann and Weil again. It’s worth remembering they wrote “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” too. They had a knack for expressing blue collar anger. As did Mark Lindsay.

“I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”–Suddenly they’re in competition with the Monkees, which probably didn’t do anything for their cred, especially since “Steppin’ Stone” was one of Mickey Dolenz’s best vocals. I’m not even sure this is as good. But it still scorches. No let up.

“Louie, Go Home”–An obvious throwback, just before they moved to the next phase. One of the great Louie updates, though, and a harbinger of where they would always go in a pinch. For a taste of what they had done with this sort of material three years earlier, you can watch this…

“Ballad of a Useless Man”Not a ballad. A talking blues. “I was gonna be a king…Now the end is drawing near.” That kind of talking blues.

“The Great Airplane Strike–One of the great protest records because it’s one of the few that insists on acknowledging that, in the Land of Milk and Honey, it’s the small ways the Man has us by the balls–his endless capacity for packaging every last detail of our existence–that matter.

“Good Thing”–If White Boy Stomp was all there was, and this was the only example, would we know what we were missing? (And I’m not sure whether the video I linked is the apotheosis of the White Boy Stomp Ethos or the reason it had to die. Both maybe?)

“Why, Why, Why? (Is It So Hard)”–Fang sings…Why, why, why?

“Louise”–And what would an anthology of the greatest garage band be without a weird blend of wistful thinking and hostility towards a mysterious femme?

“Him or Me-What’s It Gonna Be?”–Back to business (i.e. Return to Stomp). “I can still recall when you told me I was all….everything you looked for in a man.” Bet you can guess how the title question gets answered! Love the “what’s” instead of “who.” Love the stinging guitar lick in the intro. Love the whole thing actually.

“Mo’reen”–Bit of a placeholder. Except for the part where I can’t figure out whether Mo’reen looks green or clean. In any case, she’s neither. Just jailbait. Else the little sister of the girl from “Poison Ivy” carrying on a family tradition. Or…both?

“Gone-Movin’ On”–A thumper with one of those stereo-typical break fades that meant the times were a changin’. Before that, weird, discordant echoes of the Nashville Sound and the Everly Brothers….There’s a reason they lasted folks.

“Tighter”–Okay now we’re dipping into the pop psychedelia bag (the one where the records were made by people who didn’t take drugs…or else didn’t pay any attention to the effects). If you ask me how I know, I’ll just say I know my fellow abstainers when I hear them. That said, not the worst of it’s type.**

“I Had a Dream”–They still hadn’t taken any drugs…but this one did have an addictive melody. There was a reason they lasted folks…when so many others fell away.***

“Ups and Downs”–Back to stomp (with a lovely teaser intro just to keep everybody a little off-balance….). And yes, the girl’s still got him on a string (their great theme). And he’s still not sure how he feels about it.

“Peace of Mind”–Be sure to attend the strangled scream of “Well I’m talkin’ about peace” just before the long fade.

“Too Much Talk”–One of those period records that sounds like it starts in the middle and features a touch or two of fuzz-tone guitar. Unlike a lot of others, this one works–mostly thanks to an epic bass line that works like a lead guitar.

“Cinderella Sunshine”–”Windy’s” younger, tougher sister?

“Don’t Take It So Hard”–Okay, this time he’s definitely leaving her….by trying to appeal directly to the teeny-boppers who were ready to abandon the Monkees?

“Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon”–This is my fave of their late 60’s “pop” direction…shoulda been bigger!

“Let Me!”–Angry lust…as Stomp. Whatever assurances had been offered by the previous few singles was withdrawn. “I know that, my love is going somewhere….But, I’m sure, that it ain’t being got by you.” Indeed. Let me do what now?

“Just Seventeen”–Just in case you missed the point of about half the entries so far. Never mind that this time she’s hunting him!

“Indian Reservation “–(The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)”–The apotheosis of Pop Protest–statement records that sounded like (and were) natural Pure Pop #1’s. (See Cher’s great “Half Breed,” Three Dog Night’s “Black and White” among others). Plus one of the greatest arrangements ever on a hit record. And don’t think Pop Protest Mark Lindsay had forgotten his garage band roots when it came to digging in on the chorus.

“Birds of a Feather”–One of Joe South’s lilting melodies and a fine pop-rock vocal. Imminently pleasurable, especially the bridge. A bit lightweight next to their greatest, but you could live a step down from that height and still be pretty fine.

“Country Wine”–One last diversion…into some blend of Aesthetic Pop and Countrified pop. Could have been a modest hit as a folk rock record in 1966. All of which meant….

“Power Blue Mercedes Queen”–It was time to Stomp. And time for an age to end. Though if this had been the big hit it deserved to be, who knows how much longer the fun might have lasted? A mid-chart disco record perhaps? A singer-songwriter knockoff? Who knows. One thing you can bet. Wherever they ended it….it would been set to Stomp.

**NOTE–Ace commenter Neal Umphred–who, believe me, has forgotten more about the sixties than I’ll ever know–ran this by a friend whose an expert on the Raiders and has been assured that various members of the band were experimenting with drugs at the time. I covered myself a bit on this (that’s what the “or else didn’t pay any attention to the effects” was for)–but I should have been clearer. If they weren’t taking drugs, then they pulled off a masterpiece, because they made a record that sounds exactly like squares pretending. I also shouldn’t have further muddled it by suggesting they were abstainers, which is a whole other thing and something I really couldn’t know. What I should have said is “Poor lads. They were trying to do things that were hardly worth doing when they were already better at what they did best than practically anybody else.” In any case mea culpa!

***On the followup, “I Had a Dream,” Neal’s friend says it was mostly session men backing Mark Lindsay. Who knows what those weirdos were into!

 

MY FAVORITE ODE TO A FLOWER CHILD (Not Quite Random Favorites….In No Particular Order)

I posted something a little while back which contained a fleeting, somewhat sardonic reference to flower children.

Shortly thereafter, Neal Umphred and I had a brief but interesting exchange on the definition of “flower children,”  which amounted to his associating the term with its original meaning in the sixties, when it had a generally positive connotation of early hippies pursuing admirable dreams of peace, love and harmony.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the seventies, by which time “flower child” was mostly associated with impossible, easily exploited naivete…if not something worse (for which I refer you to Pattie Boyd’s autobiography, where she recounts the less-than-idyllic experiences she had with George Harrison in Haight-Asbury).

Ever since, that split has mostly remained in place, with mileage varying depending on which vibe your experience has channeled you to prefer.

Neal was right that my reference was a bit careless and too easily misunderstood, though. It was actually a specific reference to something I had just read on Nancy Sinatra’s twitter feed that day (where she linked favorably to one of the Never Trump neocons–it doesn’t matter which one) which was representative of dozens of other twitter links I’ve seen in the past year between Hollywood liberals (all of whom, like Nancy, now profess flower children ideals even if they don’t live by them and even if, like Nancy, they once represented the antithesis of the concept, a fact Neal also pointed out). I mostly didn’t make the reference specific in the post because I like Nancy, both as a persona and as an artist, and we all tend to make allowances for those we like, even if they start channeling Max Boot** and company.

Not a Flower Child!

The exchange was interesting mainly because it forced me to think on the use of terms that morph into different usage over time for one person while retaining their original usage for those who first encountered such terms in their original, unblemished state.

Which brings up the question of authenticity.

I’m not sure how “authentic” my favorite Ode to a Flower Child is. It’s a master class in disciplined Popcraft, provided by people who probably regarded hippiedom (and its music) with, at best, a bemused smile.

The singer was no ways cool, though that was a serious misunderstanding on the part of the tastemakers, whether in print or on the street, because he was one of Rock and Roll America’s greatest singers…and purest self-made products.

The writer, Kenny Young, became a big-time environmentalist, which was interesting because his mastery of craft–what gave him the bones to be big-time anything–was capitalism at its finest.

The band was the Wrecking Crew.

So it was like that.

I’m sure the Grateful Dead, or somebody, must have recorded a more authentic, real life Ode to a Flower Child. And someone must have delivered a more straightforward lyric than one that begins by questioning everything the Flower Child stands for before giving way to her charms before starting to act like her dad again!

But that’s what makes it poignant. Its placement–both in time (1970) and cosmic space (between the sixties’ definition of a flower child and the interpretation that would become standard in the cynical decades to come)–between two world views that could never hope to be reconciled and which, in their subsequent pursuit of dominance, could only become mutually and hopelessly corrupted.

This is one record that does what music does better than anything else…let’s you feel one with a moment in time that won’t come again…

…still wish I’d never looked up the lyric, though, and been forced to hear the scrupulous craft of “cut off your Indian braids” where the pure poetry of “come off your Indian ways” used to be.

But at least the dread lyric sheet couldn’t take “get off your eight-ball blues” away….not that I would have let it!

[NOTE: **I don’t know if it was Boot who Nancy linked that day and I’m too lazy to look it up. I know it was someone of his ilk. I use him as a euphemism for “war-mongering neocon”–i.e., someone no Hollywood liberal would go anywhere near except in the throes of Trump Hatred–because, in a hyper-competitive field, he is my  pick for the most shamelessly vile. Previously relegated to think tank publications and the like, either the Post or the Times just hired him. Does it matter which?]

THE LAST TEN ALBUMS I LISTENED TO (Spring, 2017 Countdown)

10) Various Artists What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves 1967-1977 (2006)

Deep, yes. But also wider than any but the experienced might suspect before diving in and stroking for the far shore. “Soul Finger” and Aretha’s “Rock Steady” are among the few crossover hits. Big names like Curtis Mayfield and Earth, Wind and Fire, or those like Charles Wright, Lulu, Clarence Carter, Rufus Thomas, Dr. John, who might at least be familiar to fans of the period, are not represented by their best known hits. Most of the rest is really obscure (or was, until this was released as one of Rhino’s last great boxes in 2006).

At four discs, five hours and 91 cuts, this never even comes close to quitting. What might catch the uninitiated by surprise, in a hardcore funk collection, is the range of tempos.Plenty of fast stuff, sure. But who would deny this, where Patti Labelle sings “if I ever lose my BIG mouth, I won’t have to talk anymore” and you can feel the distance between the white man (then called Cat Stevens) who wrote the rest of it and the black woman who added the key word?

I also like it when you can smell the barbecue.

9) Fairport Convention Liege and Lief  (1969)

The third remarkable album released by Fairport in the Year of our Lord, 1969. This one, following the death of their drummer, Martin Lamble, (a death that had a similar crushing effect to James Honeyman-Scott’s on the Pretenders a generation hence), was almost all Sandy Denny. Numbed by loss, the others decided to follow where she led. That turned out to be a a labyrinth of English folk music from which it could be argued only guitarist Richard Thompson ever fully emerged. This isn’t the first time I listened, but I never really heard it before. Now I’m mini-obsessed. A couple of more spins and I might be up to a post on Denny in ’69, one of the most remarkable years any vocalist ever had. For now, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. And I’m taking precautions, because I’ve realized that if you wander too deeply in these woods, you mightn’t find your way out.

8) Latimore Straighten it Out: The Best of Latimore (1995)

In addition to the two cuts I highlighted earlier in the week (novelties, but deep too), mostly a straightforward set of fine-tuned 70s R&B. A little funk, a little soul, a little big-voiced balladeering, a lot of traditional Love Man, all rendered with a mix of silk and grit that makes for good smiling and nodding music. No small thing these days.

My other standouts are an unlikely cover of “Stormy Monday,” and a deep take on George McCrae’s “I Get Lifted.” But it all goes down smooth.

7) Patty Loveless Up Against My Heart (1991)

Measure for measure. My favorite album by my favorite modern singer, possessed of a brand of fatalism Sandy Denny might have recognized. What might be forgotten now is that this record almost killed her career when it failed to go gold or platinum like her previous three. Nashville is famously unforgiving of slackers. Somebody is always ready to take your place, especially when you’re either an unrepentant honky tonker or a female, forget both. She pulled a fast one by switching labels and running up a string of awards which was modest next to Reba’s (before) or Miranda’s (after), but astonishing given how uncompromised her voice was. You can hear all of that here. “God Will” is an all time killer and “I Came Straight to You” the best smile in her catalog. But this time around, another one stuck deeper than usual.

6) Tanya Tucker My Turn (2009)

Her 24th album, the first in six years at the time and still her latest to date. All of which  might help explain why, for the first time ever, she sounded relaxed. Relieved of the pressures of stardom for the first time since she was thirteen, she was able to bring something new to a bunch of classic country covers that included signature songs from Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell. All the songs her daddy wanted her to sing and nobody, but nobody, ever said she lacked guts.

5) Mel Tillis HItsides 1970-1980 (2006)

A beautifully constructed overview of the man at his peak. He broke into Nashville in the sixties with one of those good singer/great writer reps that were common at the time. Unlike almost everyone else who wore the tag he turned out to be a great singer too. Though he wrote only about a third of them, every one of these twenty-five cuts from his golden decade feels lived in.

The boundaries (neither of which he wrote)?

On one end, “Stomp Them Grapes,” which would have done Roger Miller proud. On the other, “Your Body is an Outlaw,” as deep and scary as anything by George Jones, which he sang with his eldest daughter a year after I served fish sticks and french fries to two of her younger sisters at the girls’ camp sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention in Ridgecrest, North Carolina.

Never let it be said that the South is an uncomplicated place.

(Oh, and he did write: “Detroit City,” “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” “Mental Revenge.” Like that.)

4) Candi Staton Evidence: The Complete Fame Records Masters (2011)

The “evidence,” presumably, for the case of someone who should have been a much bigger star. There’s plenty of that here. It’s hard to understand why anyone who looked and sounded as great as Candi Staton–and had so much talent surrounding her–didn’t really cross over until she went disco (helping create the paradox of the soul singer who used disco to reach a wider audience even as more famous soul singers were being wiped out left and right).

If I had to put my finger on it, I’d blame the material, which is good, but lacks that one killer that might have put her in heavy rotation at the pop stations and brought the rest into focus. The biggest exception is “Stand By Your Man” which did cross over (nearly as big as “Young Hearts Run Free”), but, unfortunately, left no trace, having already been defined for purposes of useful narrative by Nashville’s Tammy Wynette. Too bad, because Candi had a great deal more to add to the concept than Hilary Clinton, who stood by her man long enough for him to lock up half of Candi Staton’s neighborhood.

3) Paul Revere & the Raiders The Complete Columbia Singles (2010)

This wanders about…and intrigues. Over nearly a decade and a half, they developed a theme: Stomp. Then do something else (Brill Building pop maybe? Hot rod music?)

Then Stomp. Then do something else. (Psychedelia maybe? Country rock?)

Then….Stomp.

Then….something (anything!).

Then…

Stomp.

The essence of the Stomp is on The Essential Ride, a single-disc comp that focuses on the mid-sixties and includes the hits everybody loves, plus “Crisco Party.”  In the days when “Louie, Louie” was being investigated by a congressional committee, that one was too obscene even for a garage band B-side (hence is missing here). And if you just want the Stomp, you could go here.

You’d be missing a lot, though. Mark Lindsay was one of the great hardcore rock and roll singers. Everybody knows that (though just how much he sounds like Mitch Ryder before Mitch Ryder on some of the earliest sides here might still startle you). But he was one of the great pop-rock singers, too. And, whatever one thinks of “Indian Reservation” (I love it without reservation, but I know there are serious dissenters), you can also hear how much they had earned the right to a #1 Protest Record because, as protest records go, it’s not a patch on 1966’s “The Great Airplane Strike” (which sounds like it should be the title of a solemn documentary on union organizing and is a good joke) or 1967’s “Do Unto Others” (which sounds like it should be the title of a Lenny Bruce routine and is serious….and lovely).

2) Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012)

The World is a Ghetto, two generations on. Except that white critics cut Kendrick all the slack they never gave War, nothing’s changed. That might be why an outsider like me can’t tell whether it’s me or Lamar who feels tired.

One line stuck out, though: Hearing “I’ve never been violent…until I’m with the homies,” made me hear my old daddy quoting his Uncle Sam, speaking to him in the Tennessee hills in the twenties, saying “One boy is one boy. Two boys is half a boy. Three boys is no boy a’tall.”

I wish I could remember if Uncle Sam was the one who told my old daddy stories about chasing cows into the woods to hide them from the Yankees the night they drove old Dixie down.

Funny what you remember and what you don’t.

1) The Roots, Undun (2011)

The World is a Ghetto, two generations on. It even starts with a quote from the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me,” which, a generation back, was The World is a Ghetto one generation on.

Which leads to the question: Are all rap albums now rewrites of “The World is a Ghetto?” And if nothing’s changed, is it because we can’t change or we won’t?

Til next time.

IN THE BEGINNING….(Paul Revere, R.I.P.)

PAULREVERE1

 

PAULREVERE2

Born Paul Revere Dick, as keyboardist, hustler, entrepreneur and visionary, he ended up leading the most successful “garage” band in the history of rock and roll. It was right that they were the most successful, seeing as how they were the best and had basically helped invent the notion (he was already fronting a local band when he got together with lead singer Mark Lindsay in 1958…they had their first hit in 1961 and recorded their version of “Louie, Louie,” the same week as the Kingsmen and in the same studio, a sequence of events I wrote about here, on the eve of the British Invasion).

The revolutionary war costumes they wore were, of course, a play on his name–and a way to stand out from the crowd (not the mention the crown, as the Brits were certainly coming). Little Steven Van Zandt has repeatedly said on his great radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage that those costumes–so redolent of dread Show Biz–are the main reason the Raiders have never been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since Little Steven’s on the nominating committee, I’ll assume he knows of whence he speaks.

So maybe, on the occasion of his passing, it’s worth remembering that Paul Revere was a conscientious objector–in 1959. (His assignment to help out on the psych ward at a mental hospital strikes a chord as it sounds very much along the lines of what happened to my father when he tried to register as a C.O. in World War II, though dad got to spend a few years fighting forest fires and a few months being a psych ward test subject first–at least that’s the way he told it some of the time).

That made Revere one of the very few sixties-era musicians who ever walked the walk, and probably the only one who did so long before it was cool to even talk the talk.

And maybe it’s also worth remembering that, however many very temporary diversions there were along the way, the bands he led for nearly sixty of his 76 years (he left the road only a few months before his death) had a single mission from first to last.

And the mission was…Aw, you know what the mission was.

STOMP!