If he’s not the foremost authority on rock ‘n’ roll, Rockin’ John McDonald, legendary host of Saturday night’s two-hour I Like It Like That rock ‘n’ roll oldies show on Madison, Wis. listener-sponsored station WORT-FM (and online) is certainly one of them.
A couple weeks ago, Rockin’ John celebrated Paul Revere’s 75th birthday by playing six Paul Revere & the Raiders tracks on the show—along with a bunch of 1960 recordings from Elvis Presley, whose birthday (his 78th) would have been the day after Revere’s.
“I can’t understand why these guys aren’t in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” said Rockin’ John, after spinning the Raiders’ version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”
“I guess they don’t rock enough,” added Rockin’ John.
Well, Rockin’ John, we don’t understand why Paul Revere & the Raiders aren’t in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not to be confused with The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon, either–and we refuse to accept that they don’t rock enough! Which is why we have called upon you to induct them into The Panth!
But let’s look at “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” as the perfect case in point: After the Raiders included it in their classic 1966 album Midnight Ride, The Monkees took it to No. 20 that year as a B-side.
Your thoughts, Rockin’ John?
“The Raiders definitely did it before The Monkees, and one of the biggest mistakes Columbia ever made was not to release their version as a single. I had the album in ’66 and would crank it up on the stereo—it faded out fast on the album but had an extended ending on the CD.”
The song later found cover favor with punk legends, most notably Johnny Thunders and the Sex Pistols.
“That’s because they were a kickass rock ‘n’ roll band! That’s what I liked about the Raiders. Kind of forerunners of garage rock: ‘Steppin’ Out’ and ‘Just Like Me’ became garage rock classics over the years. But they were really just a great rock ‘n’ roll band—with one of the greatest lead singers, Mark Lindsay.”
So why, Rockin’ John, have they been so underappreciated?
“They got stereotyped by their Revolutionary War unforms! That’s been their biggest drawback. I’ve read stuff over the years where Mark Lindsay said, ‘We’ll never get in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of the hats!’ People see their three-pointed hats and that’s it! Isn’t that stupid?”
No, Rockin’ John. That’s real stupid!
“Maybe they haven’t gotten in because of another dumb thing. They had some studio musicians on some of the stuff they did in the late ‘60s, but the Beach Boys had studio musicians on just about all their records and that didn’t stop them from getting in. Phil ‘Fang’ Volk, the Raiders’ bass player, said, ‘Most of the Raiders’ stuff was us in the studio, and anybody who says we didn’t play on our records is full of blank! We came up with the arrangements and guitar parts, and there may have been studio guys sitting in but most of the sound was ours.’”
But really, R.J., isn’t what matters is that they made such great records?
“Some of the greatest records ever made! ‘Steppin’ Out,’ ‘Just Like Me,’ ‘Kicks,’ ‘Hungry,’ ‘Him Or Me, What’s It Gonna Be’—one after another, and their albums were great! A couple years ago I played all 11 tracks of Midnight Ride on my show. I’d never done a featured album before, but for years I said that if I ever did, I could tell you what it was going to be: Midnight Ride by Paul Revere & the Raiders. I finally did it in 2011, not in the order of the record but scattered throughout the show like a featured artist.”
That album’s loaded top to bottom with great tracks.
“There isn’t a bomb on the whole album! It starts with ‘Kicks,’ then ‘There’s Always Tomorrow,’ ‘Little Girl In The Fourth Row,’ ‘Ballad Of A Useless Man,’ “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ and ‘There She Goes’—and that’s just Side One!”
And let’s not forget that Paul Revere & the Raiders were also essentially the TV face of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-‘60s as the virtual house band of Where The Action Is, Dick Clark’s spin-off from American Bandstand. Anything to add, Rockin’ John?
“Only that Mark Lindsay was one of the greatest singers ever in a rock ‘n’ roll band. But the whole band was great: Lindsay, organist Paul Revere, drummer Mike ‘Smitty’ Smith, guitarist Drake Levin and bassist Phil ‘Fang’ Volk—their most important lineup. You can’t sit still when their songs are on the radio–unless you ain’t alive!”
You can be sure, Rockin’ John, that not only are we alive, but we’ll be tuning in to I Like It Like That this and every Saturday night at 6 p.m., Central, for the chance to hear Paul Revere & the Raiders again on the radio! And thanks so much for inducting them into The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon–where there’s no dress code, and three-pointed hats are encouraged!
Previously inducted into The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon:
The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie
David Johansen and the New York Dolls
Joan Jett and The Runaways
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