Graded on a Curve:
Paul Revere & The Raiders, Greatest Hits (Expanded Edition)

Talk about your camouflage. On the surface Paul Revere & The Raiders were five smiling and well-groomed (at least by Fab Four mop top standards) young men tricked out in Revolutionary War garb complete with tricorn hats. They certainly didn’t look like long-haired sex fiends out to run off with your daughter to San Francisco where she’d die from an LSD overdose. They looked like The Monkees, and everybody knew The Monkees were safe as Milk Duds.

But 1967’s Greatest Hits (Expanded Edition) tells a different story. Boise, Idaho’s Paul Revere & The Raiders weren’t The Monkees. They were a garage rock band like The Seeds and The Standells, and if America’s parents had just listened to them they’d have packed their daughters off to the nearest nunnery and sent their sons off to military school the minute they found a copy of this baby in their rooms.

Most of the songs on the compilation come straight out of juvenile hall. The Rolling Stones comparisons are obvious–the Raiders follow the Stones’ career trajectory from scruffy R&B to subversive “Under My Thumb” pop, and vocalist Mark Lindsay comes off like an American Mick Jagger. But you also get The Who on “Just Like Me,” an intercontinental kissing cousin of “I Can’t Explain,” and some derivative Beach Boys on “Action.”

But what you mainly get is lip and a bad attitude. When Lindsay isn’t laying down the law with a shameless social climber (see garage rock masterpiece “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”) he’s snarling mad ‘cuz he’s been hearing rumors his girl’s been running around and he isn’t going to put up with it (see “Steppin’ Out”). Our boy has woman problems galore, and he’ll chew your ear off talking about them if you let him.

There is, for example, the lust issue. “Hungry” is a great pop rock song suitable for all ages until Lindsay gives up on subtle seduction and proceeds to make slurping noises, pant like a dog, and in general make it clear he wants to rip his girl’s panties off with his teeth. He also likes to lecture the opposite sex, as he does on both “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” and garage rock standard “Kicks,” which is essentially an anti-drug PSA straight out of the mouth of Jack Webb. That “magic carpet” Mark’s girl’s s been riding on is no answer to her problems (freaking out and jumping off a roof never is!), and she’d “better get straight before it’s too late.”

“Ups and Downs” is The Rolling Stones right down to Lindsay’s scruffy tonsils and has (sorry all you dope fiends) absolutely nothing to do with drugs; “Good Thing” boasts a Beach Boys chorus and might have scored big were it not for Lindsay, who sounds like a guy who’s about to break parole and rob a gas station. ‘

On pop ultimatum “Him or Me” Lindsay tells his girl to make up her mind to the accompaniment of a disturbing-the-peace loud bass thump that probably cost the boys their regular Saturday night gig in the basement of The Boise Community Club. “The Great Airplane Strike” opens with an explosion and some ominous guitar that makes you think it’s about the Vietnam War. But what it’s really about is being stuck in an airport terminal and willing to go to any lengths (“The man said I could ride the wing and I said that was fine”) to get home.

The compilation does include a few parent pleasers in the form of the saccharine spoken word abomination “Melody for an Unknown Girl” (“Sometimes it’s hard to say the right words even if they’re written in your heart”); the unobjectionable Beach Boys rip “Action”; and the country-tinged band backstory “Legend of Paul Revere,” which opens with the All-American lines “In a little town in Idaho way back in sixty-one/A man was frying burgers/Gee it seemed like lots of fun.” “Gee?” Some clueless parents probably invited the boys over to their next barbecue.

Greatest Hits (Expanded Edition) is proof you can’t judge an album by its cover. Paul Revere & The Raiders were one of the greatest stealth bands in rock and roll history, cardboard cutouts of five upstanding future presidents of the local chamber of commerce behind which drooled five garage-dwelling troglodytes with bad posture and motor oil on the soles of their knock-off Beatles boots.

Turns out the Raiders were fighting a Revolutionary War–if only a guerilla one–against the moms and dads of the USA, and they won. And why there isn’t a statue of them standing in front of the Idaho State Capitol Building I’ll never know.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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