Vinyl Treasures: Paul Revere & The Raiders - Midnight Ride

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Paul Revere & The Raiders – Midnight Ride (Columbia, 1966)

Before the Ramones, MC5 or The Stooges came along, there was already a surplus of garage rock bands making agitated and incendiary punk rock music in the United Sixties. During the first wave of psychedelica in the mid-60s, there were literally thousands of bands with distorted guitars providing the soundtrack to frat parties, high school hops and other assorted ‘happenings’. The majority of them remained underground however, achieving only moderate hits in the regional charts, but a couple did manage to find success on a national scale and none arguably more so than Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Originally called The Downbeats, the band formed in 1958 as an instrumental outfit before changing their name to Paul Revere & The Raiders and adding vocals into the mix. By 1965 the British Invasion had exploded state side, and like many of their regional contemporaries (most notably The Sonics) the band experimented by channelling the power chords of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who through a fuzzbox, injecting a healthy dose of African-American R&B, and developing their own primitive form of protopunk in the process.

Despite the aggressive and unsophisticated nature of their music Paul Revere & The Raiders were a legitimate pop group, and if you’re looking for the best place to start discovering their discography then Midnight Ride is as good as it gets. Album opener Kicks was a top five single in the U.S. and remains the best thing they ever did, whilst I’m Not Your Stepping Stone is an absolute rave up and another quintessential nugget for any garage rock fanatic. It would later be covered by everyone from Sex Pistols, The Monkees and Minor Threat, but nothing will ever top the pure danceable rock ‘n’ roll of the original.

Get It On is as much of a rock stomper as the T-Rex hit single of the same name, and Ballad Of A Useless Man basks in desperation and despair whilst all the while demanding that you move your feet. On the flipside, songs of heartache like There She Goes, the slow-burning_ Little Girl In The 4th Row_, and the forlorn sense of yearning on album closer Melody For An Unknown Girl all showcase the band’s range as both musicians and songwriters – proof that these midnight riders were more than just one-trick ponies.

What’s also impressive about this record is the band wrote all their own material and every member got in on the action, with Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay, Phil Volk, Drake Levin and Mike Smith all sharing song writing credits. Sadly, the balance between the stylistic diversity and an equal divide amongst band members would prove to difficult to maintain beyond Midnight Ride, and although the group remained active and prolific throughout the rest of the decade they would never replicate the formula so brilliantly realised on this, their fifth studio recording.