It’s easy to turn cynical when you see old-timers like the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders hopping (or limping) along the concert trail again.
Shouldn’t these fixtures of oldies radio be relegated to playing auto-boat shows, shopping malls and side stages at county fairs?
After all, the garage popsters aren’t those sprightly jubilant twentysomethings they were when they wooed kids all over the world. Nor are they thirtysomethings, for that matter. Or fortysomethings. Their prime days of selling records to rabid teenage girls expired decades ago.
And their relevance to music?
Today it would appear as if they have none, aside from being a pleasant diversion for nostalgia seekers.
Believe it or not, however, both the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders, who play a benefit concert for the Washington Association of Firefighters at the Spokane Arena on Saturday, retain some relevance. More so now than they did in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
That’s because the music of the Kingsmen, the Raiders and a host of other ‘60s bands like the Sonics, Kinks and Wailers has influenced legions of young bands comprising modern-day garage punk, surf and rock.
Bands look fondly upon that period of music for a number of reasons.
Back then, rock ‘n’ rollers didn’t subscribe to pretentiousness. They produced music that was short, simple, raw, bold and catchy - traits that would later usher in punk rock.
It was also an era when rock bands personified all that was cool. Or so it seems now. They looked cool in their suits and turtlenecks, acted cool and sang about cool themes such as girls, cars and cigarettes. So it’s not shocking that retro-minded bands embrace their predecessors.
The Makers, among the kingpins of a swelling underground of garage rock, make no secret which ‘60s bands they’re fond of. On early releases, they covered songs by Them, the Animals, Link Wray and, yes, the Kingsmen.
The Spokane garage-punk band bangs out a sweltering rendition of the Kingsmen’s “J.A.J.” on 1994’s “Devil’s Nine Question,” a nine-song EP of instrumentals. (The song wasn’t actually written by the Kingsmen, but by the Dave Lewis Trio, which featured guitarist Joe Johansen, who now resides in Spokane.)
“The Makers just kind of liked it, I guess,” says Maker manager and spokesman Vic Mostly, explaining why the band chose to record “J.A.J.”
“Everyone always covers the same old Kingsmen songs, but hardly anyone covers their instrumentals. And they have so many good ones, especially on their first three records.”
Not surprising, the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders probably haven’t a clue about the impact they’ve made on today’s garage bands. That’s because the garage genre hasn’t yet burst through the mainstream dam. So far, it’s only managed a trickle.
Aside from being influential with garage rock, the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders also pioneered Northwest rock. The Kingsmen formed in Portland in 1960 and Paul Revere and the Raiders in Boise in 1959.
“The Northwest music legacy is just that, the garage rock scene,” says Mostly. “It’s the Wailers and the Kingsmen. It’s the Sonics and Paul Revere. It’s Don and the Goodtimes. Nothing came before it and nothing came after it until grunge.”
The world knows the Kingsmen for one song, “Louie, Louie,” a tune penned by the late R&B singer Richard Berry in 1956. (Berry died in January in Los Angeles.) Though the Kingsmen weren’t the only Northwest band to record it - both the Sonics and the Wailers enjoyed regional hits with “Louie, Louie” - they were the only band to turn it into a blockbuster.
According to the legend, the Kingsmen had humble intentions for “Louie, Louie.” They weren’t chasing national recognition when they put it to tape. They used the song - recorded in two hours for a whopping $50 - as a demo for a gig audition (which they were denied).
The day after the Kingsmen recorded the song, Paul Revere and the Raiders entered the same studio to record their take on “Louie, Louie.” Their version didn’t exactly race up the charts, but it did land them a record deal with Columbia Records.
In the long run, the Raiders outlasted the Kingsmen. After a couple more hits and a revolving door of musicians, the Kingsmen finally disbanded in 1967. Paul Revere and the Raiders continued to churn out hits into the ‘70s. Some of their nuggets include “The Great Airplane Strike,” “Good Thing,” “Him Or Me - What’s it Gonna Be?” and “Cherokee Reservation.”
Saturday’s concert might be your way of slipping back to your glory days. Or, it might be your first glimpse at rock’s elder statesmen. For whatever reason you go, be thankful the two bands still exist. You’re watching actual breathing members of music history.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Kingsmen perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Spokane Arena. Tickets are $15, available only by calling 536-2121.
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