Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rant #1,083: "Ups and Downs"

We all go through ups and downs during our lifetime.

Some years are good, some are bad, and some are in between.

And that brings me to this song that I have in my record collection, from a band that has for years received undeserved status as a corporate tool of the burgeoning rock and roll scene in the 1960s.

Paul Revere and the Raiders were a hit-making machine during that decade, but they actually started out in the late 1950s as a Northwestern boogie woogie rock band.

Their first hit, "Like Long Hair," is the epitome of what they were doing then, a tune that owed as much to Jerry Lee Lewis as it did to Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, the guys who were putting this new music on the map, with all others riding their coattails.

Dick Clark, who had his pulse on this scene as host of the then-Philadelphia based "American Bandstand," saw all the trends, and his show rode each and every one.

Things had gotten stale musically in the early 1960s. Yes, there were great songs and artists during the era, but the time was right for something even newer to take over the scene.

Enter the Beatles.

Once the Beatles hit, music changed forever, as did styles, and Clark saw what was happening right on his very show.

The Bobby Vintons and Freddie Cannons, although still popular, were being replaced by long-haired groups that had a different sound than what was happening just a year earlier.

Clark wanted to tap into that even beyond what he was doing on "Bandstand," and that, in a nutshell, was what helped him create "Where the Action Is," a Monday-Friday showcase for what was new in rock and roll.

Steve Alaimo--a talented singer, but one who kind of teetered between the Avalon-type crooner and a new rocker--was the original host, but even on the first few episodes, it was clear who the real stars of the show were.

Paul Revere and the Raiders, with their Revolutionary War get-up and charismatic lead singer Mark Lindsay, stole that show from under Alaimo, and Clark knew he had something by featuring them over his original choice for host.

And he did.

For the length of that series, they were not only the "house band," but the stars of the show, and they became huge stars on the recording scene, with many hits during that period, including "Kicks," "Hungry," and "Good Thing."

Their popularity on the show most certainly paved the way for the creation of The Monkees, as constant time on TV hit it off with younger viewers, who wanted everything that they heard on "Action." That scheme was certainly used in the creation of the Pre-Fab Four.

By 1967, the five day a week grind was showing, and "Where the Action Is" would soon fade from view, but the Raiders continued to have hits.

"Ups and Downs" was one of them.

Although a pretty minor hit at the time, only reaching #22 on the Hot 100, it was typical of the Raiders' output at that time: catchy, with a great hook, and great lead vocal by Lindsay.

The Raiders had so many hits at that time that they were able to have a "Greatest Hits" album, and the song was included on the compilation just as it was fading from view.

And yes, I do think that people like Jann Wenner, soon to be publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, looked at the Raiders, and later the Monkees, as corporate creations, two acts that allowed bigger corporations to get into the rock and roll game, robbing the music of its spontaneity.

And I think he still thinks that way today.

Anyway, when the show went off, and "Ups and Downs" trailed into the sunset, Clark still saw huge potential in the Raiders, and they starred in his "Bandstand" companion "Happening" shows for a few years, which aired on Saturday afternoon just after "Bandstand"--now in California--ended.

The hits kept on coming, including "Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be" and "Let Me," but the Raiders--that was their shortened name then--hit it the biggest in 1971, without Clark, with "Indian Reservation."

They pretty much faded from view by the mid 1970s, although Paul Revere has continued with the Raiders as a popular show band and Lindsay, who had his own solo career highlighted by "Arizona," has pursued an interesting solo recording/performing career.

But back to "Ups and Downs"--I always liked the song, and even though it was high on the charts, you never hear it on oldies radio.

It's a shame, because although minor, it is a really good song.

Listen to it, and let me know what you think.

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