Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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100 Years, 100 Songs: #82. Paul Revere & the Raiders – “Steppin’ Out”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 24, 2007

“Tell the truth, child!”

Paul Revere & the Raiders are probably my all-time favorite second-tier band. They were never really among the most innovative, most creative, most memorable or most interesting bands of the 60s, and they were helped little by some ultimately poor career management, including

  1. Being named after their relatively inconsequential drummer organist (see also: Dave Clark Five, Spencer Davis Group–drummers non-essential band members would never have this kind of supremacy in rock again) just because of his ridiculous name
  2. Dressing in similarly ridiculous Revolutionary War-era costumes to complement the ridiculous name
  3. Getting beaten by the Kingsmen to record “Louie, Louie” by like a week
  4. Making the monumentally stupid decision to cover a little song called “Indian Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Indian),” a hugely awful song that would yet somehow go on to become their biggest (and, somewhat uncoincidentally, basically their last) hit, cementing their legacy as rock & roll punchlines

It’s too bad, though, ‘coz they wrote (or just played) some seriously, seriously kickass songs, and had a string of hits in the mid-60s that, while compeltely ignored by both oldies and classic rock radio today, is practically unparalleled by any other American band from the 60s.

1965’s “Steppin’ Out” was the first of their big ‘uns, and remains my personal favorite. Running a scant 2:14, “Steppin’ Out” is all business, opening with two harsh organ chords, a searing guitar line and singer Mark Lindsay’s piercing “YAY-UH!” opener, and barely taking a second’s breath until the song eventually runs out of gas. I still find the song’s sound somewhat startling considering when it was recorded–loud, shrill and driven by near-fatal levels of testosterone, if the song was just a little more depraved, it practically could’ve fit on a Stooges album.

And the thing is angry. Too many heartbreak songs dwell on the victimization aspect of the situation, but most of the best ones realize that to get over it, you’ve got to get mad, dammit! And Lindsay sells this point with every acidic syllable of “Steppin’ Out,” an old-school style tale of a man going off to war and returning to find his true love has been unfaithful (“‘Coz when I came back, I heard the bad, bad news / Seems our great romance has been a-gettin’ abused”). On paper, the lyrics would make it sound like a country song, but the bitter, caustic edge he sings it with puts it squarely in Nuggets territory (and I’m pretty sure it’s on one of the bonus discs on the box, thank God).

Then there’s that chorus. It’s only two lines, really, and it’s barely differentiable from the verses they stem from, but it still kills me every time: “Tell me true / Don’t lie to me! / That you been step-step-step-step-STEP-STEP-STEPPIN’ OUT ON ME!!!” The stutter on the “step” just builds up all the frustration and anger from the verses until it just explodes into the “STEPPIN’ OUT ON ME!!” part, the most furious, empowering repudiation of cuckoldery I’ve ever heard. It’s so good that I didn’t even realize until just now that Lindsay commits the cardinal lyrical sin of rhyming “me” with “me”. Who fucking cares?

They’d apply the same sort of blistering energy to a number of other incendiary topics over the course of their career–lust (“Hungry“), anti-drug use (“Kicks“), and uh, getting stuck at an airport (“The Great Airplane Strike“), but for me, “Steppin’ Out” is still the best example of why The Raiders are so criminally overdue for a cred reboot. Where’s Wes Anderson when you need him?


6 Responses to “100 Years, 100 Songs: #82. Paul Revere & the Raiders – “Steppin’ Out””

  1. Andrew, I love that you let us hear this songs, but every time you sendspace one of those files that starts with a “#” I can’t download it. Any chance you could skip that bit?

    (also, have you heard “I’ve Been Thinking” by Paul Bearer and the Hearsemen?)

  2. Andrew Unterberger said

    good point, Ian. Fixed.

    And no, haven’t. Good?

  3. Thanks, dude.

    Better than good. Here ’tis.

    I mention that song because I briefly forgot and thought it was by these guys, but it’s not.

  4. Andrew W. said

    I think Paul Revere actually played piano, a la Manfred Mann.

  5. Andrew Unterberger said

    wow, that’s even better

  6. Colette said

    Paul Revere’s Steppin’ Out….is a pretty good song….i have never heard it before but i downlaoded it..has a good beat..

    Whats ur fav. song?

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