While your Idolators are not complete heathens, we didn’t listen to much Christian rock growing up–unless, of course, you’re counting Stryper’s “Honestly” and the first half of The Joshua Tree as “Christian rock.” So we were surprised when we read Andrew Beaujon’s excellent Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock, which follows the origins of the modern-day religious-music movement, and name-drops dozens of bands we had never heard of before. We asked Beaujon to send us a few sample tracks, which we’ll divide in two parts; today’s entries focus on “the very earliest days of Christian music,” Beaujon notes, “when the ‘Jesus
People’–disaffected hippies whom conservative Christian churches welcomed–roamed the earth.” A few sample songs after the click-through, along with Beaujon’s notes. Look for part two tomorrow. God willing.
Larry Norman, “Walking Backwards” [MP3, link expired]
As befits such a complete weirdo, Norman’s had astonishing influence on pop culture: If you’ve ever seen an athlete point skyward, he’s using a sign Norman invented; if you’ve ever been to church camp, you’ve sung his “Song of Salvation”; and if you’ve ever been in a bookstore outside of Manhattan, you’ve probably noticed a series of books called Left Behind, which take their name from the chorus of Norman’s 1969 Rapture rock classic, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” This song is a little less widely known, but I love the strings, the weird chord changes, and the way Norman’s ethereal voice wraps so sweetly around the concept of backsliding into sin.
Andraé Crouch and the Disciples, “My Tribute” [MP3, link expired]
Crouch was the only traditional gospel artist to cross over to the mostly white Jesus People, probably because he incorporated R&B and pop into his church music. This is his signature tune, and the only anachronism for its time (1971) is Crouch’s insistence on using “thee” to address God. Builds slowly and gives some clue to the power of Crouch’s live performances.
2nd Chapter of Acts, “Easter Song” [MP3, link expired]
Wow, wow, wow. Those unchartable harmonies, that fuzz bass, the spiraling Moog–it’s all a little bit Godspell, sure, but this family act’s first big hit is a wild, beautiful reminder that it takes Americans to make a mainstream religion truly weird.
Body Piercing Saved My Life [Official Site]