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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do Angels Play Electric Harps?

              In the summer of 1976 I went to see Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band in concert in Knoxville, Tennessee.  I had been a fan of Bob Seger since 1969 when his band was called Bob Seger System and they released the Ramblin' Gamblin' Man album which had a cover graced with an angelic looking female standing on a field of breaking ice.  There was something spiritual about the cover that appealed to me.  And the music rocked.

             The band changed in the 70s, but Seger's style was pretty much the same.  When I heard he was coming to Knoxville I was anxious to see him.  He was going to be the opening act for some band called Kiss.  I was familiar with Kiss, but I was not a fan. To me they were an Alice Cooper wannabe band that didn't play music as good as Cooper's.  I would have to tolerate Kiss in order to see Bob Seger.

             Seger and his band were great.  Since I had paid for the ticket I stayed for Kiss to see what they were all about.  The music was as I expected, but live it was much more exciting.  It was the show spectacle itself that impressed me.  I had previously been very impressed by Alice Cooper's elaborate stage production, but the Kiss concert presentation was bigger.  The lighting was strewn throughout the entire coliseum.   There were portions of the stage that would elevate and huge flames that spewed from either side of the stage.  The audience was sucked into the show.  When I left that night, I was still not a Kiss fan, but I was amazed by the production of the show.

             In the days that followed I began to envision a rock band that played Christian oriented music in a live lavish concert presentation such as I had seen with Kiss.   In my mind I could see "GOD" in huge letters festooned with lights hanging over a coliseum.  Special lighting and pyrotechnic effects would enhance the musical experience as a stage presentation that included flying angels and orbs of light would dazzle the audience.   The entire experience would be mind boggling visual displays and spiritually soaring rock and roll music.

             I had been a big fan of  the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar and any songs that seemed remotely related to God, Jesus, or spirituality.  At the time I did not know that God rock or any rock music that actually aligned itself with Christianity existed.  I was ready for it.  Not only was I ready for Christian rock, I was ready for some more modern music to replace the boring music that I had been used to hearing in church.  I had stopped going to church by then, but I thought if the music changed maybe I would go back.

              A decade later, sometime in  early 1985, I was driving at night somewhere in the vicinity of Northern Virginia.   Apparently we had been driving for a while and I must have been getting tired because I stopped listening to cassettes and decided to listen to the radio.  Sometimes when driving fatigue starts to hit me I like to see what's on the radio to perk up my interest.  An unfamiliar song was playing.  It sounded good, with a driving drum beat and nice vocal and instrumental work.  As I listened closely the subject matter of the lyrics was distinctly Christian related.  The dj identified the song as "Yield to the Spirit" by the Joe English Band.

           In the days to come I began seeking out the Joe English Band album What You Need.  It was not easy until I realized that I needed to go to a Christian book store that also sold music.  I finally located the album and while in the store found another album--Beat the System by Petra--which captured my attention.  Soon I was hooked on Christian music.  I was buying as many albums as I could afford, reading every new issue of Contemporary Christian Music magazine, and seeking out any information I could find on contemporary Christian music.  I was determined to become highly knowledgeable in the field.

            Probably around late May of 1985 I was staying outside of Chicago, where I had some time off and decided to spend some time visiting my friend, Fred.  I began telling him about my new obsession with modern Christian music.  Fred was not a Christian, but he was the sort of person who always seemed to be in the know about everything.  He checked his sources and found that there was going to be a large Christian rock concert not far from us that very night.  We decided to go.

          The venue was a large sports arena in Addison, Illinois.  It was an oversized barn, but ideal for rock events.  I was struck by the crowd--an array of punker and metal head looking types with crazy hair and facial piercings mixed with clean cut young church people.  It looked like the crowd at any typical rock concert.  The only real difference was that I didn't smell any marijuana smoke once the concert had started, but otherwise the crowd could have been the same.  Among the concession stand offerings were large plastic cups of non-alcoholic beer.  One of the bands played a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" except they substituted "Jesus Christ" for "Purple Haze".  All in all the experience was strangely surrealistic with mostly unmemorable music--I don't even remember what bands were playing, but they were definitely harder rock than I normally listened to.

        Subsequent years brought concerts more to my enjoyment as I became more discerning in my choice of concerts to attend.  I saw artists like Michael Card, David and the Giants, and Charlie Peacock in venues ranging from large auditoriums to churches.  The Christian concerts were very similar to any other concerts except that the artists would talk about Jesus briefly.  Otherwise, one was much like the other. 

         In the early nineties I began attending church again after a hiatus of many years.  I had moved to the Los Angeles area and started attending a Southern Baptist Church because it reminded me most of back home in Tennessee.  The praise music they were now singing was more related to rock than the classic hymns I had grown up with.  Through the years the music in our church has become progressively more rock oriented.  Even when they do revive an old traditional hymn they add a contemporary spin to it.

          Christian music has become a huge business.  Sometimes you can't even tell that a song is Christian other than the group has been labeled as a Christian group and you probably wouldn't even have known that if someone hadn't given them the label.  Sometimes I think about what it might have been like in the days when J.S. Bach was composing his glorious cantatas to God; to sit in church with a small orchestra playing or a large pipe organ and a sweet voiced choir.   At times I even miss the nice older lady that used to play the Hammond organ in the Methodist church I attended when I was younger, as we plodded solemnly through "The Old Rugged Cross" or "In the Garden".  





14 comments:

  1. Good day Lee another good education with someone I am not familiar with, it's always good to hear about others besides the singers/bands you already know about.

    Havr a nice day,
    Yvonne.

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  2. I bet you'd like my church's praise band then. We do Christian Rock, Blues and Rhythm & Blues. We have a CD titled, "Rhythm and Truths - We'll Praise the Hell Out of You!" LOL.

    Loved this post, I like a lot of the same music you do.

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  3. Hey Lee, I love Bob Seger. And I can't imagine a church service without music. Our early service does not have music and it's just not the same. Anyway, enjoyed your post. Blessings, Buffy

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  4. Remember "REZ"? I was hugely into them! I saw Petra twice, Rich Mullins, Larry Norman & Steve Taylor.

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  5. rLEE-b ~
    Based on your previous post(s), I was a little surprised that nothing by Mark Farner made your Top 11 Christian Music Albums list.

    Say, I'm wondering just how many music albums you own in total. Counting all genres and formats - compact discs, LPs, cassettes, 8-tracks(?) - I'm guessing that number must be in the thousands. Do you have even a rough estimate for me?

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

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  6. Very interesting and you brought back some great memories for me!

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  7. Yvonne-- That's what I'm liking about these lists-- I'm learning some new music.

    Marvin -- I enjoy the music of the modern praise bands. You and I were probably on a parallel musical journey through much of our lives.

    Buffy -- It's nice to hear from you--it's been a while. Yes, music I think is an integral part of worship.

    Will -- I recall hearing a lot about Rez and I do have some of their recordings, but I never focused much on them. I never saw Petra live, but I own a fantastic concert video by them. I did see Greg X Volz live.

    StMc ---I do like Mark Farner a lot and I also like Grand Funk Railroad, but neither was worthy of my absolute favorite lists. They are favorites of mine but lower on the list.
    Without counting and making an only rough estimate, my music collection is probably only about 5000 recordings, which is really much smaller than other collectors
    I've heard about. Money and space constrains me from continuing to add to the collection-- in the past few years my collecting has been severely curtailed. And I can't listen to it all any way.

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  8. rLEE-b ~
    OK, thanks for the response, Brother.

    And say, 10 Favorite Drinkin' & 10 Favorite Drivin' Songs day is only one week away but no one hardly knows 'bout it yet. How 'boutchoo do one of them Linky thangs for it?

    Heck, my lists are already completed and I'm just sittin' here with the engine running - wasting gasoline - and this sobriety is freakin' KILLING me! Will Wednesday the 16th NEVER get here?!

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McSoberlystationary

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  9. Mr. L.Dogg-- Ask and ye shall receive. I have posted on my side bar a Linky list for the June 16 event. I will move it over to the center later--don't want to knock my post too far down the page. I will also be discussing this on my Saturday post and maybe Friday as well. Feel free to announce it on your site and encourage others to do so as well and even mention it in comments if you feel inspired to do so. And don't forget to add your name to the llst!

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  10. --> "Mr. L.Dogg-- Ask and ye shall receive."

    THANKS, Brother!

    Uhm... Say, could you loan me 140 gallons of gasoline and 141 gallons of Grand Marnier until payday? ;o)

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens
    (All revved up and nowhere to go.)

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  11. STmc -- You either get a huge paycheck or get paid very infrequently to afford that and pay me back next paycheck.

    Let's see.... the gas maybe, but the Grand Marnier would have to come to at least $4000.

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  12. Informative post! And yes, Angels DO play electric harps.

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  13. Nice post. I wasn't familiar with all of the artist but will be checking them out. I think angels play what ever they want to play.

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  14. Bossy Betty-- I'm always good for dredging up a few memories.

    Alex --And I guess they must be playing some heavenly prog rock.

    CC -- If you check out any of that music let me know what you think.

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