At the age of 12, my musical exposure consisted of a strange canon of Contemporary Christian Music that sounds so reserved and conservative to me now, but actually stirred up a bit of controversy in the church. If you decide to take a listen to any of this, your ears will doubtless hear it as very tame. The 1970s were on the tail end of the “Jesus Movement” in Southern California. This movement did see some bands that actually ended up being quite groundbreaking like Daniel Amos but mostly produced some very mind-numbing Christian melodies - namely from the Maranatha Singers. Between 1974 and 1999 this group released a series of 20 recordings. My exposure range was from around 1974-1986. But the music was definitely different than traditional church organ music. The ‘old guard’ did not approve.
Don’t take this as criticism because I have some very fond memories of this stuff. Thinking of my parents up and making coffee then dropping the needle on the very crackly wax to hear these otherworldly voices sing songs culled straight from scripture was quite comforting. It was all I knew.
My father had been a campus minister for several years at a college. One of the kids who regularly attended was leaving America for good to do mission work. He dropped off his own collection of Contemporary Christian Music and gave it to me and my brother. This was my introduction to bands like Daniel Amos, Larry Norman, and Undercover. All of these groups were taking cues from secular rock and roll - some did it well, others not so much. (Larry Norman is another story but someone you should definitely explore. He was a huge influencer of many bands - for me, most notably, it is the Pixies who’s first release, “Come On Pilgrim” was named from that very catchphrase that Norman was known for.)
That same year, I discovered the Velvet Underground and my world was changing. I was hungry for new music.
The next year my brother invited me to a Christian music festival somewhere on a farm in Kentucky. The event was called ICTHUS and had been an annual event since 1970. The year he took me was packed with new alternative Christian acts. Larry Norman was there but I also heard some other amazing acts including the Altar Boys and a band that made a huge impact on me: Adam Again. This crew of misfits had one of the most unique sounds I’d ever heard. It was very Talking Heads with a darker edge. I had never danced that hard before and was thrilled to be in a crowd of punks and freaks. As a Christian not really fully relating to the institution of the church, I had found my tribe.
Again I deliver a very long story to get to the punchline.
I really looked up to this particular band and followed them for years and years. I still count their first album, “In A New World Of Time” (with a cover painted by Rev. Howard Finster) in my top 20. The singers of the band, Gene Eugene (who was actually a child star playing on early television programs like Bewitched and Gidget) and Riki Michele, were husband and wife. This impressed me and I was eager to have a relationship like theirs one day. They ended up in a divorce. This shook up my ideas of commitment and vows and even Christian faith. How could they? It’s ridiculous feeling that way about someone you don’t know, but they were heroes of mine in a sense and I was genuinely crushed by it. It’s sad that I ended up having that same relationship that I was so eager to obtain.
Gene wrote several beautiful songs after this event that are clearly directed towards his former love Riki. From what I understand, they maintained some sense of a friendship but she remarried and he died early. I would guess it was from heartbreak. There was never a confirmed reason other than his heart stopped in his Huntington Beach studio (The Green Room) in 2000.
Today’s offering is from Adam Again. “Stone” was me in a nutshell this time last year. The song aches over lost sleep at one point. Last night was a sleepless night for me. I was up until 5:30 a.m. working through another wave of post-marital drama that I did not want to face. I hate looking back, but today I can’t help but hum along with this song and know that, “It won’t do any good…I never really could convince you…When I said to leave I meant for you to stay…”