13.10.08

Great Christian Music: Steve Taylor

I was about fourteen when I noticed putrid smells coming from certain rooms in The Church: racism, hypocrisy, profiteering evangelists, prosperity gospels, and other such piles of bullshit that I had to step over on my journey of faith. When I brought these subjects up to my Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, I got everything from rationalization to equivocation to outright denial. One day when I was mocking a pre-scandal Jim Bakker, one of my teachers rebuked me, saying, "You shouldn't question an anointed man of God." Something was rotten in the state of Denmark, and I wondered if I was the only one who could smell it.

Until I found Steve Taylor.

When I first discovered Christian rock in the early 80's, I was delighted to find that the devil didn't have all the good music. But after a year or two, it all started to sound the same: the obsession with major keys, the DX-7 synthesizers, and the "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics. I had heard of Steve Taylor and I knew that his album Meltdown was popular, but I thought the cover was sort of silly, so I didn't bother to listen (What do you want from me? I was fourteen.)

I was on the cusp of a downward spiral into cynicism that would last until my late 20's. [Shameless self-promotion alert] You can read about it here. But when I finally broke down and bought Meltdown, Steve Taylor held my cynical slide at bay for a couple more years. He showed me that I wasn't alone. Somebody else got it. Someone was stepping into the breach and saying, "Ummm, we have some problems here." And the music was the most original I'd ever heard in "CCM." I mean, his outfit from On the Fritz was bit out of line, even for the 80's, but still . . .

Steve kept showing up at just the right time for the next 20 years. Squint's "The Finish Line" became the soundtrack for my return to passionate faith as an adult. I'm thrilled to death that the guy is bringing his creativity to film, but I'd be willing to lose a pinky if he'd record another album.

Below is the video for "The Finish Line," and it's a piece of art. I still get goose bumps on the last verse...

11 comments:

  1. If there were at least one band out there in 2008 who could pick up the banner of Mr. Taylor, CCM might be a tolerable place.

    I wanna be a clone indeed....

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  2. i love steve taylor, but i think his lyrics tend to be much better than his music. the only album i can really listen to is liver, and i was lucky enough to get to see him on that tour. even though it was just at a christian music day at an amusement park, it's probably in the top 5 shows i've seen.

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  3. i'm with Aaron. His lyrics always rock, but the only album i really loved listening to was Liver. Though, there will always be an odd, squishy place in my heart for "Cash Cow" from Squint. I always think of that "rock opera" when someone says anything to the effect of "i deserve better."

    i know he isn't alike musically, but i think lyrically Derek Webb has inherited much of the Steve Taylor spirit.

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  4. He definately grew musically. More peole need to discover his post-CCM band Chagall Gueverra. It didn't last long as none of the players wanted to tour.

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  5. Did I catch a Geoff Moore & the Distance reference in there? Nice one.I always wondered where the Devil KEPT all of the good music anyway.Does he take pains to organize it in the Cusackian (I made this word up)spirit of High Fidelity?

    My current(and serious)take on music is that these days you tend to find more honest and redemptive elements pretty much everywhere BUT the Christian music scene.

    Artists like Patty Griffin, just to name one, are exploring these ideas in ways that are accessible to a lot of people.The lyrics to "Forgiveness":

    We are calling for him tonight on this
    Thin phone line
    As usual we're having ourselves one
    hell of a time
    And the planes keep flying right over our heads
    No matter how loud we shout
    Hey, hey, hey !
    And we keep waving and waving
    Our arms in the air
    But we're all tired out
    I heard somebody say
    Today's the day
    A big old hurricane
    Is blowing our way
    Knocking over the buildings
    Killing all the light
    Open your eyes, boy, we made it through the night
    Open your eyes, boy, we made it through the night
    Let's take a walk on the bridge
    Right over this mess
    Don't need to tell me a thing, baby
    We've already confessed
    And I raised my voice to the air
    And we were blessed
    Everybody needs a little forgiveness
    Everybody needs a little forgiveness

    P.S. Derek Webb is an exception to the Christian rule.

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  6. Kelly: Thanks for mentioning that Patty Griffin song. I stil have it on my best of playlist. Y'all may not like Steve's music as much as his lyrics, but I can't compare him to folk types like Webb. Steve's lyrics are incomparable. There's poetry and truth and change-ups that I never see coming. I'm glad he's going to direct BLJ the movie. But I kinda miss his presence in music.

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  7. I too would love to hear more Steve Taylor. We ran into him on the steet in Laguna Beach, CA one day. Our toddler daughter was with us. (she's now 23 so that dates this a bit). I told Steve how "Meltdown" kept going through my head when I was in labor and delivering our daughter. He told me he was relieved she turned out OK anyway!

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  8. My favorite Steve Taylor song is "Jesus is for Losers". In the late 80s/early 90s back in Pittsburgh where I lived, the first ever Christian video show (called "LightMusic") was produced by a local Christian station and hosted by the late Tom Green . (Not the MTV Tom Green...)

    Tom Green interviewed Steve Taylor during one episode and asked him about "Jesus is for Losers", and I remember Steve saying that the song came to him when he was on his toilet reading a magazine about how a porn star had just become a Christian and he thought something like "Oh great, that's what we need, a porn star..." and stopped in mid-thought realizing that if Jesus isn't for people at the end of their rope or doing something completely opposite than what Jesus tells us to do, then who is Jesus for? So he penned "Jesus is for Losers".

    That had me hooked for good on Steve Taylor. And hooked on Tom Green, too, who would push the envelope by putting secular videos on, like "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum or "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins, saying that both messages were biblical.

    Ahh, good memories. Thanks for the post!

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  9. this is Burnside -Portland?? Cool! I was "exiled" back east 9 years ago. does anyone know where I can get Steve Taylor CDs? My cassette tapes were eaten years ago, before I had a CD player.

    susan

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  10. this is Burnside -Portland?? Cool!! I've been "exiled" back east for 9 years. Does anyone know where I can get Steve Taylor CDs? My cassette tapes were eaten years ago, before I got a CD player.

    Susan

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  11. i did a quick search on amazon and ebay, and both sites had plenty to choose from.

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