11.11.08

Great Christian Music: Petra

Anti-drug campaigns rail against marijuana because of its acclaimed as a “gateway drug,” the harbinger of greater evils to come. But what about “gateway music” – that band, that sound, the one that opens up a young, naive music fan’s ears to deeper, more complex music? In some circles, “gateway music” is frowned upon and discouraged, mostly because it will take the listener away from the prescribed style of music for a given subculture into that which has been deemed inappropriate (for whatever reasons). Growing up in a conservative church setting, rock music was always and obviously the biggest specter, yet with parents who had listened to rock & roll back in their youth, there was one band that proved able to enter my house and eventually pave the way for all others.

Petra was that band and Beyond Belief was the album: in a world where the other kids in my youth group thought it edgy to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, and (gasp!) dc Talk, I was the kid who blared the piercing high tenor of John Schlitt, the thundering drums of Louie Weaver, and the screaming ‘80s-era lead guitar work of Bob Hartman. Even as listened to the album as a freshman in high school, I knew the album was a few years old and that the music style was dated (I actually listened to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden in context on the local radio station secretly on my red boom box), but without Petra’s overt Christian lyrical themes (with attached Scripture in the liner notes!) making them permissible to my parents, bands like Starflyer 59, Joy Electric, and Zao would have never entered my life and truly defined my musical tastes.

My love for this band went as far as selecting the concluding power ballad on this album – “Prayer” – as my choice for what I would sing for Male Solo in area competition in my sophomore year. While other memorable tracks include the imminently sing-able, fist-pump-able, and headband-able (for a teenager in a Pentecostal private school) “Armed And Dangerous,” “I Am On The Rock,” “Seen And Not Heard,” the title cut to this life-changing album will always be my favorite. And yet, as cheese-tastic as the music might be now, there are still some deep theological truths to be found in the song, especially the chorus: “And from faith to faith we grow towards the center of the flow where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief!” Petra – now and forever.

-- Adam P. Newton

10 comments:

  1. Brings back many memories... And i'm with you, "Beyond Belief" is still a favorite.

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  3. Good post Robert.

    I’m a pre-Schlitt Petra fan myself.


    Never Say Die - 81'
    More Power to Ya - 82'
    Not of This World - 83'
    Beat the System - 84'

    Secular or Christian, I believe these to be the best total compilation of early 80’s rock albums by one group. Greg X Volz’s voice was created to rock. (At least during that 4 year span.) See: Judas Kiss.

    Their 1978 LP Come in Join Us isn’t a bad disco/rock album. It’s actually a terrible disco/rock album. But good for having sex to. Not great for having sex to-. But solid. I would rank it with Blues Traveler’s first. The best record for sex now that you’ve asked is In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, side A. 17 minutes of dark bliss. -Then open the blinds, let the warm sunshine in, and enjoy several Marlboros with softly playing Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 as background music. That’s if she’s a brunette. For a blonde you go with James Taylor's Sweet Baby James with the shades open followed by George Michael’s Greatest and a bowl of chilled strawberies. A redhead should made love to with Fleetwood Mac's Rumours followed by a Seinfield re-run and a bowl of cereal. -But only at night. And preferrably Frosted Flakes. During the day you go strictly with Tupac. You should also be married to her at least at the time.

    aaron

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  4. Good post to Adam as well.

    peace
    aaron

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  5. Beyond Belief was AMAZING. "I am on the Rock" made me want to learn drums and grow my hair out long.

    fortunately for the world's sake, i did neither.

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  6. Sorry, for African-American ladies - and this is going to sound crazy, but Barry Manilow's "Barry Manilow II" (feat. Mandy). Afterwards you get a peducure, Mexican food, and go to a comedy.

    aaron

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  7. Thanks for the kind words everyone (despite the case of mistaken identity via Aaron)!

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  8. BTW -- Aaron, Come And Join Us is my favorite pre-Schlitt Petra album, mostly because it has some great '70s rock lead guitar work. But Beat The System isn't too far behind....

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  9. I used to live about 10 minutes from Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, which is a town of about 3,000 people. It is also John Schlitt's hometown. I kid you not, when you enter the town, the city sign says, "Mt. Pulaski, home of John Schlitt." They gave him a key to the city and everything. So we like to refer to Mt. Pulaski as "Schlitt-town" now.

    I love small town America. Anyone can be a star.

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  10. Beth --

    That is one of the most awesome things I have heard this month. Mt. Pulaski should start celebrating John's Birthday so that they could have "Schlitt-Time" on "Schlitt-Day" in "Schlitt-Town." Hehehe....

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