12 Albums I was obssessed with
When I first started seriously getting into music during high school, these were the albums I played over and over. Although there would be several significant albums to come, it’s probably these that ultimately shaped my music taste more than any others.
- Naked Eyes
- Alphaville, Forever Young
- A-ha, Hunting High and Low
- Propaganda, A Secret Wish
- OMD, Crush
- The Cure, Head on the Door
- Echo & the Bunnymen, Songs to Learn and Sing
- Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age of Wireless
- Japan, Oil On Canvas
- Love & Rockets, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
- Cocteau Twins, Treasure
- Yazoo, You and Me Both
What albums shaped you?
I’m going to take this as an invitation to talk about something that is starting to feel like it might have book-length implications, but I’ll try to keep at a manageable length below the fold: how my Christian childhood made me a pop obsessive years before I ever heard any pop music.
In accordance with rocketsandrayguns’ title, I’ll keep it to twelve albums; but in contrast, I’m talking about my favorite albums from before I was a teenager. My album-listening went way down during my teen years as I discovered radio, dubbed tapes from it, and had nowhere to buy music and no money to buy it with. Though I could still probably find at least twelve albums I listened to over and over again in high school without any overlap. In fact … whoa there ambition, let’s get through this bit first.
The bare biographical facts, to begin with: I was born so late in 1977 that it might as well have been 1978 to parents still in the first flush of giddy evangelical fervor in a small town in northern Arizona. I was followed by three more over the next five years, and while we moved around, from the Verde Valley to Tucson to Phoenix to Guatemala (where this tale ends), over the course of my childhood we were never better than broke and frequently worse. My access to mass culture was limited and somewhat incoherent: I remember sharp, almost painful obsessions with the Super Powers toy line, Punky Brewster, the Pac-Man cartoon, and a handful of circa-1986 comic books, all of which ended badly as my parents grew alarmed by my capacity for perseveration on a topic and insisted that whatever it was be thrown out or stopped.
They’d certainly remember it differently, and their memories are probably more accurate; but they’d also admit to being highly influenced by the panic-ridden atmosphere of Christian media in the 1980s, in which Dungeons & Dragons was a façade for Satanism, “heavy metal” didn’t even bother with the façade, and children had to be watched closely for any evidence of corruption. We were homeschooled through most of the 80s, and the few non-Christian kids I knew I disliked as bullies or brats, so it’s not like I had many opportunities to be corrupted. But I also don’t remember experiencing either of the two reactions you’d expect: I neither resented my parents for their heavy-handed policing of my cultural intake, nor shared in their fear for my easily-possessed young soul. Satan never scared me; commercials for Freddy Kreuguer and Chucky films did. Rare trips to the video store to rent a VCR along with a VHS tape per child, in which everything not safely in Family or Classics seemed to promise horror after horror (or, after about nine, an enchanted cornucopia of sexual titillation) only confirmed the stark otherness of the secular world as a place where people were casually cruel, reveling in dismemberment with a glee that bordered on the psychopathic. (I still have no stomach for horror, even as an intellectual exercise.)
I confess all of the above to explain how it was that I never listened to pop music before early 1991. Or rather, not to what the rest of my generation experienced as pop music. I knew Madonna as a name and a source of controversy long before I ever heard a note by her; I knew U2 only as a front-page cover story in the newspaper during what I now recognize as the Rattle & Hum tour; I knew Michael Jackson as Captain Eo from a single trip to Disneyland. And that, excluding Judy Garland and Fred Astaire from old movies, was it. Nevertheless, there was music.
I was the oldest child; there was no one to introduce me to anything beyond what my parents listened to. My mother had been raised in almost exactly the same way and knew nothing but Christian music herself; and my father had given up his hippie music along with his pot habit when he converted the year before he met her. My cousin, eight years older than me, who stayed with my family while she went to college, only listened to Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow before converting to evangelical Christianity herself and renouncing the things of this world.
I never saw a CD player until I was well into the 1990s; as far as I was concerned, music existed on cassette tapes — and on a small stash of vinyl in the cabinet under the stereo, which I listened to less often because that would be public listening out in the living room, and I was as far back as I can remember much more interested in my private relationship with music, as played on a succession of crappy players which I got for Christmas or inherited from cousins or family friends who had upgraded to better systems. Cassettes, like books, were always in the house; I suspect that when richer church members asked my parents what they could give us, we being so clearly not-rich and they wanting to encourage the noble project of raising four children to follow Jesus, that my parents always said books and tapes. We had so many that for about a year I fell asleep to a tape of the King James Version of the Gospel of John. I can still quote the first chapter pretty well.
1. Rich Mullins, Never Picture Perfect (1989)
I never experienced Christianity as a burden. A bore, certainly, like any kid who’s sat through a sermon. But most of life was a bore, patiently waiting through errands and visits and trips to the zoo until I could get back to the book I was reading or the comic I was drawing (none survive) or the tape I was listening to. But Christianity, as I understood it in childhood, was simply a way of looking at the world (one for which I retain great fondness) as being infused with huge mythic and symbolic meaning. I had internalized the Narnia books by the time I was seven (when my dad, reading them aloud, skipped or changed words to make them easier for my younger siblings to understand, I furiously corrected him), and I always understood them as distinctly Christian, and all the better for it. In Lewis’s own phrase, they baptized my imagination: and I still see the physical world as haunted by spiritual significance, even if I’m no longer able to give intellectual justifications for it.
A happily Christian childhood seems to be rare, at least among the self-reporters who indulge in online memoir. Even those who end up within the fold prefer to cast themselves as rebellious or at least unwilling youths — there’s still no narrative quite like “prince of sinners repents,” not since Augustine — which is why Rich Mullins’ “First Family” was a lodestone to my imagination. He too had a happily Christian childhood, one that resonated more with my mother’s stories of her childhood than with my own experience (they were both rural Midwesterners, we were urban Westerners), but a line like “one bathroom to bathe and shave, and six of us stood in line” couldn’t help but strike a chord with a boy who’d lived all his life in tiny townhouses that were far too cramped for a family of six, and beginning to note the difference between his family’s lifestyle and that of everyone else he knew.
Never Picture Perfect was my first encounter with music as something made by a person, a particular individual with his own perspective and sense of humor and peculiar yearnings towards something that no one else quite shared. (If I had to make a comparison for an unfamiliar secular audience, maybe a less status-conscious, spiritual Mellencamp? Better, though.) Rich Mullins would be my favorite musician from then on until the day of his death in 1996, not long after I had seen him perform/lead an auditorium in worship at a college whose tuition I have long since paid off. He never fit entirely comfortably into the Christian contemporary market, even though a handful of his songs have become standards in churches throughout the world. But as the earnest cyberpunk intro to “Higher Education And The Book Of Love” and the quote from Kierkegaard in the liner notes to “My One Thing” made plain, he had greater ambitions than being just another worship songwriter. I was a little freaked out by “Higher Education” as a kid — my cousin (it was her tape originally) couldn’t bear it, and may have even called it demonic at one point — but even though I now recognize the methodology as a kind of sub-Was (Not Was) narrative-builder, its triumphant humanism has stayed with me throughout my life:
“What does it mean to be human? I cannot help but believe that it means that we are spiritual — that we are responsible — that we are free. That we are responsible … to be free.”
Philip Pullman couldn’t ask for better. The song itself, save for the extended sax-jam coda, doesn’t live up to it, and the lyrics draw a false equivalence between the theory of evolution and hardline Marxist determinism (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mullins later disowned it), but the fact that it engaged at all with intellectual ideas, even if only to disparage them in favor of “getting back to what was written in the Book of Love,” was my first taste of the idea that Christians — that people such as myself — didn’t have to be afraid of intellectualism, that there were no ideas, if clearly and honestly examined, out of bounds for consideration, even if you ultimately rejected them.
But more than that, Mullins pointed me towards a longing for (this is embarrassing to type, but I’ll explain) heaven that remains the only true spiritual experience I’ve ever emotionally assented to. The last (non-reprise) song on the album, “Somewhere,” a big crashing string-strobe ballad with thunderous percussion that still sends thrills through me, is all about evoking that hunger for transcendence. He catches the dilemma of mortal existence in a striking phrase — “We’re all hanging empty/Empty and upside-down” — and demands that there be something more, “Beyond these reasons and feelings/Beyond the passion and fatigue.” His voice, rough-grained at the best of times, practically shakes with need and desire, and awakes an answering echo within me. I never understood what my parents meant when they said that Christians should desire heaven above everything else, until I caught a glimpse of what that emotional state was actually like. I still want it.
But do I, today, believe in heaven?
Let us say that I hope for resolution. Life as we know it is not reducible to the narrative strictures of conflict and resolve; it is the essence of all religious hope that death, somehow, is.
2. Phil Keaggy, Town To Town (1981)
If Rich Mullins was my first encounter with music as personal expression, then Phil Keaggy was my first encounter with music as sharp, piercing beauty, as an overwhelming rush of aesthetic pleasure that transformed the world around it, magicking everyday life into something more keenly vivid, more meaningful — even more fictional.
We were driving home from the library as dusk fell. My dad, who couldn’t entirely give up his hippie-bred love for guitar heroes, just transferred it to someone who sang about God, had just gotten this tape and played it in an unusually quiet minivan; my younger siblings must have been exhausted, or maybe they were up to something, but I remember few trips so silent and reflective. Keaggy’s sparkling guitars, the compressed early-80s production, and lyrics which didn’t strike me at first listen as immediately understandable, but in a mysterious way part of the music (a standard pop strategy, as I now know, but among the earnest didacticism of most Christian music it was a revelation) combined to create one of the earliest aesthetic experiences I remember. The way the fading sunlight caught the massed willows looming us as we turned down the street into our neighborhood, each leaf shimmering darkly in the dusk as the chords shifted and billowed around me, remains a source of comfort and beauty decades later.
Phil Keaggy was the kind of musician that got stories told about him in Christian circles: didja know that Jimi Hendrix once called him the best guitarist in the world? (No he didn’t). Didja know he’s missing a finger and he can still play better than almost anyone? (Half a finger, on his picking hand.) Didja know he wrote “Your Love Broke Through”? (Can you even read credits?) Status-anxious Christian music fans would point to him as proof that Christian music was real music, man. Well, sure. It’s got notes and rhythms and everything.
Town To Town sounds a bit like a less-edgy Dire Straits, and Keaggy’s vocals are a lot like Paul McCartney’s at his wimpiest. This isn’t meant to be derogatory, just descriptive. (Sometimes his guitar tone can get a little Cars-y!) I don’t think any of this is bad — okay, the ballads are a little dull, but due to the frozen-in-amber quality they have because of my early love for the album, I still think they’re lovely. Keaggy (like McCartney) is a melodicist above all else, and on songs like “Wished You Were There” and “In Between” he approaches power-pop heights within the glossy strictures of commercial 80s Christian pop. And his guitar-hero take on the hymn “Rise Up O Men Of God,” incidentally, inspired me to find all the modern pop/rock recordings of old hymns I could find, an early example of the cratedigging ethos which has been the most consistent feature of my adult taste.
About which more later.
3. Michael W. Smith, The Big Picture (1986)
I wrote about this album, and more specifically its opening song, “Lamu,” several years ago, when I was planning on writing about a lot more of the Christian music I grew up with. If you’ll excuse the long self-quote:
On the way to the game, and possibly on the way back, the cassette in the minivan was Michael W. Smith’s The Big Picture, and it is new and wonderful and strange music to the boy, and his head is full of it as he reads; not the words, which he would memorize later on many subsequent listenings, but the thick, urban, synthesized sound of it, a sound which he would later be able to identify as mid-80s, a sound the roots of which he would be surprised, later in life, to identify in Thomas Dolby and the Buggles and Van Halen and Gary Numan and the Cult.
Christian music is all he has ever known, either the worship music which he hears live in church, strummed by cheerful men in beards and slacks, or the Christian pop on the radio, on records, and increasingly on cassettes as his eighteen-year-old cousin, who lives with them, expands her musical horizons from Barry Manilow and Barbra Streisand to include Steve Camp, Second Chapter of Acts, and Michael W. Smith. It’s her cassette that’s in the minivan, and four or five years later he will ask her to mail it over two international borders so he can hear it again.
The Big Picture was released in 1986, and in the larger arc of Michael W. Smith’s career, it represents an anomaly, an attempt at au courant hipness and youth appeal that he would soon abandon for the more predictable and safe adult-contemporary market. He notched a couple of low-level hits on secular radio, but soon retreated back into the comforting, undemanding arms of Christian bland-pop, applying his talent for orchestration and urgent melody to easy sells like worship music or Chicken Soup for the Soul-themed albums.
But for a nine-year-old who had never heard of U2 or Prince, let alone Hüsker Dü or Run-DMC, Michael W. Smith was as hip, as exciting, and even (on some level) as dangerous a music as he’d ever heard. Heavy guitars were vaguely identified with the devil, but on this album shiny hair-metal guitars wailed, screeched, and soared, especially on the second side, which got heavier and heavier until “You’re Alright,” the self-esteem-anthem closer, was honest-to-goodness hard rock — even heavy metal, in a glossy Judas Priest kind of way.
The gloss was how he got away with it, of course. There wasn’t a single dark crunchita-crunchita on the album; guitars only played lead, not rhythm, and studio synths and big echoing drums did the rest. And though the cover of the album was a trippy floating-head-and-picture-frames montage, Smith’s own photo showed a pleasantly dorky young man (who looks not unlike a bearded, tease-coiffed Chris Kirkpatrick) in a floridly somber silk shirt; this was not a threatening dude.
Which doesn’t mean that it’s bad, soulless music; in fact, it’s quite accomplished, especially the multifaceted, complex arrangements (a classically-trained pianist, Smith started out as an arranger, studio musician, and songwriter for the likes of Amy Grant; his first album was tentatively titled The Michael W. Smith Project) and the colorful, immediate kaleidoscope of sounds. He’d studied his Trevor Horn and his Brian Eno; and of course, the vast majority of his youthful evangelical audience could be relied upon not to know where he got his ideas.
The nine-year-old boy had no idea, but he did know that the music was surging and shining, a perfect correlative to this sultry urban night in 1987. Looking out of the tinted windows in the back of the minivan and seeing streetlights reflected on chrome and the flash and twinkle of headlights, stoplights, even a star or two between the fathomless black shapes, listening to the music made him feel grown-up and sophisticated, off-balance but in motion. And though it rarely mentioned the name Jesus or said anything explicit about God, a well-read, highly-churched nine-year-old could easily parse the Christian message in every song.
Almost. The opening song on the album became a source of fascination for him. It was called “Lamu,” and in the song Lamu was the name of a tropical island where the narrator attempted to escape from the bustle and social inhibitions of civilization, only to find that conscience and a moral sense were still with him regardless of how far he tried to run. Years later, the boy would write and perform in skits with the same basic message, and in hindsight it’s obvious that the island was a metaphor for the various forms of escape — drugs, alcohol, sex — which pastors, youth ministers, and parents have always attempted to dissuade teenagers from. But he was a literal-minded boy, and the opening verse,
Here we are on a boat out on the sea
Off the coast of Africa
Heading for peaceful shores in a nest of strangers
To an island hideaway
with its specificity of detail (and brazen non-rhyme), made him wonder if perhaps it was based on an actual incident, some kind of attempt at a real-life Fantasy Island gone horribly wrong. Like Lord of the Flies, only he wouldn’t read that for another seven years. There was even an hint of sex in the song, though the reference was of course negative. But on the whole the song struck him as being unusual, even daring, for a Christian pop song. He was pretty intimately familiar with Christian pop songs, and (ironically, considering the frequency of parables in the Gospels) they were almost uniformly blunt and unsubtle about their message; Smith’s allegory of conscience was a window, even if a small one, into a wider, more unpredictable and artistic, world.
Today I would only apologize for the irritating third-person autobiography and add that for someone on the cusp of teenagerhood, this album, and Christian media in general, painted a darkly glamorous, high-stakes vision of adolescence that I was more relieved than disappointed to find did not match up to the reality, which consisted of a lot more sitting around making dumb jokes, eating lunch, and reading than sexual pressure, identity crisis, or Big Decisions. As a kid, I dreaded being a teenager, because teenagers were assholes. But once it happened, it turned out they were just more people.
4. Carman, Comin’ On Strong (1984)
“Yeah,” said my dad with a shrug, “he’s really more of an entertainer, isn’t he?”
This simple formulation broke my world in 1989. We had tickets to see Carman at the Coliseum (then home of the Phoenix Suns), and I was really looking forward to it. Not, as far as I can remember, because I particularly liked Carman as such (I was slightly creeped out by what I can only call in retrospect his Italianness), but I liked a lot of his songs because they were dramatic and told stories and were frequently funny, the way good preachers often use arresting anecdotes and one-liners to keep their congregations’ attention.
This would have been the Revival In The Land tour, an apex of sorts for Carman’s particular brand of theatrical fundamentalist entertainment. The album, which I had listened to over and over again, was a slickly-produced slice of late-80s funk, hard rock, hip-hop, and saccharine ballads, with two extended setpieces which worked as much like radio plays than like pop songs: the Satanist-panic “Witch’s Invitation” and the Screwtapian “Revival In The Land.” Carman, almost alone among the musicians of my youth, had a lot of anti-Satan songs (in which the devil was frequently portrayed as a scary but oafish administrator), which worried me slightly until my father’s offhand comment upended my perspective. Of course he liked to play Satan: as any backstage Mephistopheles will tell you, it’s the role of a lifetime, and Carman could indulge his talent for goofy voices and a somewhat hackneyed sense of humor without worrying about offending anyone.
Relistening to him now, he reminds me of no one so much as a born-again Andrew Dice Clay, veering wildly between borderline-offensive stereotype comedy and utterly sincere ballad bellowing. Comin’ On Strong was the first album I knew by him, and my favorite songs on it as child were “Spirit Filled Pizza” (bunch of goombas find the Lord, complete with accents) and “Lazarus, Come Forth” (a dramatic retelling of John 11 with a scene in Limbo featuring the Hebrew patriarchs as a bunch of elderly black men). The rest of the album borrowed heavily from Giorgio Moroder, ZTT, and Lionel Richie without a tenth of the lyrical complexity, and I mostly sat through it to get to the stuff I liked. (Remember how with tapes you had to do that?)
Carman is definitely the most embarrassing of the musicians on this list: not only is he goofy and nakedly evangelistic, his theology is crude and his morality cruder. The last song, “The Light Of Jesus To The World,” includes the line “the homosexual in San Francisco’s trapped in vile bondage” in a list of Things Wrong With The World, which made me turn cold when I heard it the other day. I’m certain I didn’t know what homosexual meant back when I listened to this tape frequently (I think I thought it was a kind of drug addict), but the culture-war implications I was too young to get turn my stomach today.
Nevertheless, I retain a fondness for his dramatic, sound effect-laden story-songs that were my first introduction to sonic ambition and narrative complexity in pop music, the kind of thing that would make me a psych and prog fan as I escaped my teenage years. For a while I would call the Who my favorite band, and I’m pretty sure I have Carman to thank.
5. Glad, No Less Than All (1983)
When I was a kid, it was very important to establish my own identity, to stake out a preserve of topics and interests and desires that were mine and mine alone, not shared by my parents or siblings or anyone else I came into contact with through church or the neighborhood or (briefly) school. But it was equally important, if clearly impossible, to be able to talk about these interests with somebody. A large source of heartache as a kid was being passionately attached to things that no one else cared about or wanted to talk about. Sure, that meant they were all the more mine, but without a forum in which to give my views on them, they felt weightless, evanescent, ultimately meaningless.
That desire to talk about stuff I liked a lot was (apart from a friendship or two in high school) never really fulfilled until the internet came along. Then in confused reaction, I plunged into interests so obscure that not even the internet could follow me. (Holla if you know who Dornford Yates, Florence Mills, or Ulf K. are.) Even this queasy quasi-memoir is at least partially attributable to my obscurantist instincts, the hahaha-none-of-y’all-have-heard-any-of-this-shit drive that remains my worst feature as a critic.
Which is (kinda) why my first-ever favorite band was Glad. (Other reasons to follow.) They were so clearly, so absolutely nobody else’s favorite band. The first I heard of them was the first pretty much anyone ever heard of them, with their 1988 album The Acapella Project. It was part of a short-lived (but wonderful while it lasted, at least as far as I was concerned) fad in Christian-music circles for a capella singing, and their magnificent harmonies and inventive, semi-jazzy arrangements made their takes on old hymns and a handful of new songs that sounded a lot like old hymns utterly appealing. They kind of blew my mind, in fact; you could do this? Just record an album with the human voice and nothing else? And still have it be this rhythmic and joyous? On the other hand, my favorite track was “Depending On Your Love,” in which finger snaps and other bodily percussives were synthesized to form a sort of sparkly electronic backing to the cut-glass harmonies. (I still dig “all sounds on this recording were made by the human body with no other instrumentation” records. Meredith Monk to thread.)
But my obsession with that album led very quickly (astonishingly quickly, looking at the timeline) to digging up Glad’s previous ten-year career in Christian music. (The biggest surprise of which was finding that my parents had one of their first records on vinyl, one which when I listened to it barely caught at the edge of my memory. The last time I’d heard it, my mom thought, I would have been three.) Every time we visited the Christian bookstore (less often than the library, more often than the zoo), I’d beg my mom to buy another Glad tape. She made me do it, once, and I still remember the sick feeling when I realized I didn’t have enough for the sales tax.
If memory serves, that tape was No Less Than All, which I insisted we play on the way home, and the clavichord notes that open it still jolt me back to childhood, even as the song’s descent into AM-lite soft rock remains an eternal disappointment. I was getting old enough to crave guitars and aggression, and Glad did not do either of those well. (Their only real attempt, Who Do You Love, I haven’t returned to for fear of being too embarrassed by it.) They originally called themselves a progressive rock band, but while that meant more Supertramp than Yes, they could nevertheless play, and had a broader base of musical knowledge than the typical Christian group.
Which they proved with the last song on No Less Than All, which the first time I heard it immediately became my favorite song of theirs and remains so, if with a more rueful smile, today. It was called “Variations On A Hymn,” with a parenthetical “(That Hymn Thing)” because, obviously, “that hymn thing” was what they called it when they did it in concert, as they had done for years before putting it to tape. It’s a rendition of the Wesleyan hymn “We Praise Thee O God, Our Redeemer Creator” as sung a) in its original form as a barroom singalong, b) as a church hymn with John Wesley’s lyrics, c) as a cabaret song of the pre-rock era (kind of), d) as a country-boogie number, e) as a rather well-done Beach Boys pastiche, and d) in their own polished harmony-heavy rock style. (Later they added a “rap” version just before their own style, which at one time I thought was pretty funny and now just find embarrassing.)
But that parenthetical “kind of” I threw in above there tells its own story: I became the kind of music nerd who can tell the difference between a song written in the 1940s and one written in the 1970s to evoke the 1940s at the drop of a hat, the kind of music nerd who, in short, loves hot jazz and country boogie and 60s pop and rock & roll with the same intensity, and arguably more depth of knowledge, as he does any music created within his own lifetime. I don’t know if I could say it’s strictly because of Glad (I think I’d be an omnivore no matter what), but the synapses formed by that early exposure to cross-genre mixing and matching didn’t go to waste.
6. Amy Grant, Lead Me On (1988)
On the way up to the cabin, my mom showed me this tape. “It’s her new one,” she said. “Put it in.”
We were spending the summer of 1988 at a cabin in Forest Lakes, a summer-cabin development between Payson and Heber in the mountainous middle-north of Arizona. My dad, a construction teacher the rest of the year, was building it for some richer friends, and it got us out of the miserable Phoenix heat and saved us money on utilities and I’d probably call it the best summer of my life if I thought about it, but I try not to quantify my life like that. We slept in sleeping bags and helped with insulation and drywall and walked to the pond and learned to skip stones and found sticks that looked like guns and trampled acres of ferns and climbed pine trees and got sap stuck in our hair and drank hot chocolate every morning and read Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of N.I.M.H. and The Pilgrim’s Progress and The Hobbit and took cold showers and prised dirt clods out of the ground and threw them in big satisfying dusty explosions against trees and tried to learn to throw knives so that they would stick quivering in wood but mom’s steak knives didn’t work that well and don’t even try it with a butter knife you’ll look like an idiot.
Amy Grant’s Lead Me On was the soundtrack to it all, along with Glad’s The Acapella Project and Who Do You Love and Don Francisco’s One Heart At A Time. (There were probably more tapes, but those are the ones I remember.) Of all the albums on this list, Lead Me On is the only one that’s grown with me to the point where I don’t feel it necessary to apologize or explain or make excuses, and I find more in it today than I did then. It’s a good record, thoughtful and confessional and passionate and taking stock of Amy Grant’s life, faith, and marriage without resorting to trite pieties or easy answers. And she sang in a breathy rasp on it (my mom: “she’ll ruin her voice”), and there were loud guitars and louder drums and it was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard and I was slightly ashamed that I liked it so much because she was a girl and girls liked girl music, but I thought maybe the loud guitars made it okay.
I knew Amy Grant’s discography pretty intimately, because my mother loved her; she once told me that she’d always felt a connection with Amy Grant because they were the same age and both came up in the church and loved to sing. The vinyl records Amy Grant, Age To Age, and Straight Ahead were in such regular rotation in our home that my sister invented a gymnastics routine to “Angels” when she was seven. We’d skipped Unguarded (or at least I never listened to it much; I certainly remember the cover art) — word in the church circles was that it was a (sniff) pop album — but Lead Me On was too great not to love.
I’m told it wasn’t very successful (though it would later be called the greatest Christian contemporary album of all time), and Grant’s next album, Heart In Motion, really was a pop album, and I heard “Every Heartbeat” on the radio when I started listening to the radio, and my mom sighed, disappointed. (I don’t really remember, but I bet that record’s pretty good by my now-debased pop fan standards; I should check.) Lead Me On was apparently a step too far for much of Amy Grant’s devoted Christian fanbase, as she ruminated on the Holocaust in “Lead Me On,” confessed to adulterous fantasies in “Faithless Heart,” called out authoritarians and capitalists in “What About The Love,” and covered Jimmy “Macarthur Park” Webb on “If These Walls Could Talk.” With very slightly tweaked production, the album could easily be a modern country classic, but with relatively few direct references to Jesus, it didn’t suit the imperatives of the Christian-radio marketplace, and Grant has mostly plowed a comfortably domestic Adult Contemporary furrow ever since. I’ll always be grateful to her for two things, though.
She taught me to love women’s voices (listening to bands today I’m always disappointed when men sing if there’s a woman around who can do it), and she recorded A Christmas Album, one of three records I always listen to in December. (The others are Michael W. Smith’s Christmas and Sparrow’s various-artist 25 Songs Of Christmas. They’re pure, uncut nostalgia, like It’s A Wonderful Life and sitting in a darkened room lit only by the flashing lights of the tree.) Her “Sleigh Bells” is the definitive version as far as I’m concerned.
7. Take 6, Take 6 (1988)
Speaking of albums I’m not embarrassed by!
Though it hasn’t grown with me. In fact the reverse; I now hear exactly how indebted it is to black gospel traditions, of which I was entirely ignorant as a child. What were exciting and even kind of stomach-turning harmonies when I was ten I now hear as simple modal progressions — certainly Take 6 is jazzier and more complex than the Persuasions or the Dixie Hummingbirds, but their sleek sound is only a polished 80s update on the great tradition of black vocal groups from whence at least half of American music as we know it derives.
My childhood was spent mostly in ignorance of black people. I read about Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman without either the degradation (as experienced by black Americans) or the shame (as experience by white Americans) of slavery being real to me; I watched The Cosby Show with no real notion that there were different historical imperatives driving it than drove Family Ties, which came on right after. (Bill Cosby might say that was a good thing; I respectfully disagree.) Take 6 was my first encounter with anything like living black music (I’d heard spirituals on some of those Wee Sing tapes as a very young boy), and while I recognized it as different from the rest of the music I knew — more sophisticated than Glad’s a capella albums, way more sophisticated than Acapella’s a capella albums — I didn’t hear the difference as one of authenticity, the way I even unconsciously do now, though I consciously fight against it.
(To be clear: my position is that authenticity is a critical bugbear, a culturally-imposed condition on certain musics that has no place in the critical arsenal unless the critic is explicitly examining claims to authenticity. Sure it’s widely believed that for example James Brown is a more authentic soul man than for example Joe Cocker; but what does that say about the late 60s, the different traditions they drew from, and the music itself? Is Joe Cocker a more authentic soul man than Mick Hucknall? Is James Brown more authentic than Sam Cooke? How? Why? Etc.)
Of course, the very fact that I find this much more acceptable to listen to for pleasure than most of the rest of the Christian music I grew up on is problematic: what, only black people can be sincerely Christian in pop music? Answer: of course not; country singers can too. Which doesn’t answer the problem so much as it adds another layer of condescension and infantilization to it. (My mother’s earliest favorite music was that made by the Gaithers, honest-to-God country gospellers, and slightly after this narrative runs out of steam I got hooked on a Gaither Vocal Band album that was my first fall-in-love-with-country experience, as Take 6 was my first fall-in-love-with-black-music experience.)
Black gospel and white gospel, soul and country, have been the twin engines of American popular music since rock & roll replaced popular song in the 1950s. (Could I be more simplistic? Not easily.) The fact that very little of the music I listened to as a child derived from either source is as much a sign of how desperate the suburbanite evangelical culture I grew up in was to sound as close to contemporary pop norms as possible (for both evangelical and inferiority-complex purposes) as it is a marker of how divorced from any historical continuity with any particular Christian tradition that suburbanite evangelical culture is. (But that’s an entirely separate essay.)
Take 6 featured plenty of traditional African-American gospel songs — though not arranged traditionally; their harmonic choices owe as much to third-stream jazz as to black gospel convention — and a handful of originals that were as much indebted to gospel tradition as they were to contemporary Christian stylings. My favorite, predictably enough, was the engaging narrative “David And Goliath,” with the bass singer getting plenty of reverb to play Goliath and lots of playful slides up and down the scale. (Another passing obsession of mine: songs that retold Bible stories. There were a lot!) It may have owed something to Carman’s brand of storytelling showmanship, or maybe they were both operating in the same tradition; but their next album featured a cover of Carman’s “Sunday’s On The Way” which was way better than the original.
Or maybe that’s “authenticity” at work again, thinking that African-American humor is somehow better than Italian-American humor, which is better(?) than Anglo-American humor (which we’ll get to).
8. The Imperials, One More Song For You (1979)
Nostalgia is a tricky bitch. My first encounter with her (that I remember; memory’s even trickier and usually bitchier) was in the winter of 1990, when my family had moved into our own house in Guatemala, after three months of staying with a Guatemalan family while we went to language school. We finally had access to our stuff again, and my dad set up the stereo and I dug through the tapes and records looking for what had survived the garage sales and the trip down and the months of storage.
The Imperials’ One More Song For You was on top of the record stack. I pulled it out. I hadn’t listened to it in years, not since Tucson probably (that would have been … 1985?) and I associated it even more with the house in Cornville (yes, Cornville), which we left when I was six and only vaguely remember. I laid it down on the turntable, holding it gingerly by the edges like I had been taught, and placed the needle towards the edge.
Today I can listen to the same thing in seconds on my iPod, but of course it’s not entirely the same, because I bought it from iTunes and it doesn’t have the vinyl crackle which twenty years ago transported me even ten years earlier than that, to the brown shag carpet in front of the blonde wood cabinets, where I pulled out records and looked at them, memorizing their covers front and back. The Imperials were a happy-looking bunch of guys with friendly facial hair and casual clothing. One guy looked Hispanic; another looked like my grandfather. And their name was spelled out in glowing lines which seemed vaguely magical to me, even as a mostly-sensible twelve-year-old who could read the words.
I’ve still never heard anything like it, quite. Oh, it’s not unusual, I don’t mean: it’s post-disco 70s soft rock with nice gospelly harmonies and a hell of a lead singer in Russ Taff (the cracks in his voice, now that’s magical). I’d imagine the Eagles put out records not unlike this at the butt-end of the 70s. But every note, every silken guitar stroke and padded drum beat is seared across my memory with such deliciousness that I can’t even feel superior to it, the way I do to Carman and Glad and even Rich Mullins (forgive me). It’s fundamentally a part of who I am; which doesn’t mean I would like anything that sounds like it. (Could anything sound exactly like it, that strange mixture of wimpiness and careful production? Not glossy; it feels handmade, although that’s probably my half-submerged memory of the late 70s and early 80s in rural Arizona leaking through and staining everything.)
I remember playing it over and over again in 1990, and I remember playing it over and over again in 1984, and I remember hearing it over and over again in years I can’t name before that. And I remember playing it over and over again three years ago when I first began to dig through the music of my childhood as an adult. Even now when it comes up on Shuffle I let it play. Most of this stuff doesn’t fit my mood, or the character of my collection; I have it more for reference than for listening to. But the Imperials are always welcome.
They were a vocal gospel quartet that got started in the 60s and are still around today in some configuration or another; this and a Christmas record are the only things I’ve heard by them. I haven’t dared to listen to more, in case it diminishes this. Nostalgia? Absolutely. I’ll defend it to the death.
9. 2nd Chapter Of Acts, The Roar Of Love (1980)
C.S. Lewis was probably the most influential writer — no, scratch that, definitely the most influential writer — on my intellectual and aesthetic development as a child, as a teenager, and (only slightly less) as an adult. I don’t think this is good or bad; it’s just the case. As a grown man who retains a lot of affection and sympathy for Christianity without feeling particularly a part of it, I’ve found plenty of good solid humanism and even agnosticism in Lewis that I didn’t see as a younger man. As a teenager, I learned to think things through from his nonfiction and developed a passion for Arthurian romance from That Hideous Strength. And as a child, as I’ve already said, I learned to see the world as magical and full of meaning. Hell, for a child growing up in Arizona, any winter was magical, let alone an unending one, and the Pevensies, with their odd British slang and familiarity with Shakespeare, were fully as enchanting as any true-born Narnian.
The Narnia books were my first moral instructors — Digory’s reverence for “Thou Shalt Not Steal” in The Magician’s Nephew has left me incurably honest in financial matters — my first aesthetic experiences — the final chapters of The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader will take longer to get over than I have to live — and my first intimations of sexual identity — Aravis and Lasaraleen; I’ll say no more. They are far more deeply a part of me than the profoundest, most enriching music could ever be.
Once alerted to the existence of this record — a concept album on The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe from the three-sibling vocal group that had done as much as anyone to create the existence of contemporary Christian music in the 1970s — I had to hear it. It was only on vinyl at the Christian bookstore. Fine — I begged and pleaded with my mom. Finally it came home. And I listened to it.
I was disappointed. Well, inevitably. Nothing could live up to what was in my head, certainly not Michael Omartian’s squiggly synths and the sub-Hair songwriting. (Not that I registered either of them at the time.) What I wanted, I later realized, was an album that would sweep me up and take me away as intensely as the books had done, not a half hour of program music with nice harmonies and a didactic through-line that spoiled the effect of the book by making the Jesus parallels obvious instead of an organic part of the world.
Nevertheless I played it over and over, trying to love it because it was to do with Narnia (I’ve felt the same about Pauline Baynes’ illustrations for as long as I can remember), and when I began to download music at the dawn of the brave new millennium it was the first Christian album I looked for, and remains the only album I’ve ever had in every format I’ve owned music in. It’s not good, and it’s certainly not Narnia (which is aesthetically beyond good or bad, for me anyway), but it’s as much a part of my youth as everything else on this list; in some ways even more so, since it touched so central a nerve.
10. Keith Green, The Ministry Years (1977-1987)
This is a bit of a cheat; The Ministry Years was a four-tape set, a retrospective of Green’s work which collected just about everything he’d ever recorded between his debut in 1977 and his death in 1982, with posthumous releases trickling out over the next five years, until this definitive statement was issued in 1987, scouring the vaults and creating a monolithic body of work that, I always felt, anyone interested in in Christian music would have to come to terms with, for good or ill.
I felt this for two reasons: first because his music was always around. It’s only slightly hyperbolic to say that I grew up inside a Keith Green song, that’s how omnipresent and univocal his presence was in my life. My mother played him as working-around-the-house music, and when she wasn’t playing it she was singing it, and when we went to church they played it there, and when we went over to friends’ houses it was there as well. Keith Green’s voice is as familiar to me as those of my mother and my father, and triggers nearly the same inchoate, blind love and respect regardless of what my nitpicking brain may say about their failings and limitations. He’s more intimately a part of me, because absorbed unconsciously, than anything I’ve ever sat down to read or watch.
But the other reason is more specific to my listening habits. Beginning around 1988, when I was ten, I started to compile a list in my head of my favorite songs. List-making is one of the ways I’ve always expressed myself as far back as I can remember, a quasi-Aspergerian need to order existence which can easily get away from me; I still have hundred-page documents on my hard drive listing nothing but albums I wanted to buy in 2001. But I was strict about this “favorite song” list: only one per artist (because anything else was NOT FAIR, a principle I hold to still), and it had to be my favorite, not what I thought was the best (a distinction I still have trouble making). The acts named above all came easily: Rich Mullins’ “Alrightokuhuhamen,” Phil Keaggy’s “Town To Town,” Michael W. Smith’s “Lamu,” Carman’s “The Champion,” Glad’s “Variations On A Hymn (That Hymn Thing),” Amy Grant’s “Sing Your Praise To The Lord,” Take 6’s “David And Goliath,” the Imperials’ “Higher Power,” one of the songs from 2nd Chapter Of Acts’ Hymns (I was torn between “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”), and … something from Keith Green. But what?
It was a question that seriously exercised me. I “borrowed” the tapes from the family stereo (my usual method; there were very few tapes I could call my own) and listened to them over and over again, fast-forwarding through the ballads and the altar calls and the straight worship songs that we sang in church, which I obscurely felt didn’t count. I kept coming back to the uptempo numbers, the ones where he indulged his talent for boogie-woogie rock & roll piano — Elton John is the standard comparison, though relistening now brings Nicky Hopkins to mind, and I wonder uneasily how much my affection for Hopkins’ solo records is a function of a subconscious affinity for Keith Green — and his keen, sometimes even cutting, sense of humor. “Dear John Letter (To The Devil)” and “No One Believes In Me Any More” vaguely worried me, since they were about Satan (now they just sound like the Rolling Stones with a hyper hippie in place of Jagger), but there was an insistent life to them that drew me back regardless. “So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt” was a strong front-runner (I still like it a lot), thanks to its goofy sound effects and how much of a ball Green and the studio musicians were clearly having recording it. (“Buh-MANNA bread!” still makes me giggle.) And then there were two extended setpieces that I could not get out of my head, and I wondered if I should use one of them just because their running time would show off Keith Green’s importance. “The Prodigal Son Suite,” a twelve-minute recounting of the title parable, was what was left over from an abandoned rock opera about the Gospels, and remains a vivid, stirring work piece of program music. And “The Sheep And The Goats,” a spoken-word interpretation of Matthew 25 over a dramatic piano bed, remains one of the most effective short sermons on a text I’ve ever heard. It helps no doubt that about the only Christian tradition that still resonates in my emotional life is social justice.
I still don’t know what my favorite Keith Green song would be; while I’d probably pick something like the unsparingly critical-of-the-church “Asleep In The Light” if I were going to make a list of Important Songs, and as I listened to this collection again over the past weekend I found myself singing along to some of the first songs I ever learned to sing, there’s an uncomfortable sincerity to all his performances, a wide-eyed insistence on stark and simplistic morality as applied to a world that I’ve spent years learning to complicate, problematize, and see from every angle. I can’t imagine introducing a non-Christian to Keith Green’s music, whereas I just about can with everyone else on this list, if only for Carman’s camp value or Take 6’s harmonies.
A lot of my adult life has been about escaping the world in which I grew up, swathed in his music, so deeply immersed in it that when I began to seriously read the Bible as a teenager I could still smell him on every page. There’s a certain part of me that furiously rejects him, that reacts as though scalded to the sincerity and passion in his voice; but on a deeper level still I’m surprised to find that he’s been there all along in the back of my mind, unremembered. I don’t know if I can ever sing along unselfconsciously again — there’s a Fall of Man fable in there somewhere — but I was surprised to find how easy it was to fall right back into his dorky Anglo-American groove.
11. First Call, God Is Good (1989)
This was one of the last albums I got into before my life got flipped turned upside-down — permanently, and I think much for the better.
In 1989, my parents believed that they received what is technically known as a “call” to the missionary life. Africa — specifically Kenya — was what they first felt as a burden on their hearts (in the ministerial jargon of the evangelical set), and they tried to go to Kenya. I don’t know exactly how, or what fell through, but they told us very seriously that God had closed that door. Then, as Christians will so often tell you happens, he opened another one. During spring break 1990 they visited Guatemala under the auspices of a missionary organization that some close family friends were connected with. They returned aglow. That summer, we moved.
(My parents have a history of rushing into these things. They met in February 1976 and married in June, delaying it three months beyond when they would have preferred in order to placate her family. So far it seems to have worked out okay.)
First Call was one of the things I left behind. Not literally — through the vagaries of fortune this is one of the few childhood tapes I still have around somewhere — but very much in the sense that I didn’t really return to them. I didn’t return to much of this as I entered my teenage years; I was too busy discovering real pop, as well as real religious music and poetry and art, not the shoddy knockoffs of a chintzy mall-evangelism outlet. But First Call remained in my memory as a gleaming, suprapolished oddity.
They were a trio of backup singers whose voices sounded amazing together, dense and rich, with harmonic colors you don’t usually get in anonymous session singers. (They sang on Never Picture Perfect and The Big Picture.) Marty McCall, the man, had a soulful bellow that sounded good in a call-and-response; Bonnie Keen and Melanie Tunney, the women, could slide from cooing preciousness to all-out gospel shouting within moments, and their vibratos woozed sensually against each other. I’m pretty sure (it’s hard to recall at this distance) that I got this tape because I knew them from Never Picture Perfect — I was definitely an obsessive credits-reader, and the way they sang so masterfully, with such defined contours to their voices, gave me a glimpse of something beyond the pop I knew.
So did the production on this album. Hearing it now, it’s standard late-80s gloss, throbbing synthetic basslines several generations descended from Factory, glittering percussive synths devolved from ZTT, big gated drums from everyone, and a general zooming production that sound so exactly like Stock-Aitken-Waterman that it was no wonder that when I first secretly turned on a radio in 1989 I wondered if every station was playing First Call.
The songs are fairly empty of meaning — the production and the sheer glamour of their voices are the only things I ever took away from this — except for “Poverty,” my favorite song at the time and the one most likely to make me shudder today. It opens “In Haiti a woman is climbing the mountains….” Even if Haiti had not been so violently and tragically thrust into the forefront of my consciousness recently, I’d think the song’s cod-inspirational vignettes of Christian faith there was in bad taste. And which Christian faith, by the way? Haiti’s 80% Catholic, but to hear First Call tell it they’ve only recently learned about Jesus. I want to say there was an insert in the cassette whereby the pop-music consumer could support a missionary organization, but I could be thinking of any number of other tapes.
This question was not unconnected to our life in Guatemala, by the way; Guatemala is the most missionaried country in the world by population, and it too is mostly Catholic. Were we there to convert people from one form of Christianity to another? Long story short, we were the ones who converted. The last Christian doctrines I professed to believe were Catholic, and I’m sure I’ll be buried as one. (Graham Greene has for obvious reasons long been a personal hero.)
But back to the song: the chorus, the point First Call is attempting to make, is three simple words: “That’s! Not! POVERTYYYYY!” Which was tasteless before the hurricane, and monstrous today; I don’t care how rich you may be in “spiritual blessings,” being unable to afford basic human needs and civic infrastructure fucking is poverty. I’m not even sure what they were trying to say: was the point “don’t despise these people, they’re not really poor (but feel free to despise the unchurched poor)”? Was it “since they’re not poor you don’t have to do anything to help them, well done you”? Or was it simply incoherent, a fumbling attempt to graft the Beatitudes onto a situation far more complex than a brochure and a dollar-a-day pledge could possibly cover?
Still, and all that said, it’s one of the most thrilling pop productions I’ve heard even today, big and crashing and zooming and with a terrific vocal chant in the outro. I despise its politics, its theology, and its half-hearted humanism, but I’d kind of like to hear a twelve-inch mix.
12. Candle with Dean Jones, Nathaniel The Grublet (1979)
“Now we come to the payoff,” as a sample that DC Talk used on their 1993 pop-rap-gospel album Free At Last always declares in my head whenever I think about narrative climaxes. Nathaniel The Grublet is as close to a primeval pop-culture memory as I have, the alpha if not the omega of my aesthetic, narrative, and even perhaps metaphysical sensibility. I knew about grublets before I knew about hobbits, I was seized with terror of Direwood before I knew horror movies existed, and I laughed at Belcher and Nappin long before I ever heard of the Three Stooges.
Let’s back up, as it’s probably pretty certain that you have no idea what Nathaniel The Grublet is. What it is, is an allegorical concept album for children performed by the Christian folk-rock group Candle and whoever they could get to do voices. Dean Jones (best known today as the guy who wasn’t Buddy Hackett in the Herbie the Love-Bug movies) gets a cover credit for his role as the narrator, but Thurl Ravenscroft (best known today as the narrator of Chuck Jones’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas) puts in the best performance as the voice of Direwood.
The story is simple, even simple-minded: Nathaniel is the youngest of a family of “grublets,” little people (larger than an elf but smaller than a troll, Dean Jones affably informs us — in other words, children) who have turned to stealing because grubling (finding old or unwanted things, fixing them up, and selling them) is too much work. Nathaniel, though, has a conscience and doesn’t want to steal. His brothers kick him out, he wanders with his dog into Direwood — where, legend has it, if you’re found in the daylight you’ll disappear — and runs into a God figure and a bunch of talking animals who convince him to do the right thing. He returns to find his brothers about to be executed by a bunch of outraged property owners and after making them promise to be good capitalists, introduces them to the God figure, the end.
The story’s not much, some half-hearted borrowings from Lewis and Tolkien with liberal slabs of evangelical American moralism; but there are three solid narrative points in its favor. The brother grublets are a lot of fun to hang out with, each with a distinct personality and, in the classic manner of villains, getting all the best lines; the Direwoodish threat of “disappearing” (before converting, Nathaniel begins to turn see-throughish) remains a potent existential fear regardless of age; and the end reveal, in which the narrator turns out to have been a grown-up Nathaniel ALL ALONG, kind of blew my mind when I was young and is still a frequently used if rarely successful narrative gambit.
But none of that is why I listened to it so much, and in a way, loved it. (Only up till about the age of seven, I think; I listened to it a couple of times in Guatemala at the far more experienced and world-weary age of twelve, and I’m pretty sure I felt the same about it then as I do now.) Not even the music was really what fascinated me, though hearing it again recently didn’t so much make me nostalgic as it caused those songs, long dormant in the back of my brain, to be activated once more. They’re perfectly all right show-tuney singalongs in the vein of Disney movies and The Wizard Of Oz, with lyrics that tend to hit you over the head in the grand tradition of Christian children’s entertainment. But, no, it wasn’t actually anything on the grooves of the record.
Because if you opened up the gatefold LP, what you saw weren’t printed lyrics or even static drawings illustrating the story; there were, instead, six pages of comics. You could follow along and read the story as the record played (or, if you were like me, you could finish reading it before the first number had ended; I’m told I began reading at age three and have no preliterate memories) in little hand-drawn panels with glossy color, on immense (to me) pages of panel-to-panel storytelling. The artist — Mark Pendergrass — was only competent as I judge these things today, better at poses than action, with a style derived as much from the underground comix of the 70s as from classic childrens’ illustration (which the undergrounds were also derived from, so). It was, I’m almost certain, my first exposure to comics storytelling and I read it, quite literally, to pieces.
If pop was such an early love that I treated Christian music like pop without even knowing what pop was, comics were close on its heels. A few years later, when my parents began taking the daily paper, I devoured the comics page every morning and clipped out Gasoline Alley and compiled a big album’s worth of the strip. (Why Gasoline Alley? Two reasons, I think: first, because it told long sequential stories without being boring like Mary Worth or Judge Parker, and second, because Jim Scancarelli’s art looked kind of like the comics in Nathaniel The Grublet.) As an older boy, I learned that boys were supposed to like superhero comics (just as they were supposed to like hard rock), and I found and read The Death Of Captain Marvel until my parents got worried and made me throw it out. (As Eugene Mirman once noted in hollow triumph, I have it now — ha.) And then ten years later the internet happened, and I drowned in both comics and pop.
I apologize for the dullness, self-involvement, and length of the preceding. It’s been percolating for a while, ever since I saw a Tumblrer who is normally far more thoughtful dismiss the Christian music he grew up on — specifically Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith — as stupid and terrible. Knee-jerk dismissals of anything always raise my hackles. While I’m certainly glad my world has expanded so far beyond the borders of the music I grew up on that it now feels impossibly cramped, stuffy, and dimwitted in there, I also — temperamentally — can’t help but be grateful for the joy, understanding, and pleasure it gave me at the time.
Two sequels have naturally suggested themselves: twelve Christian albums I was obsessed with as a teenager, and twelve Christian albums I was obsessed with after high school. I don’t know if I’ll get around to either of them (it was hard enough writing this, which I expected to have finished a week ago; but I had to re-listen to everything in order to feel I was doing it justice), but obviously the story of my aesthetic, intellectual, and moral development doesn’t end in 1990.
Nor has it ended today; but a detailed defense of everything I’ve ever listened to would be beyond even my powers of ambitious jibber-jabber to attempt. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
A question to end: Would anyone care to hear some of the songs I’ve talked about here? I can post them one-by-one on Tumblr or all at once on my real blog. Let me know.
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