On The Fritz

[Image: 'On The Fritz' Front Cover]



He wished to right the wrongs
He sang religious songs
He kept the private he
Under the lock and key

Heat keeps rising in an age of passion
Shakes a conscience to the core
Stopgap, hand-slap, take a tongue-lashing
My poor soul can't take any more

On the fritz
On the fritz
There he sits
On the fritz

He kept his ego there
It was a sad affair, on the fritz
The inner circle knows
And so the story goes, on the fritz

Airborne rumors chip away the image
But you knew the stakes were high
First they got you thinking you're a prophet
Now they've got you living a lie

On the fritz
On the fritz
There he sits
On the fritz

So the crowds grew, and their praise did too
And a mailing list sent you money
So they love Jerry Lewis in France
Does that make him funny?

It's too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed
Now victims of your double life are naming names

He kept his ego there
It was a sad affair, on the fritz
The public's had enough
They've come to call your bluff, on the fritz

Small talk breeds where kingdoms come crashing
Rumor conquers where it wills
No one hears you, go ahead and cash in
If you don't die to yourself pride kills

On the fritz
On the fritz
There he sits
On the fritz

Recorded Appearances

About The Song

From Crosswalk Syndicated Radio Interview, Crosswalk, Q2(?) 1985:

You take a song like "On The Fritz," which is about compromise, and in general the song is about this person who leads a double life between doing religious music and what their personal life is like. Being on the road--I mean, ask anyone who's in Christian music--we see that stuff all the time. We wish that we could cover it up and that the general public didn't know about certain performers in Christian music that are singing one thing and doing another, but eventually it comes out, you know.

So I think that a song like is first of all spelling out the truth, and saying that the root of the problem is actually pride. Over and over again the Bible talks about pride going before a fall--God exalts the humble. Different areas where pride ends up being the root of the problem. That's the one thing that always sneaks up and blindsides you, you know? You think you can get a grip on other areas that are more visible, but as soon as you think you've got them all under control, then spiritual prides comes up and says, "I've got it together," and that's when we're at our most vulnerable. So some of those songs aren't easy songs, but I didn't want them to be.

From Clone Club News Flash Winter 1986, Winter 1986:

["On The Fritz"] is about consequences; the story of a person whose private life is at odds with his public stance, and the compromise that comes about as a result of his pride.

From Now The Truth Can Be Told Liner Notes & Song-By-Song Essays, Now The Truth Can Be Told Insert Booklet, August 23rd, 1994:

If my songwriting output were mostly autobiographical, I would be a very messed-up cowboy indeed. But I suppose a convincing case could be made for many of these songs, intentionally or not, written partly as a way to mark off boundaries that, by the grace of God, I hope never to cross. Having married above my means and been blessed with an altogether lovely and Godly wife for nine years, I confess to having little tolerance or empathy for those involved in marital infidelity. But I'm afraid I know a lot about the ego that can fuel such sins, and I've yet to satisfactorily figure out how to "die to self" as Jesus taught us, while living and working center stage in a circus of self-promotion.

If it's starting to seem like "On The Fritz" describes the rule rather than the exception for Christians in the public eye, then I would like to thank exceptional men and women from Dr. Billy Graham and his wife Ruth to my own father and mother for their examples in living a lifetime faithful to one God and one spouse.

From Liver Press Release, May 1995:

The song's subject matter seems unfortunately to have stayed in heavy rotation since it was written 10 years ago, [...] but the 1985 studio arrangement always seemed to me to be a bit lightweight. This version is slower and moodier, and I think the sense of a live audience helps to better portray the contradiction between the public persona of the 'Christian celebrity' character in the song and his 'private' infidelities that eventually cause his downfall.

Thematically, the song and especially the video deal with the casualties of sin. It's an ugly subject that we don't really want to acknowledge, because the Christian message is one of forgiveness, which is something we all need. But the fact is that in sptie of God's forgiveness there are consequences for what we do. The video--which is almost entirely conceptual, even though it accompanies a live performance--makes the point pretty graphically that for this character, the casualties are his family and specifically his child.

From The Three Faces Of Steve, The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine, April 1996:

Where do you rate "On The Fritz" [in your body of work]?

I think that's the best thing I've done. It was one of the lowest budgets I've ever had to work with. What happened was that the record company wanted some sort of video to promote the live album [Liver] and originally I was just thinking, "We'll just do some sort of live video." But as I was working with other people, I started feeling the pressure that people are going to expect something more than just a "Jive Live" concert or a clip and so I got dreamin' on it. And that song, I think, was a good song to do it on. I wasn't sure if the idea of putting a live track with a concept video would work but it seemed in a strange way to serve the story line even better. It got very deep because that's an old song from 1985 and I've had all this time to think about what the song said. It aged better than a lot of my other songs and of course musically it had been reinterpreted.

The song is about pride--that's something I know really well. I am sorry to say--but those of us in the public eye, once that monkey is on our back it's always there, and once we think we've got it under control, we don't have it under control. That, combined with the story of this guy who sings religious songs--so you imagine somebody who is a Christian, who's in the public eye, possibly a musician and, "What did this guy do that made him fall from grace so extremely?" The song alludes to that he probably had some sort of extra-marital affair or something like that. And so, without it getting seedy or anything like that, how do we present the reality of that situation and more than anything, show the consequences and also show God's forgiveness.

So you've got all these agendas to try to be fulfilled, and that was where the idea of a guy who's actually working as a church janitor (which I knew about because I did that for about five years while I was first writing music), and he almost thinks that he has to work this out with a penance or something like that. He thinks about his past in flashbacks and he sees how his affair affected his daughter. At one point I was wondering if it was too far-fetched, the idea of a daughter finding photos. Believe it or not, one of our friends in Nashville saw this video and she sat there in stunned silence after she saw it and said, "That is almost verbatim what I went through when I was a fourteen-year-old kid." She had a father out on the road, who was a pastor, and he had an affair and the woman sent tapes to his home and she found them and she buried them and so they never knew what had happened. And then the thing of it is, what are the consequences? Well, the consequences are lived out in this guy's daughter and those aren't going to go away, you know. Because sin has consequences and they last for a long time and that's why it's so insidious.

So he's going through all these different acts of contrition and working and examining photocopies of his face, you know... What it is that got him to this place? ...and he finally realizes that the only way out is the blood of Jesus. We found a church that was built in the 1800's that actually has an Egyptian motif inside, so you see that and the church setting and palm trees and everything like that and at the very end--the blood on the doorposts from Exodus and he finally figures it out... It's a heavy video and it's been criticized and a lot of people don't play it and stores sometimes say, "There is no way we're going to play this." If we can't deal with those subjects we shouldn't be involved in Christian communication, because the truth is those things happen and there's consequences and those things don't go away... But there's forgiveness as well. I couldn't tell a lie and say that everything is going to work out fine, because it doesn't work out fine and this guy's daughter is going to be scarred forever. But there's always forgiveness and God's grace, too.