Now The Truth Can Be Told Liner Notes & Song-By-Song Essays

Now The Truth Can Be Told Insert Booklet
© 1994 Sparrow Records
Thanks to KingDavid8


"The writer who emphasizes spiritual values is very likely to take the darkest view of all of what he sees in this country today. For him, the fact that we are the most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world doesn't mean a thing in any positive sense. The sharper the light of faith, the more glaring are apt to be the distortions the writer sees in the life around him... My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable... The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural."

--Flannery O'Connor

"Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh."

--Donald O'Connor

"So, Steve, what's this song about?"

--Disc Jockey Raymond Bannister, of alternative rock station KROQ-FM in Los Angeles, asking Steve Taylor to explain his song "I Manipulate" in 20 seconds or less to a listening audience full of teenaged Adam Ant fans.

Genuinely pious, and agreeably peevish, too (at least on record), Steve Taylor has proven an important missing link between the King David and David Letterman generations: A highly visible Christian artist and unabashed ethicist full of conviction, candor and, perhaps, most definingly, cheek. It's a dirty job, but somebody had to get to it.

If Steve Taylor didn't exist, as figurative theorists like to say, the gospel music industry would have had to invent him. Grudgingly and belatedly, most likely, would this invention have happened--with all the joy of childbirth or passing a kidney stone, probably--but surely someone would've eventually caught sight of the Taylor-shaped hole in music and taken on the unseemly task of filling it for us. Thank God Taylor came along first and saved them the trouble. It may be hard to remember at this late date just how brash his belly flop into the then-stagnant pool of Christian rock seemed more than a decade ago when, decked out in new-wave duds and armed with a purposeful absurdism, he more or less single-handedly brought "alternative" sensibilities to an earnest but essentially unprogressive movement. Nowadays, no one bats a wary eyelash when a musician of faith deigns to pull an irony from the fire and stab westward in search of some extra-Edenic truth. Few would recently find radical the notion that satire is simply part of the shared aesthetic language which allows contemporary Christian culture to interface with a changing world that has lost much of its semiotic innocence in the last generation. Do not presume it was always so, young traveler.

Prior to Taylor's arrival on the scene in the early 1980's, with certain visionary exceptions, the great mass of so-called Christian rock music could charitably have been considered to be well on its way toward a legacy as an 8-track genre in a digital world. Prophets were few, unblinking positives were many, and Norman Vincent Peale's unspoken position as poet laureate for the movement appeared all to secure. Our boy was by no means the first fellow to bring intellectual chutzpah to evangelical pop, but certainly he was among the most influential singer-songwriter types to come down the pike informed by that artistically liberating, classically Christian Weltanschauung which would have it that, before the Gospel is the famous good news, it's really, really bad news. News so terribly bad, in fact, that it's nearly funny in its awful need for grace, or unbearably sad, or possibly both at once.

Enter the angry young journalist. Taylor almost instantly expanded the acceptable palette--"We Don't Need No Colour Code" indeed--so that suddenly Christian music was a broad enough little category to include topical, possibly savage songs about racism, adultery, abortion, consumerism, the pop-star system, various and sundry hypocrisies and (his seeming personal favorite target) modern America's all-invasive, excuse-making, politically boundary-crossing relativism. Some of these pet peeves were worldly wide, as it were, while others of his four-minute exercises in trenchant cultural criticism were narrow cast to bullseyes positioned comfortably in the churched world.

More of the songs than not were overtly funny--laugh-a-line novelty tunes, at times, with an approach somewhere between Spike Jones, Randy Newman, and the Wittenburg Door--yet some were sober, smirkless, and grave, even. The uniting thread was usually human frailty and failing: sin, if you will, original or otherwise. Cynical as some of these third-person vignettes may have been, though, Taylor, our tragicomic-Greek-chorus of a narrator, always revealed himself in the clinch as never less than completely idealistic, with that curious, nearly incongruous mixture of post-modern impropriety and pre- modern piety. Dreaming the impossible dream, undistorting the impossible distortion. Ah, but lest this session seem like a eulogy for someone still breathing, working and weighing in with new product in his wiry 30's, let it be noted that we come to box-set Taylor, not to bury him.

And though we could continue with talk about just how influential our honoree has been on the contemporary crop of "alternative" religious bands--so influential that, in 1994 some of them recorded their own tribute album of Taylor's songs, the first time that's happened in Gospel music "pre-mortem"--it might instead be best to go ahead and begin our back story with a look at the maverick thinkers who influenced Taylor's own formative years in a meaningful (if not all clone-like) way.

Where to begin? There would be the aforequoted Ms. O'Connor, of course. And Francis Schaeffer. And Steve's Baptist minister Dad. And The Clash. And John Davidson. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Together again, etc.)

A pivotal moment in Taylor's mind, in which style and substance came together for him in some seminal way, is the fall of 1979: "I was enrolled in a filmmaking class at Colorado University, and someone used 'Lost In The Supermarket' by The Clash for a soundtrack. When I picked up the Clash's London Calling it all finally made sense. Musically, that album saved my life. It had raw passion, it had lyrics that were a slap across the face, it had everything but hope. The Clash saw the problems of the world with startling clarity, they just weren't offering much in the way of solutions. To sum it up, I'd found my mission."

Little would Joe Strummer have likely imagined that from afar he was effectively ordaining an emissary to the mission field. And certainly little in Taylor's background up to that point, by his own telling, would have marked him as a potential punk-rock aficionado.

"I'd love to tell you that I heard my first Captain Beefheart album when I was five, learned sitar in the seventh grade, and was experimenting in atonal serialism during high school," Taylor says, "but I think my earliest influences were the Chipmunks and the Cowsills. I didn't get an FM radio until I was 16. And maybe it was Denver's lack of progressive stations, but in that 'golden era' of disco and the Eagles, I couldn't figure out what the fuss was about."

Roland Stephen Taylor was born December 9, 1957 in Brawley, California, and shortly thereafter moved to Denver at the strong urging of his parents, the Rev. Roland Samuel Taylor and his wife Gayle Yvonne. Upon graduating high school in 1976 he came back to Southern California to take communications and Bible classes at the evangelical Biola University, but after his freshman year hotfooted it back to Boulder, Colorado, where he went on to earn his BA in music (vocal emphasis) at CU. Not without some strain on his part and the faculty's.

"I decided I wanted to be a music major, but that required me to do things I wasn't very capable of, the main one being piano proficiency. I tested out of all my theory classes, because I was pretty good at theory and composition, but I couldn't play the piano to save my life. I became a voice major because there wasn't anything else I could do."

Our next scene resembled the moving climax of "Flashdance," with a slightly less bravura capper. "At the end of my sophomore year I had to sing for the faculty 'jury.' There was this swirl of activity in the back of the room when I was finished. They were all wondering how I had made it past their screening process without getting weeded out early on. The only reason I didn't get kicked out of music school was that my teacher was the head of the department and she told them not to be too rash."

Taylor's ultimate triumph in the aftermath of such chagrined evaluations is a classic he-showed-them! story in the making. But as with any heroic saga, the journeyman of record must first sink to some form of dregs before making his phoenix-like ascent. What dregs be these: "I got through three years of college and actually started feeling a bit desperate: 'I'm a music major. I can't play any instrument. I can't sing opera. What do I do now?' So I did what anyone else would do in the same circumstances--I auditioned for John Davidson's Singers' Summer Camp."

Davidson--a Las Vegas icon best known to us baby boomers as the toothy, perfectly coffed star of such Disney flix as "The Happiest Millionaire"--had mentioned this dream of holding forth a Tommy-like summer camp during an appearance on "The Tonight Show." Taylor was one of 100 young impressionables chosen from 20,000 hopefuls to spend a month on California's Catalina Island learning the tools of the showroom trade from the likes of Tony Orlando, Florence Henderson, and, of course, the master himself. "I actually had a blast," Steve confesses, shameless to the end. "I even learned how to tap dance. The thought of going to a camp to learn how to play the big rooms in Vegas--it's like going to Pope School. Even then we all recognized the absurdity of it all, and not in my weakest moment did the thought of being a professional lounge lizard sound appealing. The frightening thing was, I was actually quite good at it, and Davidson was very encouraging. I came home more confused than ever. I really desired to do something that had my Christian faith as its core inspiration, but I couldn't find a musical expression that meant anything to me."

Shortly after this no-so-faithful brush with fame, Taylor heard his first aforementioned Clash song, which provided the budding artist just a slightly better musical paradigm to work from than the multiple versions of "Everything is Beautiful" that'd filled his ears at the lounge wanna-be workshop.

After a year of writing his own songs, he penned "Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number's Up?" as well as his early hallmark "I Want To Be A Clone." The demos for those songs were recorded during his last year of college. While working as a youth pastor and as a janitor at his father's church, and while recording in his spare time, Steve was preparing for a career that would explode a lot sooner than he thought. "If I hadn't been a youth pastor, I doubt I would have done this. My generation didn't listen to politicians or sport heroes. We got our world view, for better or worse, from our music. The trick was discovering how to communicate my Christian world view in a medium that mattered."

Upon completion of those early demos, Taylor went to California to try to get a deal, taking fruitless meetings with labels and publishers mostly on the mainstream side of the business. "I met with as many as I could get to talk to me," he recalls. "The response from the pop people was that they liked the music, but they were afraid the lyrics might offend their listeners. And I couldn't even get past the receptionists at the gospel labels."

Taylor did meet a fellow named Jim Chaffee in California, who was enthused by the young comer's tape. But, in a Davidson-like twist of irony, before helping usher Taylor on to his eventual career as the rock demagogue we know him as today, Chafee first enlisted Steve's services as assistant director of The Continentals, and evangelistic singing troupe that was then about to head to Poland. This stint with The Continentals, while not exactly reflecting Taylor's own taste (think Up With People or the Mike Curb Congregation, those older of you readers), did provide a source of trivia questions and unending amusement and what-if speculations among Taylor cultists to come. Not long after, Chaffee also helped get Taylor a gig as director of Chuck Bolte's Jeremiah People, a Christian musical comedy troupe "whose satire strongly influenced me while I was growing up," Taylor says.

Chaffee and wife Janice continued to beat the drums, as it were, for Taylor's own music, and finally convinced Cam Floria, the founder of The Continentals, to give the young singer a small slot at Floria's annual Christian Artists Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. It was Taylor's first genuine live set--two songs backed by a hastily arranged band. But the crowd's reaction impressed Sparrow president Billy Ray Hearn so much that he was literally waiting when Taylor got off the stage. The deal quickly followed.

Sparrow decided to debut their chancy signing via an EP I Want To Be A Clone, released in early 1983. The six songs were musically informed by what would've been considered the sonically edgier secular bands of the time, from the Damned to the Cars, but lyrically were directed almost exclusively toward the evangelical world, addressing such sometimes insular issues as church-hopping, judgmentalism, Christian complacency, and spiritual deceit in the most overtly satirical tones. Amid religious store shelves stocked mostly with the mellow likes of the Imperials, Glad, Evie and John Michael Talbot, Clone sold an impressive 85,000 units. Taylor may not have been the first "new-wave" influenced rocker to release an album on the Christian label, but he was the first to make the Gospel industry stand up, pay attention and pony--pogo?--on over to the position that this jumpy stuff represented a significant niche, not a novelty.

It wasn't jut record label folks impressed by the breakthrough. In an encouraging letter to Taylor following a visit to L'Abri in Switzerland, popular theologian and author Francis Schaeffer said of the Clone record: "The combination of music and lyrics really works on a very high level, and the message, therefore, comes across with real clarity... In the light of the gifts that the Lord has so obviously given you, and which you obviously developed with care and hard work, I do urge you with all my heart to press on. You are really doing something marvelously worthwhile. I must say the words really cut a wide swath in the need in the church today." Considering that he had studied Schaeffer's works scrupulously, the rabble-rouser-in-training took this seminal exhortation preciously to heart.

The success of Clone caused him to assemble some of his studio musicians into a live band that would long thereafter be billed with typical Taylor-esque grandeur as Some Band. In 1984 came the first real album, Meltdown, produced, like its predecessor, by Jonathan David Brown. Like Clone, some of its electronic textures may seem dated in retrospect, some of the targets a bit easy. Yet there's no doubting that Meltdown qualifies easily as one of the handful of most influential Christian rock albums ever recorded: a wide-ranging, take-no-prisoners assault on anything that might fall under the vast umbrella of culture, with verve and sass. Subject matter ranged from the topics as specific as the racist policies of a famous fundamentalist college (in "We Don't Need No Colour Code," long to be a concert favorite), media bashing ("Meat The Press"), infant euthanasia ("Baby Doe"), and the plight of believers behind the Iron Curtain ("Over My Dead Body"), to less moment- specific anthems like the unnerving relativism in "Sin For A Season" and the values-nastolgic wistfulness of "Hero."

Meltdown sold a very considerable 135,000 units, and also produced what is considered the first real concept video from a Christian label artist, for the wax-museum-set title track, relaunching in semi-earnest the filmmaking career begun by Taylor back in the Clash-filled halls of C.U.

That year Taylor played at his first Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, a performance which crescendoed to a literally lame climax earlier than intended, as our man spontaneously jumped off the six-foot stage and busted his ankle. He limped and hopped his way through the remainder of the show on the surviving foot before heading to the local hospital for surgery the following morning. (The next night, in Detroit, he performed his entire set in an electric wheelchair, which ran out of juice halfway through the performance.) The bad news was that Taylor's miscalculated hop forced cancellation of the trip he'd planned to Ireland to devote a few month's worth of undivided attention to writing his next project. The better news was that, while waylaid at home in Los Angeles, he happened to meet Debbie, the future (a scant nine months future, in fact) Mrs. Taylor... Ankle schmankle: he loves L.A.

The break was well-healed by the time Taylor trotted down the aisle, but this more consumptive affliction, love, had precluded his getting much new songwriting accomplished by the time he ventured to New York to start recording his third album On The Fritz. This time, he was looking toward making a significant musical change, with assists from English producer Ian McDonald (former member of King Crimson, Foreigner) and a host of well-known session players, but without much preordination of what exactly would replace the stylish touches he was shedding. "In the past, I'd always come in extremely well-prepared, but with 'Fritz' we did a lot more experimenting in the studio. I even dipped into my failed classical background, messing around on three or four songs with a vocal style the Germans called sprechstimme, which is somewhere between singing and talking."

The on-the-spot nature of On The Fritz produced surprisingly fine results, marking a real maturation and move toward subtlety in Taylor's writing style and a more refined, less self-consciously herky-jerky instrumentation, though the sound remained lively enough. It's very much a transitional album in that some songs suggest a more serious and reflective introspection ("To Forgive," the stirring "I Just Wanna Know"), while some others seem like left overs from his orientation toward message-heavy, comedic novelty tunes (the most out-of-place being "Lifeboat," which, despite Taylor's later regret at having recorded it, proved inordinately popular among fans).

Sales of Fritz were strong, and took a leap in newly receptive European markets, though falling a little behind Meltdown domestically. Taylor's next project was an interim one: the Limelight live EP and home video, recorded at Castle Ashby, England with Some Band during the 1985 Greenbelt Festival before an audience of 20,000.

It was the next album that marked a real turning point. Changing direction toward an even more guitar-based sound, and adding the production prowess of Dave Perkins, Taylor began work on I Predict 1990, what was to be his most controversial--and, by critical standards, certainly best to date--record. Increasingly legendary for what some would call attention to detail and others might label perfectionism, Taylor ended up going over-budget and over-schedule on his archly prophetic magnum opus (as in: way over.) Sparrow, while supportive, wearied of the series of delays that had trade ads periodically appearing to trumpet a non-existent album. Moreover, the new material seemed to be darker and perhaps a bit more arcane in tone, which didn't entirely jibe with the direction the company was taking toward servicing the church market. In an example of true cooperation between artist and label, Sparrow allowed one of their premiere talents to negotiate a new deal for the still-unfinished album with Myrrh Records via his friend Lynn Nichols (who was VP of A&R).

That the album's intentions were slightly less outrightly stated than before helped lead to minor controversy. Some paranoiacs feared or assumed that the I Predict cover art, which was designed by Steve's wife, contained demonic tarot card images, and idea fueled by alarmist fundamentalist conspiracy theorists like Tex Marrs. Not-yet-discredited televangelist Jimmy Swaggart took aim at Taylor and dedicated an entire chapter to him in one of his anti-rock books. While obviously without merit and even good for some inadvertent amusement, these attacks did nag at Taylor. On top of all that, the satire of the album's opening cut, "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good," was taken literally by some as advocating abortion clinic bombing. Despite critical success and a strong tour (whose stops included a headlining gig at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheater), Taylor was left feeling frustrated and drained. "It got to where I was actually having to defend myself in interviews against charges of tarot-card covers and even new age hidden messages. It was all pretty depressing. I was spending more time defending myself than talking about either my faith or my music."

Still, there were triumphs during this time: The I Predict 1990 Video Album, featuring concept videos for eight of the 10 new songs, made history as the first full-length home video companion to an album in the Christian marketplace, and is still widely considered the best of its kind (and most sought-after, being out of print and all). The Taylor-directed "Jim Morrison's Grave" video showed up on MTV's "120 Minutes," boosting the track onto college radio playlists, as Myrrh's secular distributor at the time, A&M, did some promotion for the song.

But, as dissapointing sales figures for Predict came in and the ironic juxtaposition of critical and commercial success became clear, Taylor feared he'd zenithed. At one typically well-attended California concert date, he announced that he was "retiring" from the business for a while. This retirement was to end up like similar famous announcements by everyone from Frank Sinatra to David Bowie: short-lived. It was Taylor the solo artist who technically was retired, as a few months after leaving the scene he moved from his temporary London digs to Nashville, got together with four other fellow expatriates of the Christian music scene who shared much of the same frustrations, dreams, desire and sense of humor, and with them formed Chagall Guevara. After just a few months of existence this quintet signed to MCA Records and set to work on a debut album with highly valued producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, The Replacements, John Hiatt).

There were rave reviews in places like Rolling Stone Magazine; a UK tour with pop legends Squeeze; a slot on the Pump Up The Volume soundtrack, and other promising breaks. But promotion was--to say the least--limited, a planned U.S. tour never materialized, and the album failed to match any of Taylor's past sales levels. After just one terrific recording, Chagall Guevara, rather than set to work on a second album and kick what appeared to be a seriously ailing horse, asked to be let out of its deal with MCA and called it quits.

Back in Nashville, where his wife continued to be successful as a painter, Taylor did a few odd jobs while deciding which way best to re-retire: he produced an album for the Newsboys and directed the occasional music video, which barely assuaged his restlessness. After several months of persuasion by longtime friend Norman Miller, followed by strong and ultimately decisive encouragement from his pastor, Taylor struck a new solo deal with Warner Alliance (Warner Bros.' gospel label), leading to the late '93 release of Squint, accompanied into an unsuspecting marketplace by Taylor's second home-video album, his self-directed globetrotting epic Squint: Movies From The Soundtrack. With high-concept song titles ranging from "Smug" to "Sock Heaven" (the coded saga of Chagall Guevera) to "Jesus Is For Losers," it was quickly obvious that, true to the conspiracy theorists' worst nightmares, the friendly, cranky, topical, subversive, exhortative Steve Taylor everyone knew and loved--or, well, not--was back from the industry grave and better than ever.

Then, of course, proving true Andy Worhol's maxim that in the future everyone will have their own boxed set, comes the inevitable two-CD tribute you clutch. O'Conners Flannery and Donald can once again rest easy that their respective legacies live on in very good--but especially very long and lanky-fingered--hands. Disc jockeys can once more puzzle over what might seem to those without ears to hear like sarcastic obscurantism that has a good beat and you can dance to. And Msgrs. Davidson, Strummer and Schaeffer have just a little more to live down. Steve Taylor, the unlikely upstart, the erstwhile blip on the Christian rock radar screen, now the stuff living legends are made of? There are plenty of things that're harder to believe than not to.

--Chris Willman

(Chris Willman is a pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times. His writing has appeared in Musician, Rolling Stone, Grammy, Pulse, New York Newsday, CCM, Christianity Today, and other publications)

There are actually three things in life that are inevitable for those of us with multi-record deals: death, taxes, and repackaging. It is my silent fear that a compilation of this type may cause premature again in one so young, but I thought the same when I first caught wind of a rumoured "Steve Taylor Tribute" album and immediately called my doctor to see if he was keeping any secrets. (I should report that, having now heard the I Predict A Clone collection, I like most of the new versions better than the originals, which makes the timing of this anthology particularly painful.)

If the truth can indeed be told, I suppose the act of listening to each track and writing a remembrance or two of things past may bring back mixed emotions: sighs of relief and satisfaction ("my, this one's aged well."), minor embarrassments ("that snare sound used to be hip, right?"), even morbid fascination ("whatever possessed me to perform an entire song as a woman?").

On second thought, this could turn out to be a lot like going to the dentist: prolonged x-rays, muffled voices mumbling second opinions, and the occasional sound in the background of someone screaming. Let the drilling commence.

--Steve Taylor

Song-By-Song Essays

I Want To Be A Clone

The film department at Colorado University was crammed into the old science hall, which seems an appropriate setting for the birth of "I Want To Be A Clone." The first time I walked into the men's room after my "Introduction to Filmmaking" class, I saw three wooden stalls. Door number one was labelled "religion," followed by "politics" and "sex." But it was the writing above the urinals that forever changed my life: "A Musical Tribute To Asexual Reproduction" was the heading, followed by a list of titles that included "Send in the Clones," "Behind Cloned Doors," and "A Clone Again (Naturally)." I never added to the list--I was afraid I'd get caught--so I just watched new titles crop up weekly as the clone motif spread like kudzu across the walls, eventually drawing campus curiosity seekers who would go out of their way to relieve themselves at the now legendary old science men's room, just to read the latest addition.

This song was not written from personal experience--the church I grew up in was always tolerant both of mere faithful eccentrics and all-out Jesus freaks. I give much of the credit to my pastor/mentor/father for providing the Biblically-sound atmosphere where one's Christian witness could also be culturally relevant.

In short, I can't be a cynic, because I don't have a good excuse.

Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number's Up?

It wasn't until this song was recorded and mixed that I decided it was too slow. Since our $7,000 budget for the I Want To Be A Clone album was depleted, why not just speed the whole track up, vocal and all? (I usually won these arguments in the studio due to a lethal combination of willpower and sheer ignorance.) So we did, which is why the vocal has a "take me to your leader" sci-fi quality.

I vaguely recall that the ending monologue consisted of the studio owner mumbling a stream of nonsense while I read the financial section of the Los Angeles Times. When we sped that part up, things got real annoying.

Whatever Happened To Sin?

I somehow managed to dig myself such a deep hole with the rhyme scheme of this lyric that it took me two months to climb out. I remember going nightly to my office at the church where I was a youth pastor and working 4-6 hours at a time just to get a single line.

Since the song was written in a church, it makes sense that it was directed to the church. The targets are familiar ones for those acquainted with the teachings of Jesus. Time and again He went after Jewish society's elite--religious leaders and teachers who misled an easily-duped public by using legalese and doubletalk to twist the scriptures to suit their own purposes.

Twelve years later, this lyric still feels like I got it right. I don't always expect outsiders to understand why abortion is wrong, or why a homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with Biblical Christianity, or even why we shouldn't shrug it off when politicians lie. But as the twentieth century draws to a close, the church and its leaders must remember that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus, not to "de-sinsitize" sin.

Bad Rap (Who You Tryin' To Kid, Kid?)

I suppose the title says it all. Before rap had entered the mainstream, it was confined to a few tiny independent labels, most notably Sugarhill Records in New Jersey. Perhaps it was the irresistability of being able to cram a novella's worth of lyrics into one song, but after hearing early rappers like Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow, I began what would become in later albums a rich and careless tradition of copping and butchering whatever musical idiom I currently fancied. Purists, you have been warned...

Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)

It all started with my first trip to London's famed tourist waxtrap--"I wonder what would happen in here if someone turned up the heat?" Surrounded by so many illustrious faces, it all seemed like a fine metaphor for Jesus' words, "what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

I was originally concerned that the song's topical references might lose some kick in later years (do the youngsters out there remember John "The Bad Boy" McEnroe?), and my then manager begged me not to include the line about Dylan, but ten years later, the lyric seems to me to hold up pretty well, which is more than I can say for some of the instrumentation.

Sin For A Season

The title was a direct rip from Hebrews 1:1--"By faith Moses...chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." The theme was a direct rip from the Apostle Paul--"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

It seems these days we find it much easier to confess that we're sinners, than to admit that our actions have consequences. If the three vignettes in the lyrics occasionally veer towards melodrama, I hope I can be excused by the seriousness of the subject matter. The moral failures of our day all to often get shrugged off by the mantra of "we're all just human." This song is about the nasty residue.

Guilty By Association

If you've never heard of the Christian Yellow Pages, or don't own a copy of Jimmy Swaggart's "Religious Rock 'N' Roll: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing," or have yet to come across a televangelism telethon, please skip to the next song, because this one's too hard to explain.

Am I In Sync?

Inspired by a Woody Allen quote ("I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."), it seems we as humans are at our most comical and pathetic when we strive to insure some type of immortality for ourselves or our work (like writing liner notes for one's own boxed set, for instance...).

My biggest concern with this song was whether the joke of an out-of-sync sequencer would wear well with repeated listening (a concern that was obviously overlooked a year later with "Lifeboat"). Musically subversive or just plain annoying? I'm still rather fond of the track, but don't try dancing to it or you might get hurt.


And sometimes, by the grace of God, we get it right. My eyes went bad at an early age from all the books I read late at night using the streetlamp outside my bedroom window (this wouldn't have happened if I'd watched more television...). Biographies were a favorite, but the accounts I'd read at age nine didn't necessarily tell the whole unvarnished story. The more I'd read, the more my heroes (except for maybe Abraham Lincoln) tended to shrink in stature, eventually causing my adolescent psyche no small amount of post- Watergate disillusionment ("Dad, what does 'expletive deleted' mean?").

Role models may vary in quality and consistency, but all are ultimately born to disappoint. Jesus is the only hero worth having.

Baby Doe

I must credit both the Christian philosopher Francis Shaeffer and Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff for their influence and inspiration in helping me to develop a foundational belief in the sanctity of human life. Ten years after the events described in this song occurred, the alarm they and others sounded rings prophetically true. But it continues to be drowned out by the rhetoric of "freedom of choice" and "quality of life."

A baby was born in Bloomington, Indiana with Down's Syndrome, and despite numerous outside pleas for adoption, the parents, doctors, and ultimately the courts agreed to allow Baby Doe to starve to death, right there in the hospital.

I began writing this song with the sense of outrage that fingers those responsible and demands justice. But the more I thought about what had happened, the more I realized that I shared in the blame--that my silence had helped clear the way for Baby Doe's suffering and death. Hearing this song again leaves me feeling empty and a little numb. In our democratic society, the battle for the sanctity of human life is being lost.

And when that window closes, nothing will be sacred.

This Disco (Used To Be A Cute Cathedral)

In the heart of Manhattan stands an old Presbyterian church that was converted in the mid '80s into New York's famed Limelight Club. My on-the- scene investigation began with the required ritual of waiting with the anxious crowd outside the entrance until a neo-nazi type doorman decided my shoes wouldn't scuff up the dance floor. He then escorted my friends and me through the vestibule, past rows of authentic looking crypts, then up to the cashier ringing up fifteen dollar admissions underneath a large cross.

We followed the beat to the sanctuary, just in time to catch a giant video screen being lowered over the pipe organ to show Madonna's latest for the two thousand boogie pilgrims jammed on the dance floor. My mind began to wander (like it always does during Madonna songs), and I started to imagine it was Sunday night, and that the church elders had devised all this as a way to attract new members.

Most of us, myself included, are guilty of wishing Christianity was more fashionable. But the Apostle Paul's example of becoming "all things to all men" in order to reach across cultural barriers can sometimes be used as an excuse to dilute the Gospel message, and hopefully draw a trendier, more affluent flock.

[For further reading on this subject, please immediately purchase my latest album Squint, paying particular attention to the song "Jesus is for Losers."]

To Forgive

Inspired by the simple, eloquent photo seen by the world of Pope John Paul II standing in a prison cell, forgiving the man who tried to assassinate him.

Drive, He Said

This "devil went down to Barstow" fable probably had its roots in my roots, which included numerous family vacations travelling through New Mexico and Arizona on Route 66. Yes, that is me whistling at the end of the song, and not a professional as you may have imagined.

I Just Wanna Know

During the recording of the On The Fritz album, my co- producer Ian McDonald probably saved this song. I'd written the words as a prayer, based loosely on Psalm 139:23-24 ("search me, o God, and know my heart..."). But for some reason, the night before I was to sing it I decided the verse lyrics were too simplistic, and I came up with something a bit more esoteric (and, in retrospect, lame).

Ian, who was not a Christian, and never seemed to have an interest in any of the lyrics, heard the words and thought it was a joke.

When I told him it was a rewrite, he pleaded with me to go back to the original. I was so taken by surprise that he even cared, I went along with his wishes and sang the original verses. I've been grateful to him ever since.

On The Fritz

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.


The making of this song and it's subsequent video (featuring the "world's ugliest woman") could fill this entire booklet. As a kid, I'd played the infamous "lifeboat" game in grade school, and although I couldn't even pronounce "values clarification," I had a vague notion my parents wouldn't approve of little Stevie and his classmates deciding who deserved to die. How to turn it into a song? Fools walk in where artists fear to tread...

I went into the studio armed with nothing more than a chord chart and a vague concept, and I kept putting off finishing it because I couldn't come up with the right story line. By the eleventh hour I'd thrown together what amounted to a script, but there wasn't any money left to hire the actress to play the teacher. The do-it-yourself ethic prevailed (inevitably taken to its tragic conclusion in the concept video), and I even convinced the parents of a local New Jersey congregation into letting their kids play the class. What ensued on recording day was me (sans dress--what do you think I am, a method actor?) trying to explain satire to twelve impressionable young minds. ("The song we're about to sing should not be sung to our friends at school, because we don't call people 'retard' or 'fatty,' do we?")

What was I thinking? And, not to pass the blame, but why did so many of you keep screaming for that song every night on tour, until I finally had to bow to public demand and don a wig and heels every night for an encore? I learned at least one valuable lesson during the experience--if you must do novelty songs, at least have the common decency to save them for the end of the album so they can be easily ignored.

We Don't Need No Colour Code

I did make a few people mad with this one, including one Bob Jones III, who graciously informed me in a letter that at the time of the song's release, the matter was discussed with the school's attorney and legal recourse was seriously considered. Hmmm, I wonder why they didn't sue?

You Don't Owe Me Nothing

Not one of my more insightful lyrics, with Jim & Tammy, et al. The televangelist target had gotten too easy--rather like criticizing a cartoon character for bad acting.

But since this is a live track, and a very good one at that, I'll instead take the oportunity to thank the band, who had nothing to do with the lyrics, and everything to do with making it all still sound interesting.

Under The Blood

One of the few tracks I recorded that "never escaped" until 1988's The Best We Could Find compilation, it takes on what Bonhoeffer called the "cheap grace" mentality so prevalent in modern Christianity.

This song never quite achieved its full potential, and I mostly blame my own compositional and arranging missteps (although a better cellist might have saved the string section). But I think the lyrics merit special attention. They were fuelled by one recurring image in particular--that of a disgraced evengelist weeping tears of repentance for a televised audience, yet refusing to step down even temporarily as head of his ministry empire. Too easy of a target? Indeed it was, which is why each verse ends with three long fingers pointing back at me.


After hearing Sixpence None The Richer's brilliant acoustic version of "Bouquet" on the I Predict A Clone tribute album, I'm left scratching my head wondering how I managed to so perfectly mismatch touchingly poignant lyric with inappropriately buoyant track.

I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good

A very incendiary song indeed. Reasonable people on both sides of the abortion debate could argue that this was not a song that needed to be written, but it was the unreasonable ones who made the most noise: The director of an abortion clinic in San Diego threatened a lawsuit against a video show that aired the "Clinic" clip, and when I called her at the show's request to explain that it was satire, she was so whining and obnoxious that I ended up giving her an earful of what I thought of her profession, then begged her to sue me. Australian TV's version of Geraldo Rivera did a story on me prior to a national tour there, claiming I was advocating blowing up abortion clinics--the story got picked up by all the major newspapers and eventually forced cancellation of most of the tour (forever dispelling the show biz dictum "all press is good press"). I even spent an hour on the phone with an elderly bookstore owner in Arizona--he'd pulled the album because he thought it was wrong to blow up abortion clinics, and I congratulated him on his integrity in choosing principle over commerce before gently explaining to him the song's satirical intent.

So what happened? It all seemed obvious to me--the flashing neon lyric in the middle of the song that says, "the end don't justify the means anytime." What better example to use than a clinic bomber (except perhaps the nutcases that are now shooting abortionists?) "Christian" relativism's finest hour! (Okay, maybe Oliver "proud to be a God-fearing liar" North matched it for sheer shamelessness. "Does this mean it's OK to tell lies, daddy?" Do I still sound angry? Does a duck have lips? Do we get the heroes we deserve, or what?)

I'll take flak anytime for the right reasons, but this song was controversial for all the wrong ones.

Jim Morrison's Grave

A stream-of-consciousness graveside meditation on the folly of dead-rock- star worship, and speaking of Kurt Cobain--who was, I think, far more honest and far less cruel--when anyone takes an unblinking look into the well, if they don't find living water, they'll find nothing but a black hole. I assume Kurt Cobain could only see the latter.

Some wonder what causes so many people to commit suicide. I wonder what causes so many people not to. Everyday I'm convinced afresh that apart from God, nothing makes sense.

Innocence Lost

I dreamt up the fictional details, but the core inspiration of this conversion story is a friend who for a number of years has been taking the love of God to those in prison as a volunteer for prison fellowship. "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

What Is The Measure Of Your Success?

The optimist in me wants to bronze this song as a museum piece for the materialism-run-amok decade in which it was written; when the measure of a man was his stuff.

But since greed is one of the grand, recurring themes of American life, it logically follows in the 1990's that the love of money is the root of all downsizing. If gucci loafers can lead us into greed's snare, so can sensible shoes.

And why is this one of my recurring themes as well, from "Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number's Up?" to "Cash Cow"? Maybe I'm marking off more "On The Fritz" style borders. Or maybe I'm just a lousy businessman.

Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better

I could bore you with trivia by telling you that of all my song titles, this one has the most words. I could drop famous names by mentioning the improvisatory prowess on this track by famed Jefferson Airplane fiddler Papa John Creach. But I think I'll just dare you to go digging by saying that of all the songs I've written, this one is perhaps most rewarded by a careful reading of the words.


I never really liked this song, and almost tossed it out halfway through the epic making of the I Predict 1990 album. For starters, it presaged an unhealthy obsession with foreign-sounding words that would reach its tragic apex with the naming of an obscure American rock band of which I was a member. The track is too derivative of a certain English pop group, the words are all pomp and no circumstance, and the dreaded live version required my first and last use of the band playing along with a pre-recorded sequencer part on tape. But the album needed a tenth song. And, as fate would have it, "Svengali" was picked as the first single, necessitating its inclusion here.

In short, skip the song and read the novel.

A Principled Man

Ah, to have the Bible's sense of balance.

My goal with "A Principled Man" was to write a song that inspired me to live a principled life. The seed came from a "tree motif" in the book of psalms: "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water..." (Psalms 1:1-3)

But lest principles become an end unto themselves, we have in Ezekiel the dark side of the tree metaphor: "Therefore, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Because it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height...I cast it aside." (Ezekiel 31:10-11)

This song still inspires me. May it continue to do so for all the right reasons.

Harder To Believe Than Not To

A personal favorite. I travelled to London for the chamber orchestra session conducted by very legendary orchestral arranger Del Newman (think Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" among a myriad of others). The classical setting seemed appropriate, especially since the haunting melody in the introduction was lifted from Sergei Rachmaninoff's now-public domain.

The song takes its title from a line found in the collected letters of Flannery O'Connor, acclaimed short-story writer and novelist from Georgia. Her literary friends in New York had a hard time believing that a writer of her caliber could profess to be something as common and unfashionable as a Christian. She reacts in her letter to the criticism that Christianity's primary function is as a crutch for the weak-spirited, writing how they don't understand the cost involved in following Jesus, that "it's much harder to believe than not to believe."

The quote stuck. The cost of discipleship--the ideal of taking up your cross everyday and following Jesus--makes it hard to believe, because Christianity demands things from us that we don't naturally want to give. In the words of playwrite Dennis Potter, "There is, in the end, no such thing as a simple faith."

Murder In The Big House

There are certain mysteries on which Chagall Guevara's peculiar cult of fans could forever theorize: What if they'd actually toured? What if they'd been less of a democracy and more the servile puppets of an industry-savvy manager? What if they'd had a name we could all pronounce? What if they hadn't signed with MCA?

God works in mysterious ways, beloved Guevarians. Yours is not to wonder why, yours is but to listen carefully and try to figure out just exactly what these songs are saying. Because, despite considerable carping to the contrary by those who want the Cliff Notes before they read the novel, all the songs were chock full of profundity, spiritual and otherwise. And just because that fact escaped the Manilow-weaned masses due to what I'm sure is an internaional conspiracy, that doesn't mean you were wrong in smelling greatness. Think of all the people who couldn't pronounce Van Gogh!

Which brings me to the point of my unseemly braggadocio. We weren't a lot of fun to interview, because we didn't like to explain our lyrics. In keeping with the request of the deceased, I shall do likewise.

Winter Wonderland

If you told me that my last recording before retiring as a solo artist would be a mariachi version of a Christmas carol, I would have said, "sure-- where's the microphone?"

If any of my production efforts ever deserved to be a disaster, this was it. I actually found the band in the Yellow Pages, and it wasn't until they arrived in the studio that I asked them if they wouldn't mind translating the third verse into Spanish and singing it. Amazingly, and through no fault of my own, it all worked. Sometimes God smiles on our folly.

Happy birthday, Jesús!

Dream In Black & White

Now the truth can be told? Well, not entirely. You see, my original idea was to include anything and everything from the vaults prior to my label debut. A great idea, until I actually had to sit down and listen to the archives. As Sparrow V.P. Peter York will testify, with each new audio trip down memory lane, I broke out in a fresh sweat. No amount of royalty subsidies could possibly make up for the sure-to-follow embarrassment, and Sparrow graciously concurred in allowing me to keep some shred of dignity by re-vaulting all the offending evidence. For the handful of you who own any Nth-generation copies of timeless classics like "The Moo Moo Song," I can assure you that God will extract his revenge.

Ah yes, there was one pre-Clone demo that made the cut, but even it includes some post-mortem tampering. "Dream in Black & White" suffers from some of my recurring maladies: too much alliteration, melodrama, improper use of a glockenspiel, etc. But nothing could excuse the sappiness of the song's third verse.

What third verse, you ask?

Oh, it's there, alright--I just can't guarantee you'll be able to hear it. Sometimes these mastering guys get a little excited when they get to the end of a long boxed set. They've occasionally even been known to fade the last song a little early.