|HORRENDOUS DISC by Daniel Amos|
Recorded 1978 / Released 1981
Solid Rock Records SRA-2011
1. a prolonged public dispute, debate, or contention
There weren't that many full-blown controversies with regard to contemporary Christian music in the 1970s, but there were a few. The infamous unplugging of Randy Matthews at Jesus '74 was certainly one. The album cover for Larry Norman's So Long Ago the Garden was another -- some people thought Larry appeared nude on the cover, but that wasn't actually the case. The argument could be made that Jesus Rock itself was controversial...and that certainly was true.
There were other events surrounding 70s Jesus Music that would've been extremely controversial...had they been known. Lonnie Frisbee's homosexuality, Mike Warnke's veracity (or lack thereof), Chuck Girard's struggle with alcohol, and the partying ways of Warnke, Matthews, Taylor & Johnson would've been front-page scandals, but escaped scrutiny because we had no knowledge of those situations until decades later (thank God). The fact that Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill were married, at different times, to the same woman would've been a huge scandal but, again, most people were unaware at the time (thank God).
After a list like that, it seems almost comical to suggest that the delay of the release of an album could've been considered a huge controversy...but it was.
Horrendous Disc, the third album by the band Daniel Amos, was recorded in 1978 and was not released until 1981. This resulted in much consternation, weeping, hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth. Well, I exaggerate slightly. But it did result in innuendo, accusations, and mudslinging in the media...it at least contributed to the dissolution of Solid Rock Records...and some say that it derailed Daniel Amos' momentum as a band--an unfortunate event from which they arguably never recovered.
Daniel Amos' roots go back to a group called Jubal's Last Band. Jubal is considered to have been the first musician mentioned in the Scriptures; he is called "the father of all who play the harp and flute." Jubal's Last Band was an acoustic quartet consisting of Terry Taylor, Kenny Paxton, Chuck Starnes and Steve Baxter, and they performed for coffee shops and house meetings throughout Southern California. After recording a demo tape in 1974, Starnes and Paxton left the group and were replaced by bassist Marty Dieckmeyer and guitarist Jerry Chamberlain.
In 1975, Jubal's Last Band actually auditioned for Maranatha! Music, hoping to get a record deal with the fledgling Jesus Music label. The story is told that another band at the same audition had a similar name - Jubal (featuring Darrell Mansfield). The groups discussed the situation and decided to both change their names to avoid any confusion. Jubal became Gentle Faith, and Jubal's Last Band became Daniel Amos. Many music fans over the years have mistakenly assumed that Daniel Amos was a male solo artist, not realizing that the name was taken from two Old Testament prophets.
Daniel Amos did indeed land a recording and performance contract with the Calvary Chapel-based Maranatha! Records. The group's first nationally-released song was 1975's Ain't Gonna Fight It, released on a Maranatha! compilation album. The following year, Daniel Amos recorded their debut eponymous album, establishing them as a country-rock outfit, complete with cowboy hats and a little pedal steel here and there (courtesy of producer Al Perkins).
The sound of the Daniel Amos album (and those 10-gallon cowboy hats) pigeon-holed the band as a country-western outfit. In truth, the music and the hats were more parody than anything else.
Soon after the release of Daniel Amos, Ed McTaggart signed on as the group's full-time drummer. They also ditched the cowboy hats and began to lose the country associations. In 1977, the boys took their audience by surprise with a landmark LP titled Shotgun Angel. Equal parts Eagles, Beatles, Queen and Pink Floyd, it's been described as "half country and half rock-opera." The country music wasn't gone entirely...but it was joined by lush orchestrations and some actual rock and roll. Shotgun Angel is also where a lot of us first realized the talents of a young man named Jonathan David Brown; he produced, engineered and mixed Shotgun Angel. It was about this time that Steve Baxter said goodbye and keyboardist Mark Cook said hello.
Daniel Amos continued their musical progression by adding percussionist Alex McDougall to the tribe and teaming up with producer Mike Stone (nephew of Chris Stone, co-founder of The Record Plant) to record an album that would eventually be known as Horrendous Disc for Maranatha! Music.
"We recorded the basic tracks for Horrendous Disc in our pajamas," Alex McDougall remembered with a smile. "Seemed to be a theme. And we locked all visitors out - how very rock and roll! We even had a sign on the studio door claiming the sessions to be locked and that we were xenophobic!"
In June of 1978, photographer Scott Lockwood took photos with the band for the cover of Horrendous Disc, while a rough mix of the record was created at Maranatha! Studios in July.
And here, I guess, is where the trouble begins (although no one knew it at the time). Daniel Amos suddenly found themselves without a label to call home. "Yeah, Maranatha! Music released all of their artists under contract because they realized that they could not compete with the burgeoning CCM label marketing machine," explained Alex MacDougall. "They just didn't have the people or money to do it, and because Maranatha! was owned by a church (Calvary Chapel) at that time, they did not want to play that game (so to speak)."
Maranatha's physical location also became a detriment.
"Being located in Southern California," MacDougall continued, "Maranatha! was not geographically suited to compete. The industry was primarily promoted from Waco, TX, and Nashville, TN, in distribution, early radio, touring, etc. Maranatha! did however, find incredible favor in the recording and sales of early praise music, and with a whole lot less hassle!" So, despite the popularity and critical acclaim for groups such as Daniel Amos and Sweet Comfort, the decision was made to focus on children's albums and praise music (which was beginning to grow in popularity at the time). This would be more profitable and it would allow Maranatha! to serve the local church with much-needed resources and stop spending time and money trying to be the Christian version of A&M Records. Bottom line for DA is that they needed a new home.
In hindsight, it seems that Daniel Amos never was a great fit at Maranatha! anyway. Years later, Taylor revealed in various interviews that he was basically uncomfortable with the expectation to function as a minister. In a 1991 interview with Harvest Rock Syndicate, Taylor was asked if he sensed unrealistic pressures and expectations from Christian audiences back in the 70s. "Absolutely," he answered, "and that was the problem at that time. I looked around at my peers, all the people that I was involved with, in the Maranatha! family. But the problem was that a lot of that first wave, sort of during that Love Song era, those people were all becoming youth pastors or leading music in a church full time. But I had no intention of going in that way. I didn't feel that that was my lot in life. I wanted DA to exist, I wanted it to go on and become something musical, and there was this conflict because up until that time, I don't think the people at Maranatha! had run into the kind of an animal that I was."
Taylor was further pressed to comment on music as a "ministry tool."
"That wasn't what I - if you want to put it in these terms - was called to do," he said. "There was a sense on my part of being off center because at times I was forced into playing that game. There was a sincerity there, and a desire to please, a desire to minister. But I really didn't know how to do it, in a way that I felt God was 'calling' me to do it. It became increasingly uncomfortable for me, for the band, and the churches that had us in. When we moved out of the idea that we were supposed to be increasingly evangelical, and even instructional, and then break up and become youth ministers - when we were into being a band, and staying a creative entity - then the flak came down. That's when the stuff hit the fan."
Taylor would later be looked at as the primary mentor to an entire generation of younger bands; he would even be referred to as The Father of Alternative Christian Rock. As a result, many younger Christian bands in the 90s and beyond seemed to mirror Taylor's attitude toward ministry and the Church. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard some third wave alternative band member say "We're not preachers!" (as if that allowed them to opt out of the Great Commission). The between-song banter at most of their concerts amounted to little more than "thanks for comin' out!" Beginning in the early 90s, the Christian rock music scene that had once been so vibrant slowly died. After all, the message and "ministry" were the only things distinguishing Christian rock music from secular rock. Remove the distinction, and you remove the reason that the genre existed in the first place. That's one theory, anyway.
While Daniel Amos was still recording Horrendous Disc for Maranatha!, Chuck Fromm (Pastor Chuck Smith's nephew who was asked to lead Maranatha! and spent the next 25 years as its president) set things up for the band to take the album to another label. It is said that DA left on good terms and with Maranatha!'s blessing. "We had already recorded everything on Horrendous Disc," recalled Marty Dieckmeyer. "The only thing left to do was mix it and do the artwork. After we finished all the work in the studio, we started meeting with all the different labels that showed interest in us."
In late summer of 1978, CCM publisher John Styll received some photos and promotional materials in the mail and he let his magazine's readers know that Horrendous Disc was on its way. By the end of November, masters were assembled at The Record Plant.
This is probably a good point in the story to point out that Daniel Amos might've been the first band to view a Christian record contract as a stepping stone to a secular deal. Most of the groups that came before them -- well-known bands like Love Song and Mustard Seed Faith as well as lesser-known outfits like The Way and Blessed Hope -- were high on Jesus, music was just one way to express it, and they didn't really give a lot of thought to distribution channels and the business side of things. In hindsight, it seems that the members of Daniel Amos were tired of witnessing to folks who were already converted...and they probably wouldn't have balked at becoming a famous rock and roll band.
Taylor revealed the plan to "go secular" in interviews, acknowledging the band's need for support from Christians even as they pursued a secular deal. "We want to stay close to the body of Christ," he said. "We want them to know that this has been prayerfully considered. We have to have a spiritual base, to be part of a family. We don't want to become radicals, we have a past and we're rooted in the church. We can't just cut ourselves off."
In the same interview, Ed McTaggart pointed out that, "Hopefully, in the long run, what we do will be a real fruitful thing, but we don't really know until we try it. There's never been a strictly Christian band crossing over into the secular market. It'll be interesting to see what happens, but impossible to predict."
Taylor jumped back in with, "We feel like we're going to get a major deal this year with a secular label. That way our dependence won't be on the Church for a living."
At the end of 1978, Daniel Amos was indeed offered a mainstream deal with Curb-Warner, but turned it down. "It was a good contract, but not the kind of thing we wanted," said Ed McTaggart. At this point, Daniel Amos made the fateful decision to partner with Larry Norman's Solid Rock Records.
"Alex [MacDougall] had toured with Randy Stonehill and knew Larry Norman," Terry Taylor said. "Alex said since we were getting a lot more serious about touring, what we ought to do is approach Street Level and see if they would book us. We talked to the people there and they said they wanted to book us, but about a week later we were told that it had been their policy only to book Solid Rock artists. Larry was a controversial figure, but he seemed like a nice enough guy, and he was talking about taking us to a secular label. We had begun negotiating with one particular secular label, and Larry said: 'I know the guy there.' So it was decided Larry would put us on Solid Rock, and he'd go ahead and get us a secular deal, and Street Level would book us. It looked like a beautiful package, and we bought into it. We signed all the contracts."
"And then came the delays."
Nine months later, the band settled on a final track order for Horrendous Disc. "Our intention for the album was to record more songs than needed, and then pick out the ones that had the best feel and continuity with each other," remembers Marty Dieckmeyer. "So, we had a tentative order and, at the last minute, we changed it." Apparently, there was much discussion (some of it heated) about possibly dropping the songs I Love You #19, I Believe In You and Never Leave You from the album in favor of other tracks. "We weren't quite sure which songs were going to go on the album," Dieckmeyer continued, "and I'm sure we bounced the order of the songs off Larry, but he didn't tell us what to put on the album. He left that up to us."
A couple of years later, Larry Norman had a lot to say about Horrendous Disc to CCM magazine. In a March 1981 article, Norman quibbles about track order and makes a lot of claims that were almost immediately disputed by the members of Daniel Amos. Norman was perceived to have been the producer of Horrendous Disc, but that's not true. "Mike Stone was the producer of Horrendous Disc the whole time," Terry Taylor clarified. "Larry's involvement with the record was peripheral, he had nothing to do with the recording at that time. He might remember it differently, but the truth is he had nothing to do with the recording of that record. I think Larry did step in and direct us as to where he wanted it mixed, and it was mixed by someone Larry had confidence in, but again he was not there and had nothing to do with it." The confusion was probably the result of the words "Larry Norman presents" on the album jacket and the record labels.
Fast forward to September of 1979. A test pressing of Horrendous Disc was made by Word Records, printed with an incorrect track order, of course. In November, Solid Rock actually ran an advertisement for Horrendous Disc in CCM magazine. After another ad ran in the December issue, the magazine announced that the album would be delayed until early 1980.
In January of 1980, a new photo session took place for the album, this time with Larry Norman himself behind the camera. The iconic cover photo was taken on the streets of a Santa Ana subdivision, on Flower Street near the corner of Santa Clara.
|The Horrendous Disc house|
At this point, the relationship between Larry and the members of DA began to show signs of strain. Negative rumors pertaining to the band began to affect their touring and their ability to attract and maintain an audience. They would soon appear on the cover of CCM magazine under the heading Angry Young Men. They had a lot of things to say in that article that were off-putting and alienating to a large segment of their audience.
Fast forward to May of 1980. DA finishes a tour and returns to home to find a letter from Larry Norman stating that he had released them from their management contract with StreetLevel. The next month a 10" Horrendous Disc EP was released to radio stations with blue and white swirled vinyl.
Another six months go by. By the end of 1980, the delay of the release of Horrendous Disc was taking a financial toll on the band members. Mark Cook and Alex MacDougall left the group to pursue other endeavors. Cook became a youth pastor in San Diego, and McDougall began working with Ministry Resource Center, an offshoot of Maranatha! Music. He would continue to work with the band off and on, just not as a full-time member.
In December of 1980 Word Records vice president Stan Moser told CCM magazine that Larry Norman still had the legal rights and physical control of Horrendous Disc and that the whole saga was basically one big mess. "Well, here's what we've got," Moser began. "What we have in our warehouse right now is, I believe, 25,000 jackets with the wrong songs listed on the back. And we have 10,000 8-tracks and cassettes of finished product that have only nine songs and I think there are ten songs that are supposed to be on the final album. So we've had those in our warehouse for about 90 days. Once we reached that stage, we realized that something was wrong somewhere. And then Larry informed us that the 8-tracks and cassettes were pressed from the wrong master tape, or created from the wrong master tape and that he would furnish us with the finished master tape that would correspond, as I understand it, with the jackets we now have."
By 1981 DA had moved on creatively. Demos were recorded for the Alarma! album, which, as you know if you're familiar with the band's work, was a very different album, musically and thematically. "We were still in a contract with Larry Norman," Terry Taylor explains. "Basically, our hands were tied. Here's this creative band chomping at the bit, ready to keep going, to make records and tour, to keep writing songs, and Horrendous Disc was just holding it all up. It was so frustrating it could bring tears to your eyes. We were struggling financially, it was a very, very tough time. And most record companies didn't want to deal with us, because we still had the cloud over us of these contracts with Norman, and still an unreleased album."
The nightmare would soon be over.
On the final day of January 1981, DA signed with Benson Music's NewPax label after they were finally released from their contract with Larry Norman and Solid Rock. "The Benson Company took a chance," Taylor says. "They said we'll just do it in good faith, and let the chips fall where they may. We appreciated the people there for that. So we went in and did the Alarma! record and the two albums came out within two weeks of each other, something like that."
A previously-ran Solid Rock ad for Horrendous Disc reappeared in CCM magazine, this time with the following caption: "After 744 Days Captive...It was released April 1st. Vanishing now at your corner Bible store!"
Competing narratives and confusing explanations were printed in national media outlets, complete with letters from attorneys. It was not CCM's finest hour. Regular readers of this blog know how much I loved and respected Larry Norman. But Larry's business practices have been unanimously lamented by every former Solid Rock artist at one time or another. I'm not going to quote his version of events in this blog post because, frankly, I don't think his version is very credible. That said, it in no way diminishes for me what Larry was able to accomplish for the Kingdom of God during the time he spent visiting this planet. I'm able to compartmentalize where the enigmatic Mr. Norman is concerned.
|L-R: Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman, Terry Taylor|
The good news is that Horrendous Disc was finally released...three years after it was recorded.
"I really don't know why it was delayed," Terry Taylor said in a 1991 interview. "I don't know why any of the Solid Rock albums were delayed as long as they were or why people had to be so frustrated and angered about it. I really don't know. To this day, it remains a mystery to me."
Before delving into the album itself, let's take a closer look at the players who made it:
Before co-founding Daniel Amos, Terry Taylor served a 6-year stint as a sergeant in the National Guard (can you even imagine?). Terry sang lead and background vocals and played guitars on Horrendous Disc.
Jerry Chamberlain became a Christian in 1969. He's a smart one, with A.A. and B.A. degrees in English; he studied creative writing at UCLA and Long Beach State. Jerry played guitars and sang both lead and backing vocals on this record.
Marty Dieckmeyer became a Christ-follower in 1971. Like Terry and Jerry, he was an original member of Daniel Amos. Marty played bass and provided some backing vocals on Horrendous Disc.
Before Ed McTaggart surrendered his life to Jesus he was a Social Science major. He was also a part-time musician, having played with the classic Jesus Music band known as The Road Home from '73 to '75. Ed played drums and percussion on this album, and also supplied background vocals.
Mark Cook played in a secular group called Spring Canyon and recorded an album for Warner Bros. in 1975. Then he met Jesus and joined Daniel Amos in June of '76. Mark played keyboards on Horrendous Disc. He also sang backing vocals on a number of songs and provided the lead vocal on one song.
Last but not least, Alex MacDougall surrendered his life to Jesus at a Billy Graham Crusade in Anaheim in October of 1969. He had toured with the Richie Furay Band, Loggins and Messina, Leon Russell, the Randy Stonehill Band and The Beach Boys. He stayed busy doing session work when not on the road with Daniel Amos. Alex played drums and percussion on Horrendous Disc.
The album was so long in the making that anticipation had reached ridiculous levels by the time the first needle was dropped on the first disc. The initial reaction was a little guarded in some quarters. Part of that had to do with the band's continuing evolution (there's never been a band that's reinvented itself so thoroughly over the course of their first four records). Part of it was the era. And part of it was the difficulty in living up to unrealistic expectations. THE most important review in those days was from CCM magazine. Publisher John Styll reviewed it himself.
In April 1981 Styll wrote that Horrendous Disc "may yet be ahead of its time." May be. After saying that the album was indebted to the Beatles' Abbey Road, he said that it was "better played and more obtuse than most" CCM albums. He felt safe predicting that "most Christians will understand the direction and intent of this record." [By the time the 1990s rolled around, we sadly no longer worried about quaint concepts like "direction" and "intent."] Styll felt that the song I Believe in You "fit perfectly into what Christian radio programmers consider to be appropriate and playable." [Appropriate? Playable?] But he called the album's title track a "bizarre" fantasy and worried that it wouldn't get much airplay. Overall, Styll felt that Horrendous Disc was "thought-provoking, literary stuff." Not exactly the highest praise.
Not to fear, though. Horrendous Disc has grown in estimation by reviewers as the years have gone by. Thom Granger says it was "a groundbreaker." Brian Quincy Newcomb calls it an "accessible, fun-easy listen." Whatzup.com's Jason Hoffman calls it "creative, intelligent music with great melodies and lush harmonies." The Phantom Tollbooth's Steven S. Baldwin says it is "a work of sheer brilliance and bravado" and "a charmingly eccentric collection of smart songs that inspire both thoughtful faith introspection and wacky dance gyrations."
"It was a very creative record," Terry Taylor acknowledges. "A total departure from anything even remotely country rock. It was purely a rock and roll record."
Side one of Horrendous Disc opens with a track that Scott Swinell excitedly called "the best straight-out rock 'n' roll song ever recorded in Christian music." To that point, Better from side two of Shotgun Angel was as hard as DA had ever rocked. I Love You #19 took things up a notch or two. Or three.
Perhaps the hardest rocking song in Daniel Amos' vast catalog, I Love You #19 featured a memorable, muscular guitar riff and a studio effect on Taylor's voice that just worked.
But where did that title come from?
"We gave I Love You #19 that designation because Terry and I took a trip down to our local record shop," recalled Jerry Chamberlain, "and perused the yellow-paged directory of recorded music that used to perch atop the counters of major record stores in America. I remember counting the number of songs listed with the title I Love You. There were 18 listed at that time." [By the way, Chamberlain still likes to visit record shops as his social media friends can attest. That is, if there are still any left.]
Terry Taylor added: "I Love You #19 apparently inspired three or four Christian heavy metal bands. Jimmy Brown and Deliverance thought it was their spiritual anthem when they heard it. Sort of heavy guitar, but it was recorded much too slowly. We picked up the tempo as a band when we did it live." Sure enough, the live version on a bootleg concert CD recorded in 1982 and released in 1990 contains I Love You #19 with a much quicker tempo. I'm going to disagree with Taylor here. I think they got it right on Horrendous Disc. The faster version sounds rushed.
By the way, I Love You #19 was apparently a favorite road trip song for some listeners. Said one social media commenter: "This was my favorite song to play in my car. It sounded good on the stereo I had in the car (the stereo was worth more than the car)." Said another: "Out of this world cool. Oh, to be in high school again, driving up and down Central Avenue blasting I Love You #19 in my little red '74 Ford Courier."
The tight snare on the abbreviated trash can ending is perfect.
Another favorite is up next. Hound of Heaven sets the tone, musically, for the rest of the album and casts God as the "Seeker of souls," pursuing man in a tireless effort to redeem and fulfill him. Material possessions will not satisfy, according to this song based perhaps on the classic poem by Francis Thompson.
We got lost among the stars
Hollywood flash, cash, mansions and cars
Deep sea diver, lear jet flyer
Will this thing go to the moon?
Give me elbow room, and for Heaven's sake
Take this aching away
You can't run, you can't hide, from the Hound of Heaven
You're free to choose, can you refuse the Seeker of souls?
In describing the song, reviewers have used words and phrases like "eerie" and "haunted," lauding the track's "echo-drenched guitar solos and chilling piano fills." Blogger David Lowman says the guitar sounds and atmospheric background instrumentation are reminiscent of Pink Floyd.
(Near Sighted Girl With Approaching) Tidal Wave is a cautionary tale based on Luke 12:16-21. It uses humor to deliver a very sobering message, foreshadowing the Swirling Eddies (a much-loved DA offshoot into craziness). The message here is that if you are obsessed with self, consumed by the superficial, and blissfully unaware of people or circumstances around you, um, that can be fatal. It sounds like something from a mini-rock opera, with nods to the Beach Boys and even a Latino-inspired bridge.
Up in her room, she gets out of the sack
Goes down to the beach and lies on her back
In the sunshine all day, what's the hurry?
She dreams of long youth, no wrinkles or fat
No thoughts of bedpans or deathbeds
And that keeps her smiling all day, what's the hurry?
An older woman suddenly cried, "The tide is rising!"
And all the guys with speedos made it first to their cars
But along with the rest, she slept while the crest rose
Twenty feet and higher, higher...
The girl kept on dreaming of a honeymoon in France
A handsome fiance and the way he could dance
Nuestra luna de miel, oye vaco mansando
Devina mujer estamos besando bailando el swim
He made good money alright a bright future
Even the guys with muscles cried, "The tide is rising!"
And all the folks with Porsches made it up to the cliffs
A group of kids were praying that I'm sure went up to Heaven
But no one tried to surf...
It's a tidal wave, it's a watery grave
She really tried to swim, she couldn't in the end.
Resisting the urge to explain the moral of the story, the boys simply allow the listener to figure it out for themselves. In fact, several songs on Horrendous Disc present a faith message in a more guarded or shrouded way than on DA's previous albums. According to Terry Taylor, the band's desire was to plant seeds and present truth...and then step back and allow the listener to make up his or her mind regarding what they've heard. "We have to give them the room to come to those conclusions," Taylor said. "Our first album was good for what it was, but I think it was a little naive. Our second LP was more sensitive to the listener's need to decide for himself, and Horrendous Disc goes a little further."
Sky King (Out Across the Sky) begins with Mark Cook's electric piano and wraps up side one. This one is said to owe musical inspiration to the Beatles, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, ELO and Queen. I take Sky King as a tender tribute to a loved one who has finally gone Home to be with the Lord. Eschewing cliches, Taylor & Co. use heartfelt yet intelligent language to describe the final passage for a child of God:
This is not a dream, you've taken flight, far above the world
You walk on clouds, you ride the light, far above my head
Out across the sky, out across the sky
I'm out across the sky, the ground is gone
And I'm dancing on the wind, I'm dancing on the wind
Ain't no packing bags when your voyage is to the Son
Ain't no last goodbyes when Heaven calls you on
It's hard to believe this dreary night is gone
But I can feel it's meant for everyone
Out across the sky, far above the world
Out across the sky, far above my head
Out across the sky, tell the world goodbye
Out across the sky
As with most, if not all Solid Rock releases, this one had a gatefold cover. And even the cover photography was controversial.
"We had this idea, this thing we were doing at the time, called Preachers From Outer Space," Terry Taylor said in an interview with Harvest Rock Syndicate. "It was a live shtick and we had each created our own costumes for this thing. We had a pajama party one night at Alex MacDougall's and we all wore our costumes, which was hilarious. Randy Stonehill was there, Larry Norman, Tom Howard, all of us. We had our pajamas on and went to 7-11's and things like that, and had sort of a weird, strange night. Well, Larry lost it. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen.
When we did Horrendous Disc, he asked to take some pictures of us in our costumes. We said, 'We're not using those for the album art,' and he said, 'Oh, no. I just want to take some pictures.' Well, they got into the album, that inside photo. That was fine, it came out great, but it was Larry's idea. And we were told it wouldn't happen."
By the way, there's also a story that goes with the 'flying saucer' disc on the album's front cover. The green and red disc seen on the cover is, in fact, a various artists LP from 1978 entitled Push For Excellence, released on Myrrh Records. Side One was painted for the album cover. For many years the green and red painted disc remained in Larry Norman's private collection. Word has it that Norman almost accidentally sold that record at a Cornerstone festival one year when a fan was purchasing copies of the Horrendous Disc test pressing. Larry reportedly looked in the sleeve, realized that it was the infamous green disc, and decided to keep it.
The reviewer known as Red Flying Squirrel describes the beginning of Side Two this way:
With an unearthly synthesizer wailing, building for 26 seconds into a high-pitched warble, then on into a trashcans timbales/tom-toms drum solo that sounds like this Dan Amos guy is falling down a set of stairs with his drum kit, [side two] is off and spinning.
Blogger David Lowman calls it a "UFO sound effect" followed by a "spastic percussive introduction" by Alex MacDougall. However you want to describe it, it's a pretty dang cool way to get into the song. On the Line is all about God's attempts to talk to us, to communicate with His creation, to draw us to Himself. And the Beatles are actually name-dropped in the lyrics...
You know He calls you long distance
No doubt He's dropped you a line
Right now He's saying it on your Hi-Fi
Quit talking and listen a while
When you draw back the curtain
He'll paint a picture for you
And if a billion stars don't convince you, baby
He sent some letters, signed His name with love too
On the line to you, on the line to you
Dropping a line to you, especially for you
He's got some bulletins on the radio
You turn the Beatles up instead
Why do you settle for strawberry fields
His talk of Heaven could fill more than your head
There are some musical changes and surprises along the way that certainly add interest. Saxophone and harmony twin guitar leads are employed, and the vocals are particularly impressive on this track.
Speaking of vocals, listening to this album again reminds me that Terry Taylor was a fantastic singer, especially on the group's first four albums. Somewhere along the way -- probably about the time the Swirling Eddies came about -- he developed a twangy, nasally vocal style that, frankly, can be unpleasant if not downright irritating. It works somewhat with some of the Lost Dogs' material...but I really miss his vocals from the early DA days.
The next song, the easy-breezy I Believe In You showcases Taylor's singing, a radio-friendly melody and beautiful orchestration. One reviewer called it "possibly the most beautiful song Daniel Amos has ever done." I wouldn't go that far...but it's a keeper. I Believe in You would've been right at home on Shotgun Angel. It talks about faith in up-front language that Daniel Amos would pretty much eschew from this point forward.
'Cause I believe in You, when the night comes
'Cause the light comes too, I believe in You
I believe in You, that You're coming back
To make my dreams come true
Sometimes just got Your letters to read
These promises You've asked me always to believe
Then despite the feeling, I'm saying I believe in you
The next two songs on the album are the only two Taylor didn't write. Chamberlain wrote and sang Man in the Moon and Cook wrote and sang Never Leave You. So, obviously, in this band, if you wrote it, you sang it.
Man in the Moon reminded one reviewer of John Lennon and David Bowie; meanwhile, Never Leave You is said to have a British sound with crisp, clean vocals. Chamberlain and Cook make the most of their turns at the mic and both songs flow well with the rest of the album.
Last but not least is the title track, a mini rock opera of sorts that packs quite a punch. It was unlike anything ever recorded in CCM up until that time. One reviewer called it an epic that reminded him of Queen...with tight harmony vocals and musical changes throughout.
"It was a tremendous creative experience for me during the recording process," said Alex MacDougall. "I remember a feeling of exuberance planning percussion overdubs and sound effects for the title track. It was a labor of love. I remember we all recorded the basic tracks in our pajamas. Terry's brilliance was shining through. Mark was great with arranging and Jerry was such a good vocal thinker. Ed was just right, and Marty was great on bass. It was a team effort."
The song shares the sordid tale of a recording artist who is abusive toward his wife, and very creatively (and creepily) makes the point that God has total recall and none of us will escape judgment. And on that happy note, Horrendous Disc fades out.
Three years can seem like a lifetime where musical styles and preferences are concerned. Considering the fact that this album was held up for three years, it's amazing that it sounded as fresh and as current as it did when the public finally got a chance to give it a spin. Almost 40 years later, it's still a great listen.
Just as there was controversy with the original release, there was also great consternation for years from many fans as to why this album had never been released on CD. Solid Rock finally righted that wrong in the year 2000...but in so doing, Larry Norman took the opportunity to stick the knife in and twist it a little. The reissue inexplicably contained bonus cuts by Norman himself and an insert booklet with substandard artwork and a long, rambling, one-sided account from Norman as to why the album was delayed in the first place. He also took several passive-aggressive shots at Taylor & Co. Not a good look from the Father of Christian Rock and Roll.
|The Solid Rock roster (late 70s)|
"Well, he's an enigma," Terry Taylor told Harvest Rock Syndicate. "He's a very tough person to know. Larry's a very complex guy. He's a genius. And he's a frustrating person to know, because in many ways at one moment he's accessible, and at another he's inaccessible. But that's okay, I understand that."
As of 1991, Taylor said that he and Norman had not reconciled or renewed any type of friendship. "I don't have a relationship with Larry," Taylor told Brian Quincy Newcomb. "The last time I spoke with Larry it was not a good thing. It was not a great moment for me. I will tell you this. I really have gotten past all the anger, and the bitterness, a long time ago. I really did get past it, and we just wanted to go on with our lives. We wanted to put it behind us. We figured it was a bad episode, not good for anybody, but let's move on. We've got new paths to go down, new records to do. We still have our friends, we still have our families, let's put it behind us and forget it. That's all I ever really wanted to do. I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to put Larry down, or try to build myself up, or rationalize because I knew that that was futile. We had spent so much time trying to put our point across, and whether that was sabotaged or whatever, is for somebody else to know. We tried to go to the press and it was just our word against his, that sort of thing, and it was just futile. I still hold out the hope that we can go on with our lives, and that there can be a restoration of friendship. If I don't believe that, I wouldn't be able to say that I believe in God and that God can accomplish miracles."
From all indications, that's one miracle God did not see fit to accomplish before Larry went Home. Maybe they can bury the hatchet and reconcile on the other side. Of course, then they won't be concerned anymore about things like record deals and release dates.
|Randy Stonehill (2nd from left) playing live with Daniel Amos|
For Daniel Amos, one really positive thing came out of the Solid Rock experience: their friendship and musical partnership with Randy Stonehill. They toured heavily with Stonehill, playing their own music and also serving as Stonehill's live band. "The Amos n' Randy Tour" is a very fond memory to DA and Stonehill fans. Terry Taylor later produced three of Stonehill's greatest albums, using DA members as backing musicians.
|Terry Taylor and Randy Stonehill|
At the same time Horrendous Disc hit store shelves, Alarma! hit as well. DA's next 4 albums, known as The Alarma! Chronicles, were critically heralded and well received by fans of the band. They were also musically adventurous, as the most unpredictable band in Christian rock reinvented itself once again. Multimedia screens, mannequins, a 3D slideshow, and actors portraying game show announcers made their live shows during this period must-see events.
Their much-desired mainstream break never came...but they found other ways to amuse themselves and their hard-core fan base. Side projects from the Swirling Eddies and the Reverend Edward Daniel Taylor are the stuff of legend. Those projects are exceedingly funny and are evidence that, at that point, Terry and the boys were just having fun and no longer had expectations of broad commercial success.
While the Eddies material is indeed hilarious, the laughter might just be covering up a measure of anger or bitterness. Michial Farmer, a blogger for The Christian Humanist, says that the Swirling Eddies' Outdoor Elvis album is "one of the most brutal critiques ever leveled against evangelical culture." He says, "It’d be an unbearably angry album if it weren’t so damned funny." I guess Taylor's relationship with the Church remained...um...complicated. Farmer (who is a big fan of the band) also claims that the Eddies' Sacred Cows album is "probably the most mean-spirited record ever released on a Christian label." It was a goofy send-up of some of the most popular and best-selling songs in CCM history. At the time of its release, I just chalked it up to good, old-fashioned jealousy.
Many other Daniel Amos albums have followed over the past three decades or so -- studio releases, bootleg recordings, live albums, reissues, rarities, a book set, you name it. Even a tribute CD. As has already been mentioned, Taylor became a prolific producer and mentor to younger bands. While never experiencing commercial success on a grand scale, Daniel Amos has always enjoyed a loyal and vocal group of devotees. After all, they've been one of the longest-running and most creative bands in the history of music, period.
In 1999, a Jesus People Reunion event was organized by Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California - the original home of Maranatha! Music. An invitation was extended for Daniel Amos to return to where it all began. They accepted. At the event, the late, great Pastor Chuck Smith recounted fond memories of time spent with "the boys" (as he called them) before introducing them to the audience. Taylor, Cook, Dieckmeyer, MacDougall, McTaggart and Tim Chandler then took the stage and performed three songs. Without even a hint of controversy.
By the way, Terry Taylor was wearing a cowboy hat.
|Terry Taylor at the|
Jesus People Reunion
• The song I'm On Your Team was written during the Horrendous Disc sessions and was originally intended to go on the album. It was written in response to some of the criticism that Daniel Amos received as they shed the country clothes and cowboy hats of the first album and Shotgun Angel. Terry Taylor: "I remember the first time we performed that song, it was in Hawaii and we were there with a Calvary Chapel pastor. We were getting a little flak for what we were doing, so we included that song in every set as kind of an answer back."