Wherein I judge a book by its cover

I stumbled onto this gem of a book at a local Goodwill the other day.

Maybe this is old hat to most of you, but it was new and oh so kitschtastic to me (it’s going on the shelf next to my Singing in Tongues LP). I mean, color coordination between the accents on the cover and the author’s v-neck? Cha-cha. And though I guess I could lie and tell you that I read it cover to cover and was surprised at how insightful and intelligent it was, all anyone really needs to know about this book is conveyed by the cover: high-gloss chintzy cheap but meant to look expensive and glamorous. And honestly, isn’t that a decent description of so much of Christian music?

The book was published in 1986, so we can’t blame it for all the bad music ever produced. But it nicely illustrates the way Christian entertainment can often merge piety and the profit motive in a corrupting fusion of outwardly good intentions, inwardly hoarded self-interest, serial hypocrisy, and purposeful misrepresentation. Witness: “It is … imperative that Christians be supportive of an artist whatever musical style that artist feel he’s supposed to use. We don’t have to like the style, but we must carefully avoid judging the music or the artist performing it.” Joyful noise, pink party of one? This, from a songwriter-producer-record executive who has made a career out of judging which songs to write, reject, cut, produce, and single to radio. Honestly.

And that’s just after reading the first chapter. Actually, a lot of the book is a decent primer for anyone who wants to know about the nuts and bolts of the Christian music bidness 20-odd years ago (to be fair someone who owned this before me found it very useful … or at least the ocassion to highlight a lot of passages, though not, alas, in pink). Sure, it’s written in the prose equivalent of that loud, slow, condescending, monosyllabic, overly enunciated manner in which some people speak to the aged, the infirm, or the very young: “Modern composers such as Ralph Carmichael and Bill Gaither have updated some of these hymns and set the stage for “inspirational” or “middle of the road” (MOR) artists like Sandi Patti.” Did you get that, kids? “MOR” stands for “middle of the road.” This is not so much writing as typing, to borrow Capote’s quip.

But truthfully, the writing isn’t really the problem here. Or maybe it’s just a symptom of the larger truth that presses in on one after just a few pages: that the first step to getting started in Christian Music is - and long has been - to give yourself an aesthetic lobotomy, and then color coordinate everything.

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Comments

  1. Wade wrote:

    OK it has been a full day and no one seems to care about this thread… I would like to read the Forward by Amy Grant…Since it was 1986 it was this before Vince Gill???

    Maybe she could now write… How to Dump a self absorbed husband who wanted to hold her back and then hook up with a BiG Country Star!!! That’s the book I wanna read.

    Can you do one of those old time scans like your T & A article and post it???

    I would too like to see the pink high lights the previous owner applied.

    I am glad to know MOR = Middle of The Road. I always wondered what that meant. lol

    What was Contemporary back then is SGM now!!

    Remember the Oaks were TOO contemporary and demons to be on a program with the Goodmans!!! lollol

  2. CVH wrote:

    I actually remember when the book came out. I thought at the time that it was written below the level where most readers would be - very, very elementary and frankly, not a true reflection of how the business works. I mean, how honest can you be when you’re writing to that kind of market? On the other hand, Christian did a lot for Amy and a number of other artists. He also parlayed his craft into a successful jingle and production company, doing a lot of work with the Archers and other pop CCM groups of the era.

    Wade, if Amy ever wrote THE book…it would be the best thing out there. The best parts of her story can’t be told.

    Anyway, if I remember correctly, there was no other book like it available in the Christian market at the time, so…

    But yeah, the coordinated pink…and the pink highlighter in your copy. Kind of makes you wonder who owned it before…let’s see…what was [edit] doing in ‘86?

  3. NG wrote:

    I haven’t listened much to Amy Grant’s music. I was impressed with her cover of “Bartender’s Blues” on a George Jones 50th Anniversary video.

    Seemed an unusual choice for her but she sang “I can light up your smokes, I can laugh at your jokes, I can watch you fall down on your knees” just fine.

  4. BC wrote:

    Here’s a link to a story about a gospel music “promoter” who is wanted in several states for not paying bills, etc. This is from WXII in Winston-Salem, NC.
    http://www.wxii12.com/news/18440882/detail.html

  5. Wade wrote:

    Now CVH…

    Do not try to start any gossip on this site, talking about Amy Grant. I know we both tried to start some gossip recently on a thread and were [edit]ed out.

    Think TERRY even wrote recently that NONE of the Dove Bros were gay. I don’t know if that is true or not but TERRY seemed to be convinced.

    I know turn over is JUST a THANG in Music Groups in general. But do you ever wonder why certain groups like Dixie Melody Boys & Phil Cross & Poet Voices have a LARGER turn over than most OTHER GROUPS???

    Does anybody remember the DMB’s when they were DMB and tried to be CCM??? I liked some of what they did but Ed really paid for it. What happened to their lead singer??

    I wish some one could tell me why Gold City Broke up when it was Brian, Ivan, Mike & Tim??? I mean THE REAL REASON!!!

    Speaking of Gold City…why did Jerry Ritchie run the group and then one day Tim did??? WHY…what happened…REALLY!!

    What happened to the piano playing Hot Wife Michael Hopper??? Wasn’t that the best gimmick going 3 married couple in a group?? I always thought they could’ve done Married Enrichment Seminars before the concert.

    It was even better when that Shannon guy played piano for The Hoppers too and sang bass. What happened to him??

    What made Vestal soften so much over the years??? Going from not singing @ concerts w/ The Oaks to being on TBN and hanging out and loving Michael English and George Jones??? Tammy Too!!

    Why does Candy Christmas not sing on Gaither Videos any more???…

    I miss her!!

    What kinda book could all of that be???

    HOW to GET OUT of CHRISTIAN MUSIC??

  6. TERRY wrote:

    Wade, I did not comment on anybody being gay or not. It’s none of my business. As to he other comments things and people change, there is probably hope for me and you.

  7. NG wrote:

    Just after Brian, Ivan and Mike left Gold City, I saw the new guys with Tim Riley in 1994. Tim said from the stage: “I don’t know why singers get off one bus and get on another bus to sing for the same people.”

    I suspect money, personal differences and, for some, the desire to be in charge are major factors.

  8. quartet-man wrote:

    #7, Some people love to just show up and sing. Just to do what they are told and be done with it. However, you also should look at it this way. If you work for a group, you might be fine, but unless you have a “part” of the group, and the manager decides to disband or hang it up, you might be without a job. As people like Glen and George or others aged, I wonder how much some of the personnel changes had to do with getting set up somewhere else before they might not sing anymore. This is just me wondering. I have no idea if it is true or not, nor am I implying that it necessarily is.

    Now, as it turned out, George and Glen were a class act (as they were in other areas) and gave the guys notice to get something else lined up instead of just quitting one day or month. I also think that Ernie and Scott were rewarded in being the last members because they got exposure with Gaither and introduced to a new audience that might not have known who they were prior to the video explosion. Plus, one has to suspect that they wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t been in the Cats. Not that they are not talented. Just that the Cathedrals jobs would have in my mind been about one of the three or four top groups to have been in. I would say Cathedrals, Gold City, Gaither Vocal Band and Stamps were the places to be. I know that or the Oaks would have been my choice. :-)

  9. MM wrote:

    #5 Wade:(Re: “What kinda book could all of that be???

    HOW to GET OUT of CHRISTIAN MUSIC??”)

    Yeah…Judson’s writing it. Remember?

  10. MM wrote:

    He also “came out” after he “got out”.

  11. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    This book cover reminds me of a particular album cover…also from the 1980s: _Michael W. Smith 2_

    See: http://www.musicscribe.com/images/michaelwsmith2.jpg

  12. Wade wrote:

    MM… did not hear about the coming out???…what did you know about it???

    Did dr. joe blow get on the internet and find out info and try to out him???

    He’s good at that!!!

  13. Wade wrote:

    MM & whoever else… wonder how many SGM singers have hetro dating sites too???

    I tried to get some of you folks a LONG time ago to believe there is at least on average 1 gay person in every 4 person group… not that I am hating on anybody… just statistics.

    But you too have a hetro that may not be SO PERFECT in every 4 person group!!

    So ppl what & HAVE to believe their singers are as pure as the undriven snow I am looking @ out the window…and would be crushed to find out different.

    Come on ppl if you think or have to believe YOUR ARTIST has to be near perfect for you to get a BLESSIN’… you are going to be let down much.

    Enjoy the message in the music with out having to think you know how SWELL of a Christian the artist that sings it!!!

    MM… in this day of hyper civil action…don’t feel bad to be MODERATED!! My post stay in MODERATION long time & I GET [edit]ed as much as any one.

  14. Auke wrote:

    These kind of threads make me sick…

  15. Bones wrote:

    Didn’t Chris Christian have the group the Singing Christians? The father was old and knew the old timers from back in the day? They were from Texas and sang at the NQC a long time ago?

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