While doing a bit of background research on this album I was surprised and amused to find that this album made number 24 on the ‘Greatest Christian albums of all time’ list. I had no idea the band were regarded as a Christian act and it’s probably just as well as if someone had handed the album to me and said there’s a CD from a Christian band I’d have likely declined the offer. Being an atheist I just tend to ignore anything remotely religious unless it is negatively impacting on my life, it just makes everything a lot easier. So I guess the parable of this story is never judge a CD by its cover and I can now add Christian rock to my list of music genres. To be fair the only other Christian rock band I could name would be Stryper and they were godawful.
There are definite religious references throughout the album but I regarded them in much the same way as artists like Mike Scott of the Waterboys and Tim Booth of James do where they are done in a more spiritual sense rather than in any annoying preachy way and I doubt James or the Waterboys would make many Christian rock band lists. Just to add to the religious feel frontman Michael Been also played the apostle John in Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ.
Anyway as we’re on a kind of religious tangent. I have a confession to make. In a past life I worked in the Daily Record newspaper. It was my first ever ‘real job’ and as a young impressionable teenager it was a brilliant place to work. So many characters and so many genuinely interesting people. I look back now and wish I’d taken more of the opportunity to talk to the folk who made it such a great paper. Sadly these days it has become a shadow of the paper it once was and I very rarely read it any more. It was my dad, who was a news sub editor at the paper, who got me a job on the copy desk as a copy boy. It was a fairly lowly position but an important one in the running of the newspaper and many of the journalists recognised your contribution to the success of getting a paper out every day. A copy boy or girl’s job included many tasks. Distributing news stories to appropriate desks, delivering stories to the case room, trips to the library or dark room, delivering mail, canteen runs, trips to the bookies, off sales, laundrette. Really just general dogsbody but life was never dull. I once managed to lose Jonathan Watson of Only an Excuse fame after he got in a lift without me. I met Frank Sidebottom complete with his paper mache head. It was also the place where I learned how to drink. All the fabled stories of journalists and alcohol were in fact true. It was a bit of sink or swim regarding pub visits and I watched in amazement at the capacity of alcohol some folk could put away. I managed to hold my own though with the resilience of youth on my side. I also got to see the dark side of such a culture and it gave me a good understanding at an early age of what can happen if you go too far the other way. It really was a total life experience and I loved the 8 years I worked there and I met some fantastic people who sadly I’ve lost touch with now and a few I know who are no longer with us. I expect the newspaper industry is a completely different beast these days and it is certainly not better for it.
One of the people who I met while there and the reason for looking back to those days was Billy Sloan, the entertainment and music journalist for the paper. When I started working at the paper I had really long hair and Billy christened me ‘Hippy’ and to this day he still calls me that when we bump into each other at gigs despite my flowing locks being but a distant memory. Billy in his position of being the main man for music meant he got sent lots and lots of albums, singles and gig tickets. Fortunately for me Billy and I didn’t share a lot of the same musical tastes so anything that was remotely heavy metal/rock got pushed in my direction and was gratefully received. Some of it was complete and utter pants but the occasional gem that I may never have heard of shone through. In fact the first time I heard of Guns n Roses was the It’s So Easy single long before they started to make such a name for themselves, I also got the album off Billy and it still has the ‘for promotional use only’ sticker on it. Anyway one of the albums he passed on to me was The Call album Reconciled.
What I tended to do with albums and singles I got from Billy was to listen to about 2 or 3 mins of the first few tracks and if I liked what I heard I’d give the whole album a spin. If not it would go in a pile to pass onto someone else. I let this album play all the way through, turned it over, played side 2, turned it over, played side 1 & 2 again. I loved it from first listen. I started to read the album sleeve and discovered Peter Gabriel and Jim Kerr from Simple Minds sang backing vocals on the first track ‘Everywhere I Go’. Kerr also appeared on the track Sanctuary while Robbie Robertson of The Band turned up on ‘The Morning’ playing guitar. This was 1986 and Simple Minds were probably at their most popular and Gabriel released So in the same year. They clearly had some friends in high places.
And that was about as much as I knew about the band. No internet to google them as I can now. They didn’t appear in any music papers that I read and didn’t tour in the UK at least not to my knowledge. Over the years I have hoovered up their back catalogue, Reconciled was album number 4, but follow up to Reconciled, Let the Day Begin, was the only one that got anywhere close to this album.
A few years ago I discovered the bassist, vocalist and frontman Michael Been was the father of Robert Levon Been the bassist from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Sadly Michael Been died of a heart attack in 2010 while on the road with his son and BRMC who helped as sound man and roadie.
Despite it religious leanings this is still a cracking album and well worth a listen.
And in case you were wondering, it was ‘Only Visiting this Planet’ by Larry Norman that was top in the all time 100 Christian albums.
See you on week 10.