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rock music again

Because I grew up in fundamentalist churches and attended a Christian college with a music code I ended up hearing a lot about rock music from various authority figures. I have no idea if my on-again, off-again relationship with rock music helped in my sanctification, but it certainly made me a more careful consumer of messages, both media messages and authority messages.

First of all, the Seventies and Eighties were a great time to listen to rock music. There was some real dreck, to be sure, but there were also some fascinating things going on: AM radio more or less died, FM waxed and began to wane, and MTV happened. Several more or less distinct genres came and went: classic rock, heavy metal, punk, new wave, no wave, electro, etc. and despite the fact that I lived in a small media market I got to hear a lot of interesting music.

The unfortunate truth then (and to a lesser degree now) is that the competing music within our subculture just wasn’t as interesting. Despite the urban legend that Jimi Hendrix referred to Phil Keaggy as the greatest guitarist of all time there wasn’t much lavish praise coming from the outside world to “our” music. Christian rock was almost always tainted with the funny chemical aftertaste of diet soda.

But worse was the endless shameless manipulation we got at church regarding rock music. Most of this came in the form of mimeographed quote sheets, poorly researched, poorly argued, etc. and the one bound book we read — Bob Larson’s Rock & Roll, the Devil’s Diversion — was about twenty years out of date (Larson played in Fifties dance bands) and turned out to be mostly false. It turned out that nothing was so nasty as to be not worth repeating where rock music was involved. Here’s (PDF) a modern example of our old mimeographed handout from Christian Assemblies International of Australia (see also here and here), complete with what in retrospect turn out to be compulsory figures:

  • A short description of “back masking”
  • A quote attributed to Ringo Starr where he says the Beatles were “anti-Pope” (see also here)
  • Claims that Satanists run record companies

It looks like someone in Australia went to the trouble to reformat the document and make it Web-friendly but not actually update the contents. I’d really encourage even the most casual reader to take a look at this: it’s brief and it’s bizarre; it also apparently assumes the reader will be entirely credulous, and won’t for example wonder what’s wrong with being “anti-Pope,” what’s supposed to be scary about time being irreversible, or why if Garry Funkell is famous I’ve never heard of him.

I suspect the warnings we got were supposed to make us avoid rock music altogether, but it made me a more discerning listener, but I think it was finally identifying this assumption of credulity that did me the most good. I think at first I was upset at being lied to; then somewhat sympathetic that someone in a position of authority would want to warn me against something they apparently knew nothing about. But I think ultimately it made me a more careful listener, more likely to ask whether a speaker, no matter how authoritative, actually knew what he was talking about.

Rock & roll, the devil’s diversion

  1. August 5, 2010 at 10:15 am


    1. Why San Diego???

    2. What was the sentence handed down to Led Zep by the “Californian court”? Release an album of Chicago/Little River Band/Bread cover songs?

    3. Garry Funkell is the best thing about this entire bizarre document.

    • August 5, 2010 at 11:02 am

      I think in the version I remember Mick Jagger flew to India to have sex with a newly-dead corpse, and in this version it’s been cleaned up a little and refined to focus on Satanism. Evidently one of the former addresses of the Church of Satan was in San Diego. Maybe when this version of this document was compiled/written/edited/whatever that was the current address.


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