Posts Tagged ‘The 77s’

Hendrix never heard of him, but he’s still great

May 8, 2013
Do you think Paul McCartney would have gone in a Christian bookstore to buy Phil's music? Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal twin, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Yes, this is Paul McCartney with his vocal doppelgänger, Phil Keaggy. I wish I could hear what they were playing!

Christianity Today tells me that singer-songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Phil Keaggy received the prestigious Golden Note Award from ASCAP. I’ve never heard of it, either. While it’s obviously not a Grammy or anything, it’s nice to see Keaggy getting some recognition. His was the first concert I went to, in the spring of 1984, beating out the Kinks by a few months. He was with a full band, and he rocked hard.

He also served as my introduction to that strange, fascinating early-’80s world of Christian rock, which was being transformed even then into an “industry” called Contemporary Christian Music.

One reason you’ve probably never heard of Keaggy is that the only place you could get his records back then was in Christian bookstores. These were very intimidating places for people outside the tiny sliver of evangelical Christendom to whom these stores marketed themselves. I remember walking by a Christian bookstore in a strip shopping center with my friend Jason, to whom I had raved about the Keaggy concert. “Let’s go in here and see if they have any Keaggy albums.”

Jason took a few steps inside the store—and you would think he was a vampire exposed to the sunlight. He ran outside. “That was too creepy,” he said. I’m sure he was right. These stores often had a strange, unwelcoming, almost cult-like vibe.

Unlike some of my Christian friends from youth group, I never tried to abandon “secular” music. (Ask me now if I even believe in the category!) But I did become a regular customer of these bookstores. And I purchased many great albums by bands and artists like the 77’s, Daniel Amos, Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and early Resurrection Band. If I could go back in time, I would buy many more—before they went out of print forever.

That’s the problem: the great stuff is often out of print. I did a check on Amazon and iTunes: you can no longer buy or download some essential albums by Keaggy from the ’70s, such as What a Day or Love Broke Thru. (I scored both in a bargain-basement sale at a used record store many years ago.) I guess that’s what eBay is for. And YouTube…

Another essential Keaggy album is Sunday’s Child, 1988’s homage to Rubber Soul-era Beatles and glorious mid-’60s rock, which is still in print, at least for download.

There is an interesting urban legend about Jimi Hendrix’s calling Phil Keaggy “the greatest guitarist ever,” which Snopes covers at length here.

Kerosene Halo (aka, Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty) at my friend’s house in East Atlanta

August 8, 2011

Mike and Mike

If you told me 25 years ago that Mike Roe, lead singer and guitarist of my favorite band at the time, the 77s, would be playing in a good friend’s basement, my head would have exploded. But here he is in East Atlanta, at Michael Hester’s house! As it happens, I was on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, so I missed it. (I’ve seen Roe elsewhere in concert with both the 77s and the Lost Dogs.) But this video nicely captures a performance of one of the 77s’ best songs, “The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life.”

In its original incarnation, this song was an homage to mid-’60s Byrds, even featuring the Byrds’ Chris Hillman on bass. Here, Roe’s stripped-down country performance diverts my attention to the words, including this fine verse:

And I love it when folks look right at me and what I’m doing or have done
And lay it on about how groovy I am, and that I am looking grand
And every single word makes me think I’ll live forever never knowing
That they probably won’t remember what they said tomorrow, tomorrow I could be dead

As I’ve said elsewhere, Christian rock, in its early days at least, wasn’t always and everywhere a bad idea. Not by a long shot.

By the way, all the 77s’ stuff is now on iTunes, so do yourself a favor and buy some. My favorite album of theirs is All Fall Down from 1984.