Christian music's crazy roots; or, Stay off the drugs, kids

Andy Rau

Slate's running an article about the freaky origins of Christian rock--a look at some of the truly crazy (and influential) musical specimens of the Jesus People movement. My own introduction to CCM came in the 1980s and took the form of Michael W. Smith and Petra; apparently I missed out on some truly crazy/awesome stuff:

The All Saved Freak Band is a different kettle of fish—at once more powerful and more disturbing, and a reminder of how apocalyptic convictions, Christian or otherwise, can go sour. The band began when a drugged-out Chicago guitarist named Joe Markko moved to Ohio, where he met a fiery street pastor named Larry Hill. Convinced that the Chinese and/or Russians were coming, Hill set himself up as patriarch of an isolated survivalist Christian commune, replete with guns and goats. When he performed, Hill wore a wide Amish hat and a priest's habit, and he sang to hector and convert. But the band didn't really gel until Hill and Markko were joined by Glenn Schwartz, an incendiary blues shromper who had played guitar for the James Gang but had publicly renounced commercial rock. Living collectively, the band made a handful of intense and very strange records, including the Tolkien-inspired folk-rock rarity For Christians, Elves, and Lovers. In 1975, in response to Hill's authoritarian brutality, Schwartz's family attempted to kidnap and "deprogram" the guitarist. The attempt failed, and the band's third record was called Brainwashed.

Wow... just wow. If you're like me, your first reaction to learning that there was an album called For Christians, Elves, and Lovers was "Man, I really need to hear that." The band has a website (of course) at which lamentably short samples of their music can be heard. (But come on... if ever there was music that needs to be released for free, it's drugged-out Jesus music, right?) More info at the band's Wikipedia entry.

Much more "Christianity + the 60s + probably a lot of drugs" zaniness described in the Slate article, so go check it out. Anybody readers willing to admit to having been a fan of any of these bands back in their heyday?

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