MUSIC MONDAY Christian Rock Pioneer Larry Norman’s Songs Part 4

Christian Rock Pioneer Larry Norman’s Songs Part 4

I posted a lot in the past about my favorite Christian musicians such as Keith Green (I enjoyed reading Green’s monthly publications too), and 2nd Chapter of Acts and others. Today I wanted to talk about one of Larry Norman’s songs. David Rogers introduced me to Larry Norman’s music in the 1970’s and his album IN ANOTHER LAND came out in 1976 and sold an enormous amount of copies for a Christian record back then.

Calling Larry Norman a “Christian rock pioneer” is easy, and true enough. But before becoming the personification of the Jesus Movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s, he got his start in the mainstream pop world.

In 1966, he joined San Jose area band People and signed to Capitol Records. They scored a pop hit with their cover of The Zombies’ “I Love You (But the Words Won’t Come),” before disbanding over internal spiritual conflicts and Norman’s frustration with the label’s re-naming of the band’s debut album. Norman stayed with Capitol for the release of his solo debut, Upon This Rock, a wildly eclectic folk/rock record often referred to as the first Christian rock record of any consequence.

He moved to MGM Records for two critically-acclaimed albums, including Only Visiting This Planet (called “The Best Christian Album of All Time” by the editors of CCM Magazine). But sales were few, and by 1972, Norman went underground, starting Solid Rock Records in the U.S. and Europe, beginning a 35-year run of independence that brought about not only more great music of his own, but also introduced other artful, progressive artists including Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, Steve Scott, Tom Howard, Mark Heard, Chris Eaton (Lyrix) and others.

Unlike the safe, southern gospel influenced Christian records of the mid-’70s, Norman’s albums were richly layered in the best tradition of acts like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Crosby, Stills and Nash, with a dark, apocalyptic streak. His message engaged the culture with authenticity and conviction, and his imagination articulated the disconnectedness felt by so many people in the aftermath of the ’60s.

Odd and controversial business practices and broken personal relationships would bring about the end of his Solid Rock Records imprint and cause friction between Norman and some of his closest friends. As Christian music came into its own, he sent himself into a sort of exile. He emerged occasionally, often with surprising stories of personal injuries and even conspiracies. But for the most part, he spent the last two decades of his life communicating directly with his die-hard fans and performing solo acoustic concerts around the world in small venues.

He released a few new projects and re-assembled his classics for release through his website, larrynorman.com. Occasional festival appearances were rare treats for the faithful fans, but he was so far outside the mainstream that most of today’s Christian music fans have absolutely no idea who Larry Norman is.

The fire he fanned continues to burn to this day. Much of the current faith-fueled music scene can trace its existence all the way back to this lanky San Jose kid with the quizzical face, the ripped blue jeans and the simple message that Jesus loves us. His reach extends well into the mainstream where he was admired by artists like U2, John Mellancamp, Bob Dylan and alternative/punk legend Frank Black of Pixies fame. Black, with his ’90s band The Catholics, covered Norman’s song “Six Sixty Six” and frequently went out of his way to laud his impact. In a statement issued the day after Norman’s death, Black called the singer “The most Christ-like man I ever knew.”

In 2002, when U2’s Bono visited Nashville to speak with Christian artists about his DATA campaign, the only artist he specifically asked about was Larry Norman. Norman couldn’t make that trip, so Bono visited him on the road later that year.

His flaws were many, and unfortunately, often kept him at more than arm’s length from the industry he inadvertently helped create. But in time, most of his harshest critics accepted that despite his faults, maybe because of them, he was an amazing person who had given the Church an incredible gift. One-time protégée and best friend Randy Stonehill had distanced himself from Norman for over 20 years following deep personal conflict between the two. In 2001, they reconciled, reuniting onstage at Cornerstone.

Norman struggled with heart disease for most of the last decade. On Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008 his struggle ended. He died peacefully. He was 60. It is certainly no overstatement to say Larry Norman is to Christian music what John Lennon is to rock & roll or Bob Dylan is to folk music. His contributions deserve to be discovered by future generations, and his enduring legacy includes the fantastic truth that despite his personal weakness and frailty, God used him to accomplish amazing things.

John J. Thompson is an artist, author, pastor, music journalist and industry veteran. He founded True Tunes and Gyroscope Arts and currently resides in Nashville. JohnJThompson.com

Larry Norman – 9 – The Sun Began To Rain – In Another Land (1976)

Larry Norman – 10 – Shot Down – In Another Land (1976)

Larry Norman – 11 – Six Sixty Six – In Another Land (1976)

Larry Norman – 12 – Diamonds – In Another Land (1976)

In Another Land (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In Another Land
Studio album by Larry Norman
Released 1976
Recorded 1975
Label Solid Rock Records
Producer Larry Norman
Larry Norman chronology
So Long Ago the Garden
(1973)
In Another Land
(1976)
Streams of White Light
(1977)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]

In Another Land is an album recorded by Larry Norman and released in 1976. It is the third album in Norman’s “trilogy,” which began with Only Visiting This Planet and continued with So Long Ago the Garden. The album contains some of Norman’s most well-known work.

History[edit]

In 1975 Norman recorded In Another Land, the third album in his trilogy, which was released in 1976 through his own Solid Rock label and distributed through Word Records,[2] making it “the first of his albums to be released on a Christian label”.[3] However, according to Norman, “In Another Land, was executorially censored by the “mother company” which insisted on removing any music they felt was “too negative” or “too controversial.”[4] Commercial pressure from Norman’s “American publisher and American and European distributors”[5] forced Norman to remove four songs from In Another Land: “I Dreamed that I Died”, “Looking for the Footprints”, “Top 40 Survey”, and “You’ll Never Find No One (Who Loves You Like I Do”,[6] as they believed that Norman had included too many songs, and that the deleted songs could be released on his next album.[7]One of the songs included on this album was “The Sun Began to Rain” (The Son Began to Reign),[8] an allegory written by Norman, was “knocked out … in just over a minute” with British comedian Dudley Moore on piano.[9] In a 1980 interview Norman explained the purpose of In Another Land:

In Another Land is the third part of the trilogy It’s about the future, and rather than speculate about what the future might hold, I tried to stick closely to what the Bible says it will hold. I think because the future orientated album was so directly tied to the scriptures, people felt this is Larry’s best album, because this is the one I like best. Or This is the most Christian album. I think that Only Visiting This Planet or So Long Ago The Garden were much better conceptional statements, much better medicine for a non-Christian to swallow. The front cover of In Another Land posed a problem. I couldn’t really go and stand on a hillside in front of The New Jerusalem, so I just put together a lot of photographs of Israel and photographs of mountainous terrain. The front cover shows a painting of me standing on a hill, for the first time smiling at the camera, because in the new age I won’t be troubled as I have always been on my other albums about things like world hunger, and world ignorance, human anger and jealousy and pettiness.[10]

Norman provides a more detailed analysis of In Another Land in the producer notes of the 1991 re-issue.[11] In Another Land was Norman’s best-selling album ever,[12] and had the best reception of any of his albums from the Christian establishment.[13] In 2005 Norman recalled:

The Church finally accepted me in 1976, I think it was, and that’s just because I had so many songs people knew that the records stores said, “Okay, I’ll take a chance.” I did In Another Land, which was such a mellow album. It’s really for Christians (none of the other albums were), but what do you say when the concept of the album is eternal life with God in heaven? … Of course they liked that album and the record stores sold it and it was Album of the Month for Word Record Club and it was the #1 seller for a long time.[14]

By 1985 In Another Land had sold 120,000 copies in the USA alone, compared with average sales of less than ten thousand for other gospel albums,[7] Responding to the better acceptance of In Another Land by many church leaders who had previously opposed him and his music, Norman indicated in 1980: “I realised that the music itself would probably appeal to the middle of the road Christians who are offended by the extremes in my observations. But if they like this album, and if they suddenly decide that I have returned to the fold and I am now one of them, they’re going to hate the next album – it’s all blues.”[15] Norman held several concerts in Australia in October 1976.[16]

A different version of the song “I Love You” was first recorded by Randy Stonehill on the now-rare album Born Twice, which was produced by Larry Norman back in 1969. That album credits Stonehill as the writer of the song. Norman’s version completely changes all the verses, retaining only the first line of the first verse of Stonehill’s original composition.

“Righteous Rocker #3” is a reprise of a song which originally appeared on Only Visiting This Planet.

The album also contains a souped-up version of “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus,” another song which made its first appearance on Only Visiting This Planet. In the later version the controversial second verse from the original (“Gonorrhea on Valentine’s Day / You’re still looking for the perfect lay,” etc.) is conspicuously absent.

“I Am A Servant” was recorded and popularized as a Christian pop ballad by Christian singer Honeytree.

“Song For A Small Circle Of Friends” was a piece written for Norman’s famous friends in the music industry. The song includes allusions to Randy Stonehill, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney. There has never been any evidence that, other than Stonehill, Norman actually knew any of these people.

Tracks[edit]

Original LP release[edit]

Side 1[edit]

  1. “The Rock That Doesn’t Roll”
  2. “I Love You” (Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill)
  3. “UFO”
  4. “I’ve Searched All Around”
  5. “Righteous Rocker #3”
  6. “Deja Vu (If God Is My Father / Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus)”
  7. “I Am A Servant”

Side 2[edit]

  1. “The Sun Began To Rain”
  2. “Shot Down”
  3. “Six, Sixty, Six”
  4. “Diamonds”
  5. “One Way”
  6. “Song For A Small Circle Of Friends”
  7. “Hymn To The Last Generation”

“The Missing Pieces” reissue[edit]

“This is the running order on the original master tape which was sent to Word U.K.”[citation needed]

  1. “Tuning”
  2. “The Rock That Doesn’t Roll”
  3. “UFO”
  4. “I’ve Searched All Around”
  5. “Shot Down”
  6. “Song For A Small Circle Of Friends”
  7. “The Sun Began To Rain”
  8. “Looking For The Footprints”
  9. “Six Sixty Six”
  10. “Righteous Rocker #3”
  11. “If God Is My Father”
  12. “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus”
  13. “Diamonds”
  14. “One Way”
  15. “I Am A Servant”
  16. “Hymn To The Last Generation”

Extra tracks on CD releases[edit]

  1. “Looking For The Footprints”
  2. “Dreams On A Grey Afternoon”
  3. “Six Sixty Six” (alternate take)
  4. “Strong Love, Strange Peace”
  5. “Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn”
  6. “Joyful Delta Day”
  7. “I Don’t Believe In Miracles”

Covers[edit]

Frank Black, a longtime admirer of Norman who became a friend, covered “Six, Sixty, Six” on his album Frank Black and the Catholics.[citation needed]

Personnel[edit]

Production notes[edit]

  • Produced by Larry Norman
  • Engineered by Andy Johns
  • Assistant engineer Tom Trefethen
  • Pre-production recording at Solid Rock studios
  • Recorded at Mama Jo’s and Sunset SOund
  • Mastered at A&M, Studio 3

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^ In Another Land at Allmusic
  2. Jump up^ “New Music Interview 1980 Part 3”, http://dagsrule.com/stuff/larry/intvw80c.html
  3. Jump up^ “Larry Norman – 1947-2008”, Cross Rhythms, http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/news/Larry_Norman__19472008/30703/p1/
  4. Jump up^ “Larry Norman (Part 1)”, http://www.onlyvisiting.com/larry/about/story1.html. This is taken from A Moment In Time and Footprints In The Sand CD booklets. See also linear notes, “Looking For the Footprints”, White Blossoms From Black Roots (1997 CD):4.
  5. Jump up^ Philip F. Mangano, “Linear Notes”, Only Visiting This Planet re-issue (1978):2.
  6. Jump up^ “The Compleat Trilogy” insert in 1978 re-issue of Only Visiting This Planet.
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b “Larry Norman Down Under But Not Out”, On Being (1985/1986):7.
  8. Jump up^ The alternate title, The Son Began to Reign, was registered on 15 January 1976. See http://www.faqs.org/copyright/why-should-the-devil-have-all-the-good-music-one-way-dear/. For lyrics, see “The Sun Began to Rain”,http://www.onlyvisiting.com/gallery/lyrics/songs/sun/sun.html
  9. Jump up^ Larry Norman, liner notes, Rebel Poet, Jukebox Balladeer: The Anthology (September 2007); Linear Notes, “The Sun Began to Rain”,White Blossoms From Black Roots (1997); Mike Rimmer, “A Legend Quizzed”, Cross Rhythms (27 August 2005):2,http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/A_Legend_Quizzed/15761/p2/.
  10. Jump up^ “New Music Interview 1980 Part 3”, http://dagsrule.com/stuff/larry/intvw80c.html
  11. Jump up^ Larry Norman, “Producer’s Notes (Part 1), http://www.onlyvisiting.com/larry/articles/producers_notes1.html; Larry Norman, “Producer’s Notes (Part 2), http://www.onlyvisiting.com/larry/articles/producers_notes2.html; Larry Norman, “Producer’s Notes (Part 3),http://www.onlyvisiting.com/larry/articles/producers_notes3.html
  12. Jump up^ See Robert Termorshuizen, “Notes”, http://www.meetjesushere.com/in_another_land.htm
  13. Jump up^ See Robert Termorshuizen, “Notes”, http://www.meetjesushere.com/in_another_land.htm
  14. Jump up^ David Sanford, “Larry Norman Says Good-Bye” (3 March 2008),http://www.burnsidewriterscollective.com/general/2008/03/larry_norman_says_goodbye.php?page=2
  15. Jump up^ “New Music Interview 1980 Part 3”, http://dagsrule.com/stuff/larry/intvw80c.html
  16. Jump up^ “Larry Rocks Along with Christ”, The Age (21 October 1976):12.

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