An Old Guy Listens to Branded by Undercover


It says something about my taste in Christian rock/pop that I stopped buying most of that genre’s music sometime during the mid-90s.

As for the oldies, I get them out every once in a while.

The other day I had to take a little trip, so I went down into the musical vault and pulled out a helping of Undercover, the seminal Christian “punk pop” band of the 80s. Yes, 80s. (To show my advanced age, I actually still own a Living Epistles T-shirt emblazoned with “No Surfing in Hell,” which I was told was a riff on one of Undercover’s tunes. And yes, I’m a bit embarrassed now that I was once dying to own a T-shirt like that.)

Anyway, I used to really enjoy Undercover’s happy, surf-skater-punk sound. Then they got a new lead singer and moved the band in a harder, darker, more introspective direction.

That direction produced the 1986 album Branded (link to lyrics). If you were to ask me what the top three Christian rock albums of all time were, Branded would have to be on that list.

I got out the Undercover, Anthology 1 double-CD the other day. It contains all of Branded, plus the previous three albums by the band.

Wow. I still love Branded. A great collection of music. Not a bad track on the entire disc.

{Update: I removed the link to my favorite song off Branded, “Where Can I Go,” because of questions of the legality of the source on YouTube. I talked with a copyright expert who let me in on all the weirdness and exceptions regarding such things, but I felt that discretion won out here, so I took down the embedded video.}

What are your favorite Christian “oldies” from the 70s and 80s?

30 thoughts on “An Old Guy Listens to Branded by Undercover

  1. What are your favorite Christian “oldies from the 70s and 80s?

    None. I asked the Lord into my heart in the early Nineties. Even so, I never got into Christian pop or rock or anything except whatever were the selections in the hymnals or the songs on the overhead in church any given Sunday.

    A friend and I were out for a ride when he turned the radio dial to a Christian station. I protested. He rationalized why he listened to such bad music. I told him the typical music on that station was like the music on NPR that no one listens to. I turned the dial to NPR. Sure enough, a folk music program was playing. The music sounded almost like what was playing on the Christian station. My friend said I won that point of the argument.

  2. My favorites are mostly from the 80s:

    The Secret of Time – Charlie Peacock
    Freedom – White Heart
    Lead Me On – Amy Grant
    The Way Home – Russ Taff
    Russ Taff – Russ Taff
    The Turning – Leslie Phillips
    Sticks and Stones – The 77s

    I could go on for a while actually, but that’ll suffice for now.

  3. Yes, I used to listen to Undercover, along with Stryper, Barnabas, the 77s, Daniel Amos, etc. I can’t find Barnabas in MP3 anywhere, so if you know where to find it let me know.

    I just recently downloaded my favorite Petra albums: “More Power To Ya” from iTunes and the double album “Washes Whiter Than/Never Say Die” from I had forgotten what great music and biblical lyrics these guys produced back then.

    And I can’t get enough of Sweet Comfort Band, most of which I’ve found on iTunes, but can’t seem to find their “Hearts Of Fire” in MP3 anywhere.

    • Jimmy,

      Because I worked as the music buyer for a Christian bookstore, I have Stryper’s To Hell with the Devil in the original cover. As we all know, that cover was rapidly removed from circulation, only to be replaced with a generic one.

      Now if I can just remember where that album is (and also hope that my brother’s African Gray Parrot didn’t chew the cover to pieces like all my other Christian albums of that time).

  4. Brian

    I was born in 69, so I wasn’t into CCM yet until the early 80s when I hit Jr High. I did go back and buy some late-70s stuff from the groups I got into, just to fill out my collection.

    Just about any Petra, WhiteHeart’s late 80s/early 90s stuff (Highlands and Powerhouse are way up there). Russ Taff-era Imperials. Russ Taff’s Walls of Glass and Medals albums. Geoff Moore’s early stuff, and his newest stuff (some of the late Distance-era albums weren’t as good as his early work).

    • Brian,

      The Russ Taff-era Imperials were amazing, Awesome stuff. To this day, “Water Grave” is one of my all-time favorite songs. And only Russ can sing that one; no one else can touch him.

  5. Hey Dan,

    Larry Norman – “In Another Land”

    Randy Stonehill – “Welcome to Paradise”

    Keith Green – “For Him Who has Ears to Hear”

    I wore ’em out…


  6. Dave Block

    There are too many to list, but here are some of my favorite oldies, a few of which are still around: Larry Norman, Love Song, Sweet Comfort Band, Paul Clark, Barry McGuire, Petra (until “Beat the System”), Keith Green, 2nd Chapter of Acts (early stuff only), Kerry Livgren, DeGarmo & Key (early stuff), Daniel Amos, Lifesavers Underground, Steve Taylor, White Heart (early stuff), Adam Again, Resurrection Band, Phil Keaggy, Glass Harp, 77s, Fireworks, Randy Matthews, Chuck Girard (early stuff).

    Unfortunately, much of what I have from these groups is in decaying cassettes or vinyl.

    Sorry to be a buzzkill, but posting tracks on YouTube without permission is definitely not legal, Dan. You really should remove the link.

    • Dave,

      Your musical tastes sound like mine.

      As to the link, I talked with a friend of mine who is an attorney (with a keen knowledge of copyright law) and a music fan, and he set me straight with the bewildering truth of modern digital rights issues. There are several things I could do here that would still allow legal access to the YouTube link, but for other reasons, I have elected to remove the link altogether.

      I need to get Tom, my patent attorney friend, involved in this.

      • Dave Block

        Please keep us posted. I often see videos removed from YouTube because posting them without permission is a violation of copyright law. (Seemingly, the smaller companies don’t have the resources or awareness to sniff these out.) Is your attorney friend saying that you can post music online, but not videos, without permission? That would surprise me. I’ve done the research and know it’s not legal to made a copy of a copyrighted CD that you own and give it to a friend, or to make a copy of a CD you don’t own and keep it. Of course, it’s also illegal to download music without paying for it. But posting copyrighted music on the web in streaming form is a loophole? I listen to (mostly older) Christian music on a variety of websites and I’m pretty sure they pay the record companies dearly for the right to stream their music.

        Or is your attorney friend’s analysis based on the assumption that the YouTube posting itself is legal?

        Whatever the case, I appreciate the integrity you’ve shown by removing the link. Too many Christians view obeying the law on matters like this and the speed limit as optional, as if God isn’t serious in the passages that command us to obey the law. Or they maintain that expecting obedience to the law — really, just for the sake of convenience and pleasure — is legalistic.

        • Dave,

          After conversation with my friend (who truly is an expert on these things), here’s the rub:

          The person who copied the music and uploaded it to YouTube is the copyright infringer.

          YouTube is NOT a copyright infringer for hosting the uploaded music.

          I am NOT a copyright infringer by linking to the music at YouTube.

          What it really comes down to is that digital media of all kinds are making it extremely hard to deal with copyright protection, as you well know. Viacom may be suing YouTube over copyright infringement, but YouTube isn’t really at fault here. The model of business they use may make it easier to violate copyright laws, but YouTube is not the ultimate culprit and Viacom knows it. But what else can they do? Go after each person who uploads something questionable? That’s what the RIAA has tried, but it’s darned hard to pull off and Viacom knows it.

          In the end, it’s a little like trying to blow out the sun and all the parties involved know it. It’s why digital rights management has proven such a failure. It simply doesn’t work. Media companies may not like it, but they are increasingly finding ways to adapt to this brave new media world. Some are even trying to beat the infringers at their own game by offering DRM-free products. Apple iTunes (and many others) now offers DRM-free music, as getting around their original DRM-restricted music was braindead simple to do (download DRM-restricted music, burn to disc, then re-rip the new disc—presto, no more DRM).

          That’s what I know. In the end, I wasn’t doing anything legally wrong with my embedded link to the music hosted at YouTube. And neither was YouTube for hosting it.

  7. Rob

    Sweet Song of Salvation – Lary Norman (great song)

    Property of Jesus – Dylan (love to crank this up and sing along…always makes people give me a shocked look)

  8. The problem with copyright online is that it is becoming obsolete ex post facto. I read an article recently in which a game maker ascertained that 90% of the game players posting their scores online were playing illegal copies of the game. Another writer came out and said he refused to feel bad any longer for downloading illegal music, because the music was available in so many formats in so many places legally, but that (if I can recall his argument correctly) it takes too much time to track down the legal venues where he could listen to and download the music.

    As digital readers come into their own, what has happened to music will happen to books as well. Books will be copied and spread without permission obtained. Look at what happened with Google Books in court. If Google can find your book(s) in libraries, then Google will make it available online, with the blessings of the judge, and you have to opt out as an author after you find out Google has done it.

    With Amazon’s new Digital Text Platform, anyone now could publish and sell your work as a Kindle ebook. And the Kindle is a nice reader, too. Copyright violators have had a hard hill to climb to profit from violations, since it takes so much money and persuasion to publish books. Not anymore, though, if they know how to sell ebooks. How many people would be brazen enough to rip off established authors? However, a fan of the Twilight series wrote a fan fiction sequel, Russet Noon, and was pre-selling copies on eBay, until eBay put a stop to it. And the fan fiction author thought she was in the right, selling a derivative work! The fan fiction community came out mostly against her, because they “knew” it was wrong to create derivative works and profit. But most publishers look the other way at fan fic, which is a copyright violation.

    In the not-too-distant future, copyright essentially will mean nothing, except as a justification to file DMCA notices.

    • Michael,

      As a provider of content myself, I am strongly against the “because everyone else is doing it” mentality. I support authors like Harlan Ellison who have been champions of preserving copyright laws.

      The problem here is cost. Greedy publishers and media companies still charge too much for their products. With the ease of distribution and overall low cost of digitally distributed media should come a low price. Apple does this with iTunes. I have no problems purchasing such low-cost music. The same should go with books and other media.

      No matter how it plays out, people need to support creatives or else creatives with genuine talent will choose to bow out. Still, what I see happening will be that more creatives will pursue the 1,000 Fans model, where they make a living off 1,000 fans who will perpetually buy whatever the creative sells because the fans understand that supporting the creative matters.

      • I’m a content provider, too. I don’t support the “because everyone is doing it” mentality, either. But statistically, almost everyone really is doing it. When I visit Christian friends whose kids have music players, I don’t ask or argue about whether the music is legal anymore. I know it isn’t. These kids don’t have the income to buy the catalogs their players have. Arguing the philosophy, morality, and other points of contract law will not persuade them, even if they understand my point. They want their content on demand and free, especially since they do not have the money to pay for it, anyway.

        They will argue with you. But their arguments fall flat as soon as their principles run into what they want. “They can make money off of concerts and T-shirts.” Then T-shirt sellers with unauthorized silkscreens camp outside the concert halls. Yeah, like those T-shirt shops in the malls have permissions from Warner Bros., rappers, etc., to make and sell those shirts. But people waltz right in and buy them.

        The tech necessary to steal content has caught up with the law. The law cannot compensate for it. If people in the old days had the tech we had, theft would have become prevalent back then, no matter what we say about yesterday’s morals being better.

  9. Jim Davis

    In the mid-80’s, Ihad a friend that went to Asbury College. So, I went every year to Ichthus from 84-87, and I got to know about every Christain punk / new wave group that was national at the time. I loved Youth Choir/The Choir, Altar Boys, Prodigal, Undercover, Tonio K, Crumbacher, Vector, Seventy-Sevens, 4-4-1, The Front, The Fourth Watch, Elim Hall, Quickflight, Resurrection band, Imitators, and Lifesavers. I also liked Steve Taylor, In 3-D, Veil of Ashes, Common Bond, Kerry Livgren and AD, Daniel Amos, D.O.X., Vox Humana, Oden Fong, Edin-Adahl, Degarmo & Key, Petra, etc.

    My listening habits continue on even today, since now my kids listen to Christian Music. I have been to Ichthus twice in the last 3 years. Now I like groups like Switchfoot, Hawk Nelson, John Reuben, Sanctus Real, Jeremy Camp, The Afters, Skillet, Mutemath, FM Static, Seven Places, Relient K, Superchick, The Myriad, Red, Future of Forestry, Toby Mac, Lifehouse, The Fray, Grits, Anberlin, and others.

    These lists do not include my listening tastes of some secular groups then and/or now such as U2 (best group ever in my opinion — I own every studio album) The Alarm, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, The Police, The Clash, Mae, Death Cab for Cutie, Electronic, Big Country, Midnight Oil, R.E.M, New Order, Erasure, The Cranberries, Eurythmics, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Bob Marley, and the list could go on ad infinitum.

    I am mainly a lover of alternative style and Electronic music. My favorite radio station was 97X in the 80’s and 90’s, but now I listen to Air1. I sometimes log onto an intenet radio station that plays electronic dance beat music just as a change from all of the CD’s that I own.

    Just a glimpse of my musical tastes.

  10. Sonya

    This is a late entry.

    Hmm Kieth Green mostly and Second Chapter of Acts,Russ Taff. John Micheal Talbot. I still listen to it.

    I’m about 50 now. I’m a bit of a head banger. I’ve recently seen Switchfoot and Third Day in concert. I have all the CD’s. I jump around with the best of em… The newbies in Christ are looking at this middle aged women but I don’t care. It still transforms me in worship.

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