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?

This World Is Not My Home—I’m Just Passin’ Through


A telephone call from my buddy Eric this evening told of a great loss to the Christian community: Larry Norman died at age 60 this last Sunday.

It’s fair to say that Larry was the progenitor of Christian rock music. Most music critics acknowledge him as such. All I know is that I absolutely loved his music. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Larry provided the soundtrack of my early Christian life.

That he didn’t fear what people thought of him and just told it like it was made him a precious commodity in an age when people shied away from flat-out truth. Larry also reached out to the people the contemporary church didn’t care about, drug addicts, street people, prostitutes, and on and on. That realness made him one of the few Christian artists to draw crowds in Europe.

A great performer, he could not only reinvent his music a million ways from Sunday (just how many remixes of his songs exist?), but I can’t ever remember laughing so hard than at one of Larry’s concerts. He was a true wit and laugh-out-loud funny.

To lose him so young is sad, but in many ways he was lost to us a long time ago. He suffered through years of declining health. A head injury suffered in an accident on a plane and chronic heart disease took their toll. The last time I saw him in concert was 1987, and he looked worn even then. He retired from active performing in 2001.

Legions of Christian bands and solo artists over the years have thanked Norman or attributed their genesis to him. He was a true original. Why should the devil have all the good music, indeed.