Don't leave Christian rock genius Larry Norman behind

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      The new Left Behind movie commits innumerable sins against good taste, but none as egregious perhaps as the hatchet they take, over the end credits, to Larry Norman's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" .

      American Idol (and Left Behind castmember) Jordin Sparks is responsible for this overproduced latex atrocity, which has been transformed into a modern R&B nightmare from its origins as an early '70s baroque pop masterpiece. She ought to be fucking ashamed of herself (for both things).

      Larry Norman ascended to Heaven back in 2008 at the not-terribly-ripe-old-age of 60. He pioneered Christian rock in the late '60s and remains the one guy who was ever any good at it. "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" became something of a signature tune for Norman and the unofficial theme song for the Rapture.

      His original will never be topped—not even by you, DC Talk—although I'm personally very partial to this high school band-calibre version by the Fishmarket Combo from A Thief in the Night, which is 1972's far more charming and conventionally shitty low-budget version of the Eschaton.

      Here's Larry, meanwhile, proving that the Devil actually didn't have all the best tunes.





      A. MacInnis

      Oct 4, 2014 at 1:54am

      Hey, how have we never talked Larry Norman before? I'm a huge fan of his "Six Sixty Six" song, thanks to Frank Black - his cover of it is only so-so but I didn't know the song before. Actually,. I just picked up an album of his with the first ever Larry Norman song I noticed, back when I was scouting for records in Maple Ridge thrift stores in the 80's: the tune is called "No More LSD For Me," and I had to buy the album to take it home to see what that phrase rhymed with ("I've met the man from Galilee"). Then I sold it to Ty at the flea market; I had no use for it back then. I'm glad its back in my collection now, though...

      Diane T

      Oct 6, 2014 at 10:18am

      Thank you, Straight, for acknowledging this musical great, who I first saw play at the John Oliver Secondary Auditorium in 1985. He never cared about fame or money, but about God and great music, in that order. His later album Something New Under the Son is freaking brilliant.

      The Left Behind movie is now even more execrable in my sight.


      Oct 9, 2014 at 12:43pm

      As both a recovering evangelical, and a very active participant in the Jesus music scene as a drummer, event producer, and music consumer, I can speak to Norman's occasional genius, unapologetic self-promotion, and overall essential importance to an alternate hippy scene that erupted in the 60's. Norman really understood what a good pop tune was, and "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" was a terrific example of his insight. Now, the Hal Lindsey inspired eschatology espoused in the song notwithstanding, Larry was able to bottle the angst of a generation of Christians that was out of step with a conservative church and the Vietnam war. "Only Visiting This Planet" was Norman's biggest moment of cultural relevance. I'm in my post religion phase, but I can't help but look back at "my time with Larry" with a kind of fond romance. He distilled some great moments. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't have the wisdom to imbed Norman's original into the might have helped.


      Oct 16, 2014 at 11:03pm

      I followed Larry Norman's music pretty heavily through my teenage years and 20s. I bought over 40 of his CDs and collected any LP and paraphernalia that I could find. I subscribed to his newsletter. I imagine I kept him on a pretty high pedestal for awhile. When I removed him from the pedestal, I very much enjoyed reading between the lines in his self-promotion and whatnot and continued to support Larry The Man. He was infinitely followable; intrigue circled him like a vulture. The ramshackle 2008 bio-documentary shows just an ounce of the intrigue that he spawned.

      I think he was culturally relevant; however, I think "genius" is overstepping it. I doubt we would have called him a genus if he didn't self-imply it so much. Did he carve his own path? Yes. Did he write some very good songs and make some great-sounding records in the 70s? Yes. Did he sound sorta' smart in interviews? Sometimes. But genius? Nah. Not in my books, at least.

      I appreciate the way the commenter above notes Larry's "angst." He certainly maintained wads of angst that evangelical culture couldn't handle in Larry-sized doses. Hence the way he went independent in 80s until his death; independence suited him. He was most certainly an outsider who preferred to do things his own way and spin his own story; his perpetual angst makes me feel that there was a lot more going on inside than he ever really let on. Hence why so many people followed him so closely, close enough to create one of the longest articles on Wikipedia about him, close enough to make bio-documentaries about him, close enough to buy 40 independent CDs that largely featured re-recordings of the same old songs at varying quality levels.

      Guilty as charged.