Are you sturdy enough to move to the front?
Is it nods of approval or the truth that you want?
— "Harder To Believe Than Not To"
Steve Taylor is a Contemporary Christian musician and filmmaker who burst onto the (relatively dead at the time) Christian music scene in the early 1980s. At a time when Christian music had stagnated, Steve Taylor was a welcome breath of fresh air, utilizing musical styles that many in the church viewed as dangerous or even outright Satanic. Steve's career was characterized by several scuffles with televangelists and other figures in protestant Christianity, with Jimmy Swaggart going so far as to devote an entire chapter to Taylor in his book "Religious Rock & Roll: A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing" and Taylor taking multiple shots at hypocritical Christian figures in his lyrics.
Taylor's music is characterized by a broad, eclectic sound that samples from many genres and plays with many styles. Taylor was always eager to grow as a musician, and has repeatedly lamented how dated his work sounds due to all of the synthesizers (not to mention one truly awkward attempt at rap when the genre was still young.) His lyrical content is often snarky or outright sarcastic, which is still
something of a rarity in Christian music. At the time his albums were released these lyrics often caused controversy, with more than one Christian book store pulling his albums off the shelves due to tracks like "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good." Also, while all of his songs deal with an overtly religious theme, not all of them are explicitly "Jesus songs" with some of them merely expressing a religious Christian worldview or criticizing the foolishness and shortsightedness of modern society in a very rock-and-roll manner.
In the early nineties Steve and several other musicians attempted to form a band called Chagall Guevara. Despite, in many ways, being a fairly visionary band for its time, the band did very poorly and only released one album before breaking up. Steve lamented this history in the song "Sock Heaven."
Steve Taylor is also a video producer, and was in fact the first explicitly Christian "act" to feature a music video on MTV. The videos for "Meltdown At Madame Tussaud's" and "Jim Morrison's Grave" in particular were well-received. After his final studio album "Squint," he released a video compilation of several music videos for nearly every song on the album. Thereafter, he decided to pursue a career producing videos instead of creating music under his own name, although he spent some time producing for Sixpence None The Richer
and worked closely with Newsboys
for awhile, even writing the lyrics for some of their best-known songs.
His albums in chronological order and some of the more important or noteworthy songs on them are:
- I Want To Be A Clone (1983) "I Want To Be A Clone"
- Meltdown (1984) "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)" "We Don't Need No Color Code" "Guilty By Association" "Baby Doe"
- On The Fritz (1985) "On The Fritz" "To Forgive" "Lifeboat" "Drive, He Said"
- Limelight (1986) (Live Album)
- I Predict 1990 (1987) "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good" "Jim Morrison's Grave" "Harder To Believe Than Not To"
- Chagall Guevara (1991) (With Chagall Guevara) "Escher's World" "Violent Blue"
- Squint (1993) "The Lament Of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Fredrickson IV" "Smug" "Jesus Is For Losers" "The Finish Line" "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera In Three Small Acts)"
- Liver (1995) (Live Album)
- Audience Participation Song: Both "We Don't Need No Color Code," which is best experienced live (so get that time machine working) and "Lifeboat"
- Album Title Drop: Occurs near the end of Squint on the track "The Finish Line" where it states: "Off in the distance, bloodied but wise, as you squint with the light of the truth in your eyes." It is significant that, when Steve started his own label, it was called Squint Records.
- Bad Humor Truck: The highly controversial "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good" is about an ice cream truck driver who bombs abortion clinics because "if we run out of youngsters, I'll be out of a job." Contrary to some misunderstandings, Taylor does not support this point of view, and was intending to mock and vilify it ("Ain't nothing wrong with this country that a few plastic explosives won't cure!")
- Big Rock Ending: Live performances of "Guilty By Association" tend to end this way instead of petering out the way the song does on the album.
- Creator Backlash: Steve grew to regret ever writing "Lifeboat" which required him to dress in drag onstage and sing in a ridiculous female voice. It was supposed to be a silly gimmick song, but became a huge hit at concerts to his chagrin.
- Genre Roulette: Although often categorized as simply "Christian Rock" or "Contemporary Christian Music" Steve was big on exploring all sorts of different musical styles, from reggae to rap. As with any musician who is willing to experiment, the results could be mixed.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The song "On The Fritz" contains this gem in the middle of the bridge: "So they love Jerry Lewis in France; does that make him funny?"
- Greatest Hits Album: The Best We Could Find (+3 That Never Escaped) in 1988 and Now The Truth Can Be Told in 1994.
- Grief Song: If you decide to listen to Meltdown, maybe keep some tissues on hand for "Baby Doe" at the end...
- Horrible History Metal: Complete with screaming, minor keys and downplayed bridge on "Over My Dead Body." It's still a more hopeful version than most examples, but being that the subject matter is a boy who was beaten to death for feeding prisoners behind the Iron Curtain...
- I Am the Band: Steve Taylor was usually accompanied by "Some Band," a group of musicians that could change its entire makeup from album to album or even show to show. There were a few regulars who stuck around longer than others, and conversely a lot of songs have input from just one artist who doesn't do anything else on the album.
- I Was Young And I Needed The Money: Analyzed and ultimately refuted in "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera In Three Small Acts)"
I was young and I needed the money
I had money and I needed more money
I was filthy rich! All I wanted was love!
...And a little more money!
- Last Note Hilarity: "Guilty By Association" has the band just sort of give up at the end, with the bassist and horn player in particular joking around. "Am I In Sync?" has a similar bent.
- Long Title: Very much a staple of his work, but especially "The Lament Of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Fredrickson IV" which is often shortened to "The Lament" in conversation.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Several examples, mostly because of Steve's ability to take great joy in presenting serious issues tongue-in-cheek. "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good" is probably the most prevalent example - some thought he was condoning the act of bombing abortion clinics, which got one of his tours canceled in the entire country of Australia.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Covers a very broad range of the spectrum, although generally sticks to the lower end. Goes as low as 1 with something like "Easy Listening" and ramps it all the way up to 7 with "The Moshing Floor." The albums before Squint rarely break 5, and the vast majority of his oeuvre is in the 2-3 range, however.
- Mondegreen: Due to the complex lyrical nature of songs like "Jung And The Restless" it's kind of inevitable. For the record, it's "first came stats pulling habits out of rats, now they may need more attention."
- Money Song: "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera In Three Small Acts)" is one of the finer examples to come out of the eighties, which is saying something.
- Morality Ballad: Usually averted to a surprising degree for a Christian artist, but "Jenny" is a rare example. At least it's a very catchy song.
- Motor Mouth: A fairly minor version on the verses of "Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better"
- New Sound Album: Squint all over, which was made after an extended break from his other albums and his experience with Chagall Guevara. No more synthesizers, a much harder sound and a few lengthier pieces.
- Playing the Heart Strings: The song "Harder To Believe Than Not To" is the best example, but a lot of I Predict 1990 has this in effect due to "Papa" John Creach playing a guest spot on the album.
- Protest Song: "We Don't Need No Color Code" is a protest song against the racist policies of several Christian colleges (and even some churches) of the time.
- Rock Opera: "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera In Three Small Acts)" claims to be one, although its claims are pretty dubious, since it clocks in at just five minutes and the entire story is contained within the song itself.
- Religion Rant Song: Many, including "On The Fritz," "It's A Personal Thing," "You've Been Bought," "I Manipulate," "We Don't Need No Color Code," "Guilty By Association," "Smug," "Easy Listening," "I Want To Be A Clone," and "Whatever Happened To Sin." This was, perhaps, Steve's most important and recurring line of work, and the album On The Fritz is composed of nearly half songs of this nature.
- Singer Songwriter: Steve Taylor is one himself, although he admits that he's better at the latter than the former.
- Take That, Critics!: Several examples, particularly "Guilty By Association" and "On The Fritz." Perhaps the funniest is in the middle of "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera In Three Small Acts)" however:
The golden Cash Cow had a body like the great cows of ancient egypt
And a face like the face of Robert Tilton (without the horns)
- Teenage Death Songs: "Jenny" is of the Morality Ballad variety.
- Title Track: "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)" off of Meltdown and "On The Fritz" off of On The Fritz.
- While Rome Burns: Invoked in the chorus of "Smug"