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Music / Daniel Amos

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"Get it straight: Terry Taylor is a legend. ... Over the course of 20 years and as many records, Taylor has, with inimitable wit and lyrical prowess, exposed the collective neuroses and hypocrisies of the American Church. As a member of such bands as Daniel Amos, The Swirling Eddies and The Lost Dogs, he and his compatriots rewrote the Christian rock paradigm, giving a voice to frustrated young Christians."
— "Terry Taylor Rides a New Wave", 7-Ball Magazine, July/August 1998

Daniel Amos was a genre-pushing rock, New Wave, and alternative band fronted by Terry Scott Taylor (yes, that Terry Scott Taylor), notable for their huge influence on Christian Rock's underground scene, and later influence on some not-so-underground Christian rock acts of the '90s and later. Even outside that scene, they are critically acclaimed by secular music critics, the members of U2 were fans, and Collective Soul have cited them as an influence.

DA started off in 1974 as a folk group, and signed to Maranatha! Music (yes, that Maranatha) in '75. Needing to come up with enough material for a debut album, they settled on a style that was easy to write and would give them a wide appeal: country-rock. Almost immediately, their ambitions pushed them to the boundaries of the genre, and they soon abandoned the country sound altogether. Unfortunately, while advertising hyped how "bizarre" and "multifaceted" their upcoming Horrendous Disc was, the album itself languished in pre-release limbo for three years, due to some equally-bizarre behind-the-scenes record label shenanigans that, to this day, no one really understands. During this period, DA managed to accidentally run afoul of the über-conservative Christian scene of the '70s several times; this, and their focus on new material over the old country songs at live shows, alienated most of their fans and forced DA to rebuild their fanbase almost from scratch.

Some of their fellow Christians had criticized DA for not gearing their music specifically for the Church body; DA responded with The Alarma Chronicles, a series of four concept albums intended as a wakeup call for Western Christians. The music was cutting-edge New Wave, and the lyrics satirized hypocrisy, dodgy theology, televangelists, and the shallow nature of modern society, tempered with heartfelt meditations on God, doubt, and the band's own failings. This was followed up by Darn Floor-Big Bite, which—though a critical success and considered by many fans DA's best album ever—was a commercial flop.

DA could have quit right there and their place in Christian rock's history would have been assured, but they didn't. In the wake of Darn Floor-Big Bite, DA decided to try something different; the result was several of the members taking on pseudonyms and recording as The Swirling Eddies, whose music was even more silly and satirical than DA's usual fare.

The 90's saw DA reunite and resume recording new material. In the 2000's, their productivity slowed down quite a bit, but Terry Scott Taylor is still writing music and none of his bands have officially called it quits. Daniel Amos' most recent album is 2013's Dig Here Said the Angel, funded through Kickstarter and showcasing the band's interest in modern indie rock and Post-Rock.

Terry Scott Taylor is also a member of roots music supergroup Lost Dogs.

DA themselves
  • Terry Scott Taylor: lead vocals, guitar, keys
  • Marty Diekmeyer (DA - ¡Alarma!): bass
  • Steve Baxter (DA only): guitar
  • Jerry Chamberlain (DA - Doppelganger, Motor Cycle - Songs of the Heart): guitar
  • Mark Cook (Shotgun Angel - Horrendous Disc): keys
  • Ed McTaggart (Shotgun Angel - present): drums
  • Alex McDougal (Horrendous Disc): percussion
  • Tim Chandler (Doppelganger - Dig Here Said the Angel; died in 2018): bass, occasional trombone
  • Rob Watson (Vox Humana - Fearful Symmetry): keys
  • Greg Flesch (Fearful Symmetry - present): guitar, keys, mandolin

The Swirling Eddies

  • Camarillo Eddy (aka Terry Scott Taylor)
  • Berger Roy Al (aka Tim Chandler)
  • Gene Pool (aka Greg Flesch)
  • Arthur Fhardy (aka Rob Watson)
  • Spot (aka Jerry Chamberlain)
  • Hort Elvison (aka David Raven): drums
  • Prickly Disco (aka Gene Eugene): guitar, keys
  • Picky Swelly
  • Derry Air
  • Judy Ism
  • Newt York Newt York

Daniel Amos
  • Daniel Amos (1976; deluxe edition reissued in 2006)
  • Shotgun Angel (1977)
  • Horrendous Disc (recorded 1978, released 1981)
  • The Alarma Chronicles (reissued as a CD box set in 2000)
  • The Revelation (1986) A remix of side B of Shotgun Angel.
  • Darn Floor-Big Bite (1987; deluxe edition reissued in 2008)
  • Live Bootleg '82 (1990)
  • Kalhöun (1991)
  • Motor Cycle (1993)
  • Bibleland (1994)
  • Preachers from Outer Space! (1994) A live album, originally recorded 1978.
  • Songs of the Heart (1995; deluxe edition, titled When Everyone Wore Hats, reissued in 2001)
  • Our Personal Favorite World Famous Hits (1998) A greatest hits album.
  • Live at Cornerstone 2000 (2000)
  • Mister Buechner's Dream (2001)
  • Dig Here Said the Angel (2013)

The Swirling Eddies

Terry Scott Taylor solo

  • Knowledge and Innocence (1986)
  • A Briefing for the Ascent (1987)
  • The Neverhood game soundtrack (1996)
  • John Wayne (1998)
  • Skullmonkeys game soundtrack (1998)
  • Avocado Faultline (2000)
  • LITTLE, big EP (2002)
  • All Day Sing and Dinner on the Ground EP (2002)
  • Songs for the Day After Christmas EP (2002)
  • Imaginarium: Songs from The Neverhood (2004)
  • Random Acts and Hodgepodge (2008)
  • Swine Before Pearl (2010)

Provides examples of:

  • Accidental Public Confession: Played for dream-like Paranoia Fuel in "Horrendous Disc", where a musician's abusive relationship with his wife somehow winds up on his new album, projected on billboards, etc., for the entire world to see.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: "Pictures of the Gone World" applies the Adam and Eve imagery to the survivors of a nuclear war. But the usual imagery is inverted: the Garden of Eden is likened to the world before the bombs, and the nuclear apocalypse is likened to The Fall.
  • Aerith and Bob: The named characters in Songs of the Heart include Bud and Irma Akendorf, Donna Nietche, the Mysterious Stranger, and Aloha.
  • After the End: Aside from the aforementioned "Pictures of the Gone World", there's the Eddies song "The Big Guns". It ends with the survivors of nuclear war continue singing the same chorus they sang before the war, implying it will all happen again.
  • Anonymous Band: The Swirling Eddies. When the first album was released, they ran a contest encouraging people to guess the Eddies' real identities. In Zoom Daddy's liner notes they gave their real identities, but afterwards they went back to using pseudonyms and claimed that the Zoom Daddy musicians were a pack of impostors.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Lampshaded in the song "Kalhöun". The title is a bit of gibberish, which a wildly popular religious movement has turned into a rallying cry (claiming that the term is from ancient Babylon). No one who shouts "Kalhöun!" knows or cares what it really means.
  • Book Ends: Doppelganger begins and ends with two versions of "Hollow Man". Both are spoken word pieces using the same backing music, but with different lyrics.
  • Broken Pedestal: "Virgin Falls" is all about the phenomenon of setting our heroes up on pedestals, then being surprised to discover they had flaws.
    He was the leader of the people
    in the land of the free,
    a myth we kept deep frozen in a tragedy.
    But now we know he never was
    much of a deity
    and believing in him is
    harder than it used to be.
  • Continuity Nod: "Hollow Man" uses the rhythm section from the previous album's song "Ghost of the Heart", looped backwards. "Travelog" briefly features a vocal sample from The Price Is Right that was used extensively on the previous album's song "New Car!"
  • Cover Album: The Swirling Eddie's Sacred Cows, featuring parodic covers of the most popular Christian rock songs of the moment.
  • Cover Version: Christian metal band Deliverance covered "Horrendous Disc" and "Sanctuary" during the 90s.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: "Now That I've Died" has the line, "I sell records worldwide, now that I've died!"
  • Dead to Begin With: In "Now That I've Died", the narrator details the various ways that the afterlife is totally awesome. Really, dying is the best thing that ever happened to him.
  • Down L.A. Drain: The Swirling Eddies song "What a World, What a World" has the repeated lyrics, "Roll LA River, roll / and take me to a better world." This is almost certainly tongue-in-cheek, as Taylor is a California native, and would know exactly what the LA River is.
  • Dying Dream: As revealed in Fearful Symmetry, the entire Alarma Chronicles is the narrator's dream.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first two albums are spiritual country-rock, coming off as kind of Christian version of the Eagles. Horrendous Disc, mostly recorded in 1979 but not released until 1981, heralded their Genre Shift to other rock styles that was solidified on ¡Alarma!.
  • Elvis Lives: In the song "Outdoor Elvis", the Swirling Eddies make the search for Elvis Presley sound like the hunt for Bigfoot... and like the wait for Jesus Christ's return.
  • Evil Twin: "The Double", "Distance and Direction"... pretty much a running theme of the Doppelgänger album.
  • Eyeless Face: The ¡Alarma! cover.
  • Fake Faith Healer: "Evangeline" is about how God can use even a fake faith healer to accomplish good.
  • In Mysterious Ways: "Safety Net" wonders why God sometimes intervenes to save us, and sometimes allows tragedies to play out. And "Evangeline" shows that God can still use flawed individuals—in this case, an obviously fraudulent faith healer—to accomplish good. And "The Uses of Adversity" has the lyric:
    Crying oh oh oh, my God, my God,
    have you forsaken me?
    Or is this grace disguised as adversity?
  • Intercourse with You: "Divine Instant" is an extended metaphor for sex. And "Our Night to Howl, Time to Go Dancing" is about Bud and Irma getting frisky.
  • In with the In Crowd: The song "Kalhöun" is a parody of religious fads and "-ism"s in general—groups that gain their converts when the desire for a stamp of approval overwhelms critical thinking.
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: From the Swirling Eddies song "Urban Legends": "The face of Saint Paul in this butt roast / assures me that I’m going up to Heaven".
  • I Want My Jetpack: "(It's the Eighties, So Where's Our) Rocket Packs" (In-Universe.)
  • Genre Shift: From country rock in the mid '70s to post-punk and early alternative by the early '80s.
  • Gullible Lemmings: In "Big, Warm, Sweet, Interior Glowing", the Knight Templar politician is so influential because the citizens genuinely believe in him:
    By sheer force of will,
    he leaves a deep impression.
    Self-confidence persuades us that he is a saint.
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Used strangely on the alternative rock (and not remotely metal) album Kalhöun. And the band's name was just written as "dä" on the album cover.
  • Hourglass Plot: When comparing the output of DA and the Swirling Eddies, it's generally agreed that DA is the more serious band and the Eddies are jokers. But both bands released albums in 1994 where they swapped places. DA's Bibleland was bitingly sarcastic, and the Eddies' Zoom Daddy, underneath its surrealism, was surprisingly contemplative and lacking in pointless joke songs.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Most of their CD rereleases are this. Swine Before Pearl takes the cake, however: for an extra $100, you could commission Taylor to write and record an original song, exclusively for your copy of the CD.
  • Listing Cities: Or rather, listing seminaries on "Hide the Beer, the Pastor's Here". Allegedly, the band got angry letters from several of the seminaries who were mentioned... and disappointed letters from schools that weren't named and wish they had been.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Fearful Symmetry, after a line from William Blake's "Tyger Tyger".
  • Long Runner Lineup: Type 2. While Terry Scott Taylor is the only remaining original member, the lineup of Taylor, Ed McTaggart, Tim Chandler and Greg Flesch has remained in place since 1984.
    • However, there is an interesting twist: While this is the lineup that qualifies, it did so in 2005, not 1994: Founding guitarist Jerry Chamberlain returned to the band in 1993 and left again in 1995.
  • Knight Templar: "Big, Warm, Sweet, Interior Glowing" is about a politician who's convinced he's infallible as he destroys cities and nations.
  • New Sound Album: Horrendous Disc marked a complete change. Goodbye, Daniel Amos the country band; hello, Daniel Amos the "whatever the heck we feel like playing" band.
  • The New Rock & Roll: "Colored By" references and mocks a Real Life controversy where some Christians insisted that any music with prominent drums must be "the devil's music". "Return of the Beat Menace" revisits the topic to make a larger point:
    Terry: [...] My intention [was] to bemoan the Church's seeming inability to embrace and support the Christian artist as visionary, save for those "artists" whose work is primarily a means of religious proselytizing and/or driven by hidden profit motives. The key line of the song, "...imagination on the rise again, so hide your heart away..." reveals the "beat" I'm primarily concerned with.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: After brutally mocking televangelists and crooked preachers in several songs on Alarma and Doppelganger, "Big Boys" and "Here I Am" have DA admitting that they're just as guilty in their own way.
  • Passed in Their Sleep: Songs of the Heart ends with "My Hand to God", where the Mysterious Stranger shows up to ferry Bud's soul off to the unknown. Bud initially isn't sure if he's dreaming or awake:
    Never seen the moon so big and bright
    or had a dream this strangely soothing.
  • Punny Name: Most of the Swirling Eddies' pseudonyms.
  • Rock Opera:
    • The entire Alarma Chronicles is organized around the story of one man's apocalyptic dream-vision of the western Church, his own soul, the world, and finally Heaven.
    • Songs of the Heart is the story of Bud and Irma Akendorf, an elderly couple on their last vacation together.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: DA wasn't offensive, but their material demanded contemplation and was often highly critical of televangelism and conservative views of Christianity. As a result, folks with an overly-narrow opinion of Christianity and Christian rock frequently took offense at their material, and DA earned an entirely-unwanted reputation as a "controversial" band.
    • Not only that, but the way their music sounded was controversial. At the time they pulled a Genre Shift to Post-Punk and New Wave Music, no other act in Christian music really sounded like them. There were plenty of comparable secular bands like XTC, Devo and Talking Heads, but the Christian music industry had demonized punk and was suspicious of its offshoots. As a result, DA gained the reputation of being a total anomaly in the industry and religious radio largely stayed away from playing their material.
  • Self-Demonstrating Song:
    • "Dance Stop", an energetic 80s dance-pop tune about dancing... on the eve of nuclear Armageddon.
    • "Turn It Off" is about an old man's unpleasant reaction to hearing a Hardcore Punk song on the radio. It's performed in DA's best impression of hardcore punk.
  • Sinister Minister: Televangelists, and any preachers who use the Gospel to line their own pockets, are a frequent target of DA's lyrics. See: "Big Time / Big Deal", "Do Big Boys Cry", "Youth with a Machine", "Memory Lane", "Autographs for the Sick", "I Didn't Build It for Me", "Travelog", and "Uneasy Lies the Head of the Confidence Man". Even the Swirling Eddies get in on it with "Attack of the Pulpit Masters", which portrays the preachers as b-movie monsters.
  • Stop and Go: "Dance Stop" again.
  • Stylistic Suck: Most of Sacred Cows. "God Good Devil Bad" was performed as if Taylor had just suffered a blow to the head, "Baby Baby" was performed like a hotel lobby karaoke song, and so on.
  • The Treachery of Images: The central concept of Darn Floor-Big Bite. The title comes from Koko the gorilla's description of an earthquake via sign language. Terry's lyrics make the point that mankind's best attempts to describe God are just as inadequate.
  • [Trope Name]: "This is the Title" by the Swirling Eddies.
  • Uncanny Valley: The mannequin from Doppelgänger. He's not so bad on the cover, but in the liner notes, he wears a far-too-realistic mask, then removes it to reveal the eyes are his own.
  • Unplugged Version: When Everyone Wore Hats includes an acoustic re-recording of almost the entire album Songs of the Heart (the cover song "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" is omitted).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Done with tongue in cheek for the liner notes of the Darn Floor-Big Bite reissue. Terry and Tim, in their retrospective notes, both write some variation on "I never liked Ed". Ed fires back with: "Everyone's creative input and performance was outstanding with the exception of Terry, Tim, and Greg. I never really liked those guys... Everyone else was great."
  • Word Salad Title: "Donna Nietche and Her Super Race of Kickboxing Uber Parrots", a mashup of actor Don Ameche, Friedrich Nietzsche, the Übermensch, and a real flock of feral parrots in Pasadena, CA. The actual song lyrics just involve an invitation to a realm of mystery, and a list of the strange things one would find there.