Thursday, May 7, 2009

Short Stuff Two - On Steve Taylor

In a previous post in my Inland Empire blog Empoprise-IE, I briefly referred to Randy Newman. Steve Taylor (the main subject of this post) and Newman are two of the musical truth-tellers who use outrageous lyrics to make a serious point. (Hmm...Newman would make a good blogger.) In my previous post, I specifically referenced Newman's song "Short People," a popular tune that makes its anti-discrimination point by listing a bunch of insults directed to short people...with the exception of the middle four (it's too short to be a middle eight) that reveals Newman's true thoughts about discrimination.

Most of you have heard of Randy Newman, even if you only know him as a Pixar theme song guy. But I'd be willing to bet that most of my readers are unfamiliar with Steve Taylor. In the mid-1980s, I hung with a group of young adults at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio Heights (California - I've mentioned the community before, but not the church) who went to see a lot of the Christian bands of the time. During those years I either saw or heard Undercover, Altar Boys, Sheila Walsh (pre-TV career), the Choir, Adam Again, and many others, including Taylor.

Taylor was musically shaped via the gospel music he heard as a child, coupled with the secular music he heard at southern California's Biola College:

"What was interesting was that The Clash and Sex Pistols were great at pointing out all the problems of the world, but they were short on solutions," Taylor told the Nashville Scene. "So I figured, 'Well, if I'm a Christian, I think I know absolute truth why would I not want to write songs with that same kind of conviction, and yet offer some hope?'"

A few years later, he found his voice:

In 1982, a performance at the annual Christian Artists Retreat in Estes Park, Colorado, helped to launch him as a songwriter and performer. The highlight of this concert was Taylor's "I Want To Be A Clone," a punk-flavored tune ridiculing Christian conformity.

He continued to produce biting Christian music, which eventually resulted in his 1987 album I Predict 1990 (unfortunately NOT on as I write this):

On his next album, 1987's I Predict 1990, he raised controversy with "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good," an ironic sketch of a anti-abortion extremist. Some listeners thought the song was in favor of abortion clinic bombings, and the fallout led to the cancellation of an Australian tour.


Right-to-Lifers have been incensed by Taylor's song "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good", a satirical look at a neighbourhood ice-cream man who decides that blowing up abortion clinics is one way to maintain his clientele.

Right To Life Chairwoman, Margaret Tighe, was outraged after hearing the lyrics, calling the song the "work of a sick mind". Lines such as "Now I don't care if it's a baby or a tissues blob / But if we run out of youngsters I'll be out of a job" have left her, and many pastors, less than impressed.

Never one to miss an opportunity for sensationalism, Derryn Hinch, after airing the video on his show, also condemned Taylor as "sick".

Taylor's reaction?

Taylor is amazed at the response "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good" evoked in Tighe and Hinch. He vehemently denies he is condoning violence, and in a letter to Hinch he explains his song.

"I can't believe Mr. Hinch and Mrs. Tighe didn't get this song is satirical. I've been to Australia three times, I have loads of Australian friends and I know Australians have a sense of humour. After all, aren't you the country that sent over that band Air Supply?

"Obviously neither Mr. Hinch nor Mrs. Tighe sat down and thoughtfully read the lyrics. If they did and still take this song seriously, I'd hate to sit with them through a Marx brothers movie.

"Violence only brings more violence and can never be justified--except perhaps whoever that guy was who invented Vegemite."

Well, at least he's consistent in questioning everything. But you for yourself:

Note that Taylor, like Newman, sticks a piece in the middle of the song lyrics that expresses his true views.

Preacher on a corner
Calling it a crime
The ends don't justify the means anytime

But then he switches back to his ice cream man character:

I stood up on my van
I yelled "Excuse me, sir
Ain't nothin' wrong with this country
A few plastic explosives won't cure

P.S. Initially I discussed Taylor in this item in my FriendFeed Empoprise-MU group.

blog comments powered by Disqus