Here’s the music the got me through most of the rest of my freshman year. I think I had the hang of things a little more during my second semester of college, but there were still a lot of embarrassing moments this semester, most of them involving girls I liked, and me finally deciding to be bold enough to find a way of letting them know, only to find out that they had never even seen me as someone on their radar of possible boyfriends. Classic.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
It Was Worth a Try:
Listen on Spotify:
This is Bauer Center, a large auditorium on the campus of Claremont McKenna College. I wanted to go to one of the Claremont Colleges (especially Pomona or Harvey Mudd), but didn’t get in. However, Oxy’s InterVarsity chapter had a close relationship with the chapters at the Claremont Colleges, so we’d often join them for conferences. A spring conference on relationships took place at a church near these campuses, and we ended up having a large group worship meeting inside this auditorium, which was beautiful. I remember taking a walk around the campuses during a break that day, taking in the sights. There are much prettier things to see on the Claremont campuses, but this was the place that stood out in my mind the most.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Mind’s Eye”, dc Talk (Jesus Freak, 1995)
This seemed like a great theme song of sorts to start the new year off with… a celebration of faith and imagination. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. I always loved it when I could find a way to make the last song from an album the first song on a mix tape. Of course, my roommate Ryan proceeded to buy the Jesus Freak CD and play it quite frequently, and we learned that there was a “hidden track” that I didn’t have on the cassette version… so much for that “last song” thing.
2) “Love”, Imagine This (Love, 1995)
The combination of disco and rock intrigued me enough to make me buy the album. It still manages to amuse me enough to make this song something other than annoying. Their version of “As the Deer”, among other things, has not aged as well.
3) “Come & Take My Hand”, Out of Eden (Lovin’ the Day, 1994)
OOE was one of the artists that my high school friends Michael and Brian, and an Oxy friend named Chris (who would turn out to be my roommate the following year) and I saw that year at Knott’s Berry Farm’s New Year’s Eve bash. Looking back, the music was canned and it was a pretty cheesy concert, but I enjoyed OOE’s debut album and this was a fun song to pretend that I knew how to bump-n-grind to. Or something like that.
4) “Merry Go Round”, PfR (Great Lengths, 1994)
PfR also played at that New Year’s event… the only time I ever got to see them live. This song really had to grow on me… and I’m still perplexed by the random cough at the beginning, but man, this thing kicks butt. Almost as much butt as “Spinnin’ Round”, which I was kind of ticked at the band for not playing… then I came back by their stage during their second set, after going on the Calico Mine ride or something like that, and realized that they were playing it. DOH.
5) “The World I See in You”, Margaret Becker (Soul, 1993)
Technically, this was the first song of the first concert that I attended in 1996 (not long after midnight on January 1st). Back then, I loved it mainly for the fast lyrical breakdown in the bridge. I’m still a sucker for lyrics that fly by quickly. But now those lyrics mean more to me, in the face of a world where Christianity is often associated with ugly politics and other atrocities. God’s world isn’t about politicial parties and genocide and all that crap.
6) “Somewhere Somehow”, Michael W. Smith feat. Amy Grant (Change Your World, 1992)
Enter cheesy love song #2 from Change Your World. This one was a pretty good duet, though. I still love the way Michael and Amy harmonize. Lyrically it’s pretty cliché, but it couldn’t help but grab my attention as I realized that I would have to say goodbye to a friend named Erika who was taking time off from school and moving back home to deal with some fairly serious muscle injuries that kept her from being too mobile for most of the day. This song was my way of telling myself that I would see her again. I’m kind of embarrassed that I assigned a love song to that memory when that wasn’t the nature of my relationship to her, and when she generally abhorred this kind of music. In any event, she did finally come back to school three years later and it was great to be able to pick up where we left off.
7) “Changed”, Lisa Bevill (Love of Heaven, 1996)
Man, I used to really love Lisa Bevill. More so for her early albums, which hinted at a more urban style. This song was kind of a holdover on her way to generic pop diva status – take a fun bass riff, an excitable Gospel choir, some perky pop keyboards and stuff like that, and mix with a rhythm track ripped off from EMF’s “Unbelievable”, and this is what you’ll get.
8) “Real”, Michael Sweet (Real, 1995)
I was somewhat surprised by Michael’s switch to more of an organic rock style, and something about the sound of the acoustic and electric mixing in this song really worked for me. My roommate Ryan, who remembered the heyday of Stryper, was amused that this guy was still putting out albums.
9) “Sing Alleluia”, Tamplin (In the Witness Box, 1995)
A slow, glam-metal reworking of a simplistic praise chorus. You gotta love Ken Tamplin for having the guts to do this and make it work. The guitar solo in the middle of this song just owns, in a more ear-piercing manner than I was used to at the time. I used to listen to a local Christian rock radio show called “The Ground Floor”, which went off the air that year. This was the last song they played on almost every show, including their final one.
10) “Hello My Good Friend”, John Elefante (Windows of Heaven, 1995)
I like how this song was written – it’s a letter from Christ to his followers, asking if they’ve been loving the world like He told them to while He’s been gone. It’s definitely got a cheesy, keyboard-driven 80’s rock sound to it – John Elefante was never one to care about current trends in music. For some reason, when I hear this song I get memories of that year’s spring conference, which bore no relation to the song’s subject matter – I think I might have been listening to this album on my walkman as I explored the Claremont McKenna campus during a break between sessions.
11) “What I Wouldn’t Give”, Carolyn Arends (I Can Hear You, 1995)
A cleverly worded song about selfishness and regret with plenty of fiddle playing. I could definitely relate to the stubbornness expressed here, and I thought it was cool how she took the rhetorical statement, “What I wouldn’t give to have (fill in the blank)” and turned it around to talk about things she actually refused to give to God.
12) “Bird on a Wire”, Out of the Grey (Gravity, 1995)
OOTG stretches their Gravity metaphor for another musically inventive song that makes me think there must have been someone that they were really trying to reach out and evangelize to during that phase in their lives. I think their metaphor works a bit better here than it did in the title track, and the acoustic approach is refreshing in the midst of a largely overproduced album.
13) “Irish Day”, Iona (Journey into the Morn, 1995)
This was the song that finally convinced me to check out the Celtic prog-rock band Iona, who would soon become one of my “best kept secret” bands that I wish more people knew about. I had heard some of their stuff on the radio, but it was during Spring Break, when I was stuck at home due to a failed attempt to plan a trip up to Northern California to visit Erika and Ryan, that I was walking home from Lighthouse and I heard this on a Release Magazine sampler tape. It soon became a “ritual song” that I would try to play on every St. Patrick’s Day when I remembered to do so.
14) “A Man After Your Own Heart”, Gary Chapman (My Utmost for His Highest, 1995)
I always thought Gary Chapman’s music was extremely bland, but I loved this rolling, intimate piano ballad that he did for the My Utmost for His Highest album. It really made timeless Biblical language about a deep yearning for God come alive in a new way.
Another photo from a college campus – this time back at Oxy. This is the quad inside the Booth building, which was where the music department “lived”. I took a songwriting class in this building, and went to a few performances by a jazz-funk band called S.K.B., which was a bit of a sensation on campus that year. My roommate Ryan played trumpet in that band, which was the primary reason for my interest. Two of their members were also in my songwriting class, so I got to see some of their lyrics as they developed. (If you’ve seen the movie Clueless, much of which was filmed at Oxy, there’s a scene where Cher and her friends are posing for photographs by this fountain.)
Where in the world is this?
1) “Wait for the Sun”, PfR (Goldie’s Last Day, 1993)
I was a big fan of the emotional, power-ballad type rock songs in those days. It would especially grab my attention when a band decided to start side two of a record with such a song – that was the more unorthodox approach, because that’s normally where you kick the tempo up again after closing side one with a slow song. Anyway, I stuck my favorite PfR song here as a way of doing that – once again, I started with the ending (sans the hidden “Gargle Solo”, which I didn’t discover until later that year). This remains my favorite PfR song to this day, and it gave me hope in the midst of the somewhat gloomy and depressing month of January. I’ve always hated winter, even though we hardly get the real thing here in Southern California.
2) “Breakfast”, Newsboys (Take Me to Your Leader, 1996)
Well, once you’ve waited for the sun to come up, you need some breakfast, right? This song was the immediate favorite when I first bought Take Me to Your Leader (before I took the time to really pay attention to “Lost the Plot”, of course). I don’t think I realized at the time that the song was goofy and not meant to be taken too seriously. I quoted the lines “Those here without the Lord, how do you cope? For this morning we don’t mourn like those who have no hope.” on the whiteboard on my dorm room door, and one morning I found a rather jaded comment that someone had written in response, which resulted in a brief anonymous dialogue on my door that I don’t think I handled very well. Snippy little song quotes like that aren’t the best way to witness, I guess.
3) “You Are There”, Ashley Cleveland (Lesson of Love, 1995)
I didn’t realize at the time what a class act Ashley was. But I loved her voice and I thought this song rocked, in a more raw, easygoing sort of way. I liked how it paraphrased one of the Psalms and how it briefly paused after the line “Make my bed in hell” and then the chorus jumped back in again.
4) “That’s Why God Made the Moon”, John Elefante (Windows of Heaven, 1995)
Long string intro… cheesy keyboards… nonsensical lyrics about Heaven… gratuitous sax solo… and I was hooked. It sounded really stupid, but man, was this a great tune, and once again, it played well to the way I over-romanticized my faith and constantly thought about not wanting to be alone. This one went on a few mixes for girls that I liked. *Sheepish grin*
5) “Someday”, Michael W. Smith feat. Susan Ashton (I’ll Lead You Home, 1995)
I got my roommate the I’ll Lead You Home CD for Christmas and proceeded to listen to my taped copy of it a lot the following semester. I loved hearing MWS with a little bit of country twang, and Susan Ashton’s guest vocal was the icing on the cake. Wayne Kirkpatrick’s lyrics are pretty silly, though – they’re the kind of lyrics that just name random things like abortion and O.J. Simpson with the subtext that Christians think these things are bad. MWS never did hide his politics all that well, I guess.
6) “Boy on a String”, Jars of Clay (Jars of Clay, 1995)
Ha ha ha! Four. That inexplicable intro always amused me. I just thought this song was plain cool at the time; it wouldn’t take on a double meaning for me until later in the year, when I met a guy named Tim with long hair and a Jars of Clay shirt with a marionette on it, representing this song.
7) “So We Never Got to Paris”, Out of the Grey (Gravity, 1995)
Out of the Grey hadn’t written a bona fide romantic love song in a while (just spiritual songs that hinted at a romantic analogy), so I was thrilled to hear this accordion-laced tune, which talked about how their lives were overflowing with blessings even though they didn’t make it to all of the luxurious places they had planned to travel together. Even today, this one reminds me that having kids and being a little more “tied down” won’t have to mean that life ceases to be full of exciting adventures.
8) “Crawl Spaces”, S.K.B. (Oh… You Know!, 1996)
This was my favorite song from Ryan’s band, S.K.B. Lindsay and Jamieson, the songwriters, were in my songwriting class, and they developed this one a bit as they took a few drafts of it to class for the professor and the students to comment on. After we learned that neither parodying a song nor stealing its song title constituted copyright infringement, a classmate proceeded to write an entirely different song that borrowed one of their song titles, and I proceeded to write a parody of this song called “Hall Spaces”, about a roommate who gets locked out of his dorm room and finds something he’d rather not see upon breaking in through the window. The actual song appeared to be about a girl who was lost and a little bit depressed, played ironically to the tune of cheery jazz/funk music with plenty of soloing.
9) “Show Me”, Out of Eden feat. Toby Mac (Lovin’ the Day, 1994)
I don’t know what I was thinking, singing this song in front of people when it clearly wasn’t made for a guy’s voice. I did it as a duet with my friend Angela, who was a graduating senior that year, at a party that IV was holding for our graduating seniors. We both loved the song and thought our vocals meshed well on it. Despite only overlapping in college for one year, she has remained a good friend for eleven years now. It still makes me chuckle when I listen closely to this song and hear a familiar male voice – “Toby Mac’s on the back-track.” (Just to clarify, Angela and I divided up the main vocal parts done by the girls on the album – I did not attempt to draw attention to the Toby Mac part.)
10) “The Rock (that Was Rolled Away)”, Clay Crosse (Time to Believe, 1995)
Classic Gospel-infused inspirational track from Clay Crosse. This should have been too “churchy” for me at the time, but I loved the melody and the way it kept changing keys (even though I didn’t really know how to identify that at the time).
11) “You Are Holy”, 4Him (My Utmost for His Highest, 1995)
Since I wasn’t attending a “real” church that year, I was often hanging around on campus with nothing to do on Sunday mornings. So sometimes I’d just lie in my room and read and try to listen to mellower music that was more worship-oriented. Since worship wasn’t a huge fad at the time, the My Utmost for His Highest compilation was one of the few options that I had. And since I still had a soft spot for 4Him (them being my favorite group before Jars came along), this was my favorite track. The bridge, where Andy Chrisman exuberantly sings “Unto the one who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be all blessing and honor and glory and power and praise, WHOA!”, still gets me every time.
12) “Reaching”, Carolyn Arends (I Can Hear You, 1995)
This delicate piano ballad about always wanting to grab hold of something we can’t quite reach made for a perfect description of my faith, and it still does. Probably the best song that Carolyn Arends will ever write.
13) “Only Your Love”, Margaret Becker (Grace, 1995)
This was my favorite song, period, for the first half of that year. It just grabbed me at like 2 AM one night when I was alone in my dorm room listening to Christian radio. Nothing terribly complex about it – heck, Margaret didn’t even write it – but it was an honest love song to Jesus that really resonated with me. “I fly like a banner, anchored yet free.” Yeah, that’s a lyric I can sink my teeth into. It’s funny – this song was later replaced by “Like a Child” by Jars of Clay as my all-time favorite, and the phrase “like a child” actually occurs in this song.