Upon This Rock (Larry Norman album)
|Upon This Rock|
|Studio album by|
|Larry Norman chronology|
Upon This Rock is the debut solo album by pioneering Christian rock musician Larry Norman, released in 1969. It is considered to be "the first full-blown Christian rock album" and was produced by Hal Yoergler.
In 1969 Norman returned to Capitol Records, now headed by Mike Curb, to honor his original 1966 contract with the understanding that he would have complete artistic control.  Believing that "Kids just don't want to listen to God's empty songs anymore", in December 1969 Capitol released Norman's first solo rock album, Upon This Rock, "the first major label record to marry rock music with the gospel".  "the Sergeant Pepper of Christianity", widely regarded as "the album that first recruited rock in the service of salvation", later cited as being "one of the roots of the current Contemporary Christian Music"; and now considered to be the first full-blown Christian rock album".
Upon This Rock, whose music was "a blend of folk, psychedelic, and rock influences", combined "street language and gritty imagery". In August 1970 he described the album as "simply ... twelve love songs to Jesus", whereas Don Cusic believes that "these songs tended to be darker than the early Christian cheerleader type of songs coming from other early Jesus music artists". In this album, "Norman brought a mixture of reverence and rebellion ... spreading word of an impending Judgment Day in the midst of war and moral decadence ... [and] speak to the psychedelic generation without sacrificing their spiritual gravity". Believing that "Christian music could be powerful in its message yet relevant to the times", Norman explained his thinking behind the album in 1969:
"Upon This Rock" was written to stand outside the Christian culture. I tried to create songs for which there was no anticipated acceptance. I wanted to display the flexibility of the gospel and that there was no limitation to how God could be presented. I used abrasive humor and sarcasm as much as possible, which was also not a traditional aspect of Christian music. I chose negative imagery to attempt to deliver a positive message, like "I Don't Believe in Miracles" is actually about faith. "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" talked about something I had never heard preached from a pulpit as I grew up. "The Last Supper" and "Ha Ha World" used very surreal imagery which drug users could assimilate. My songs weren't written for Christians. No, it was not a Christian album for those believers who wanted everything spelled out. It was more like a street fight. I was saying to Christians, "I'm going to present the gospel, and I'm not going to say it like you want. This album is not for you."
Speaking to the magazine Contemporary Musicians, Norman later expressed his intentions and feelings about the record:
I wanted to push aside the traditional gospel quartet music, break down the church doors and let the hippies and the prostitutes and other unwashed rabble into the sanctuary, ... I wanted to talk about feeding the poor, going into the world.... I wanted the church to get active and go out and do what Jesus told us to do. I felt that while the hymns had great theology soaked into their lyrics, that most of the modern music was anemic and needed a transfusion".
Release and reception
While Norman was denounced by television evangelists like Bob Larson; Jimmy Swaggart, who called rock music "the new pornography"; and Jerry Falwell; and others within the conservative religious establishment, who considered the development of Christian rock-and-roll, "a sinful compromise with worldliness and immoral sensuality", his music gained a large following in the emerging counter cultural movements. However, not all critics were impressed with this album. For example, a writer in Entertainment World called Norman "a hermaphrodite" and wrote "Faith can move mountains, so it may move this incredible hunk of hubris". while another, who described Upon This Rock as "a musical misery tour", and wrote: "God didn't give Larry Norman a voice — a recording contract, but not a voice". Another reviewer wrote: "In "Ha Ha World," Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" is thinly and lethargically evoked. Ditto a Jim Morrison effect on "The Last Supper." And shades of Art Garfunkel on the ballad "I Wish We'd All Been Ready".
In February 1970, two months after Upon This Rock was released, Capitol dropped Norman from their label, as the album was deemed a "commercial flop" as it had failed to reach the sales target Capitol expected, telling Norman that "there is no market for your music." Norman analyzed its poor reception in a 1972 interview: "It was too religious for the rock and roll stores and too rock and roll for the religious stores." In April 1970 Capitol leased Upon This Rock to Heartwarming/Impact Records for two years a small sum. While Norman decided to leave Capitol Records in protest, because he had a different audience in mind, he cooperated with the re-release of Upon This Rock:
I gave my permission, did a special re-mix for the Southern record label in Nashville, diplomatically hoping to soften the cultural blow by lessening the distortion and percussion in favour of the lyrics and harmonies. After all, I had no desire to unnecessarily make enemies with the brethren or to cause them to stumble. Yet at the same time I had very little interest in cultivating endorsements from the Church. I was out to create a dialogue with people who believed they hated God. I wanted to be on the battlefield, fighting a spiritual battle, trying to convince and convert the undecided and get them to cross the battle line to stand together with other new believers. Though I may have been in error in standing aside from the brethren by not performing for them, the established Church was simply immaterial to me.
Upon This Rock received increased sales due to its distribution in Christian bookstores, and "became Benson's most acclaimed release", selling 23,000 copies when it was eventually released in England in 1972 through Key Records. In 1971 Upon This Rock was submitted unsuccessfully for Grammy Award nomination.
By May 1970 Capitol released a single (Capitol 2766) with both songs from Upon This Rock: "Sweet Sweet Song Of Salvation" backed with "Walking Backwards Down The Stairs".
Original LP release
Upon This Rock (Capitol 1969) Produced by Hal Yoergler
- "You Can't Take Away the Lord"
- "I Don't Believe in Miracles"
- "Moses in the Wilderness"
- "Walking Backwards Down the Stairs"
- "Ha Ha World"
- "Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation"
- "Forget Your Hexagram"
- "The Last Supper"
- "I Wish We'd All Been Ready"
- "Nothing Really Changes"
Extra tracks on some CD releases
- "You Can't Take Away the Lord" (demo)
- "Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation" (live)
- "Nothing Really Changes" (demo)
- Larry Norman – vocals, guitar, piano
- Joe Osborne – bass
- Hal Blaine – drums
- Mike Deasey – acoustic guitar
- Larry Knechtel – keyboards
- The Inspirations – backing vocals
-The Dannie Belles, an African-American contemporary gospel quartet involved in the 'Jesus Movement' sang backing vocals on the song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready".
Danniebell, Jimmye, Phyllis & Paula
- Annie, Matthew and Nelly - backing vocals
- Jeffries, Vincent. "Upon This Rock". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- "Larry Norman Down Under But Not Out", On Being (1985/1986):7.
- Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, 411.
- Michael McFadden, The Jesus Revolution (Harper & Row, 1972):126.
- "Linear Notes", Bootleg, http://www.meetjesushere.com/images/btlginsa.jpg Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
- CBNmusic, "Larry Norman", http://www.cbn.com/cbnmusic/artists/norman_larry.asp
- Stephen H. Webb, Dylan Redeemed: From Highway 61 to Saved (Continuum International, 2006):35. According to Dylan, he believed his 1968 album, John Wesley Harding, was "the first biblical rock album", with more than 60 biblical allusions. See Webb:35.
- Mike Callahan, David Edwards, and Patrice Eyries, "Solid Rock Album Discography" (January 10, 2009), http://www.bsnpubs.com/word/solidrock/solidrock.html
- . John J. Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll (2000):49.
- CBNmusic, "Larry Norman", http://www.cbn.com/cbnmusic/artists/norman_larry.aspx
- "Somebody Lied", Hollywood Free Paper 2:15 (August 4, 1970), http://www.hollywoodfreepaper.org/archive.php?id=22 See page 3 for an interview with Norman about Upon This Rock.
- Don Cusic, ed., Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock, and Worship (ABC-CLIO, 2009):312
- "iTunes Review", https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/upon-this-rock/id278869770
- "Larry Norman@Everything2.com". Everything2.com. 2003-10-20. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
- Alfonso, Barry "Larry Norman Biography." Musicianguide.com. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
- Jason Bivins, Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2008):125; Eileen Luhr, Witnessing Suburbia: Conservatives and Christian Youth Culture (University of California Press, 2009):47, 51-52; Jay R. Howard and John M. Streck, Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music (University Press of Kentucky, 2004):33.
- "History of Christian Rock/Metal part 1". Rock for the King (in Portuguese). Ope Publishing. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "History of Christian Rock/Metal part 2". Rock for the King (in Portuguese). Ope Publishing. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- Swaggart wrote a book criticizing the Christian rock and metal movements titled Religious Rock n' Roll – A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in 1987. The book criticized the scene for using heavy metal music to preach the gospel of Christianity, calling rock music the music of the devil. See also John W. Styll, "Christian Rock Wars: Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart Tells Why He Hates Today's Christian Rock", CCM 7:12 (June 1985):14-17; Heather Hendershot, Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2004):55; Richard D. Barnet, Bruce Nemerov, and Mayo R. Taylor, The Story Behind the Song: 150 Songs that Chronicle the 20th Century (Greenwood Press, 2004):206.
- "Rap, Rock, and Censorship by Mathieu Deflem". Deflem.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
- Jay R. Howard, "Contemporary Christian Music: Where Rock Meets Religion", The Journal of Popular Culture 26:1 (5 March 2004):123 .
- Garry J. Moes, Streams Of Civilization: Cultures In Conflict Since The Reformation Until The Third Millennium After Christ Vol. 2 (Christian Liberty Press, 2003):397.
- High Fidelity 20:7-12 (1970):112.
- Entertainment World, 2:2 (1970); William Ayers, "Chrono-Spective", http://www.onlyvisiting.com/larry/about/babylon_ayers.html
- Entertainment World 2:2 (Entertainment World Publications, 1970):
- Entertainment World 2:2 (1970).
- John J. Thompson, Raised by Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll (2000):80.
- Larry Norman, "Larry Norman: The Growth Of The Christian Music Industry", Cross Rhythms (11 October 2006):2, http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/Larry_Norman__The_Growth_Of_The_Christian_Music_Industry/24341/p2/; "About the Artist", Only Visiting This Planet (2004).
- Larry Norman, "Buzz Interview 1972", Buzz (1972), http://dagsrule.com/stuff/larry/intvw72.html; and Larry Norman, in Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music Songbook, (Los Angeles, CA: One Way, 1972):10.
- Larry Norman, "Larry Norman: The Growth Of The Christian Music Industry", Cross Rhythms (11 October 2006):3, http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/Larry_Norman__The_Growth_Of_The_Christian_Music_Industry/24341/p3/; Larry Norman, "Linear Notes", Streams of White Light Into Darkened Corners, http://subversiveinfluence.com/2009/06/streams-of-white-light-into-darkened-corners/
- Larry Norman, "Larry Norman: The Growth Of The Christian Music Industry", Cross Rhythms (11 October 2006):3, http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/music/Larry_Norman__The_Growth_Of_The_Christian_Music_Industry/24341/p3/
- Kenneth G. Bielen, The Lyrics of Civility: Biblical Images and Popular Music Lyrics in American Culture (Routledge, 1999):114.
- Larry Norman, in Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music Songbook, (Los Angeles, CA: One Way, 1972):10-11.
- Billboard (23 May 1970):55; Robert Termorshuizen and Jim Böthel, "Upon This Rock (1970)", http://www.meetjesushere.com/upon_this_rock.htm