Jacob’s Trouble was hands down one of the best bands to come off of Frontline/Alarma records in the late 80′ early 90’s. When everyone in CCM was still addicted to cranking out hair metal, JT introduced their unique blend of jangle rock. Here’s the scoop behind one of the bands biggest hits.
These Thousand Hills – Song Stories
In between the recording of Door Into Summer and writing new songs for what would become Knock, Beathe, Shine, I took a vacation with my wife to Florida. While we were there we stayed with a friend whose family was from England. On the coffee table in their living room was a huge book about Scotland. I have always wanted to visit Scotland. I just love the green rolling hills, the castles, the rich history. And I had recently seen the movie Local Hero (rent it! You’ll love it!) and just fell in love with the people and traditions of Scotland.
I was flipping through this book just soaking in the pictures of the people and places and this song just sort of welled up inside me. The words “These thousand hills” I had remembered from an old western I saw on cable a few months back. I always liked the sound of it and had it in mind to use in a song whenever the right opportunity arose.
I jotted it down and as soon as we got back from vacation, I took it to the band. All I had were a few verses and the chorus. It was not anywhere near finished in my mind. The response from Mark and Steve was lackluster at best. So we just sort of shelved it for the time being and moved on to other songs.
Fast forward to the recording of Knock, Breathe, Shine: We are sitting in the studio putting the finishing touches on basic tracks and Terry syas, “Well, is there anything else you guys have?” I said, “Well, there is this one song but it’s not really finished.”
“Let’s hear it, “ he says. So Mark breaks out the acoustic and I sang it to him. Terry sort of lit up. He caught the whole “Mull of Kintyre” thing I was after and we tracked the drums and scratch guitar and vocals.
During overdubs, he had Greg Flesch play the bagpipe parts on a keyboard. He called in everybody from Frontline, artists and office workers and they came down and made an impromptu choir. And we had Tim Chandler play bass on it, not because Steve couldn’t but because Steve was a huge Chandler fan and specifically requested that Tim play it.
It turned out better than anyone anticipated and we suggested our record label release it as the AC single they were always trying to get from us. They took one listen and turned us down flat. “Songs with bagpipes don’t get played on Christian radio,” they said. It was the hit single that never was
Over the next several months after the album’s release we got tons of fan mail saying “These Thousand Hills” was the best song on the album, and they sang it in their church youth group meetings. Still Frontline refused to even hear of it. Even in 1998, when KMG was putting together a greatest hits package, they refused to put “These Thousand Hills on there. 2 years later, Third Day recorded it and had a Top 3 radio hit with it.
And the moral of this story is: When the A&R guys at your record label say one thing and everybody else in the whole world says the opposite, don’t listen to the A&R guys.