With this 80’s Christian Album pick I might freak some of you out. Others, I think, will agree wholeheartedly. This reaction seems fitting considering that’s usually the response Steve Taylor received from 80’s CCM loving masses. They either loved him, or they hated him. With Mr Taylor there was no middle ground, and part of me thinks he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
By the time Taylor unleashed 1987’s “I Predict 1990” he had already earned a well deserved reputation for biting, some would say convicting satire/sarcasm. Weather it was the anti-CCM rantings of popular TV Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, or the racial injustices taking place on the campus of Hyper-Fundi Bob Jones University. Within the “church”, few were safe from his prophetic musical salvos.
Lest he be accused of unfairly targeting the church, Taylor un-ashamedly blasted what he perceived as the decay of Western civilization. With apologetic acumen comparable to Francis Schaeffer, Steve tackled cultural hot button issues with a fervor. Through the song “Baby Doe” he blasted society’s slide towards infanticide, on the quirky tune “Lifeboat”, he savagely satirized the cultural relativism curriculum being taught in public schools. And in grand fashion, he scored a politically incorrect trifecta with “Whatever Happened To Sin”. In which he takes on the polarizing issues of abortion, homosexuality and the God & Country politicians who invoke the name of Jesus for votes. The music may be dated, but the themes could be ripped from today’s headlines.
I Predict 1990 was no less controversial than Taylor’s previous albums, but on “I Predict…” he hits full stride. The hooks are tight, the production top notch. Overall this project could easily fit in with Steve’s mainstream contemporaries of the time Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, or Steve Winwood. However, I seriously doubt those artist ever got into the hot water Taylor always seemed to dive into.
Before the record hit the shelves it was being banned from Mom and Pop Christian bookstores who were offended by perceived Satanic/New Age imagery on the album cover. Adding insult to injury, the band had to cancel a tour in Australia because the satirical anthem “I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good” was said to advocate violence on Abortion clinics and Abortion Dr’s.
Regarding the controversial cover, Steve said, “It wasn’t like a couple of people shooting off, enough people were believing it . At a certain point, I was spending more time defending myself than I was talking about music and the mission and all that. I’m very seldom angry. I’m usually a very happy guy. It was uncomfortable to always be defending those things that I felt were so ridiculous–[I felt like asking] ‘Should I not at least get the benefit of the doubt on some of the issues that seem pretty absurd?’ Some of that I didn’t mind because, when you’re talking about controversial songs like ‘We Don’t Need No Colour Code‘ or something like that, I’m happy to talk about that stuff, because that’s worth talking about. When you’re talking about tarot cards and new age hand signs, that’s no fun–that’s just silly.
That, combined with just the sense that if I wanted to keep doing this, I wanted to be able to achieve certain artistic goals, as far as concerts, the production, making records, and being able to achieve a certain standard there. It was really going to require toning down or becoming more mainstream as a gospel artist to keep selling that number of records and all that stuff. To me, whatever I’m doing, there needs to be joy and there needs to be enthusiasm. I felt like I could leave at that time with all those things intact, but if I would have stayed in and did another album and did another tour that I would be definitely flirting with carrying on for the wrong reasons. It was a good time to bow out gracefully.”
Stand out cuts are “I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good”, “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A lot Better” (probably the best song title ever), “Babylon” and the haunting ballad “Harder to Believe Than Not To”.
Although Steve called it quits after the release of “I Predict…” his creativity could not be contained. With the power of his songwriting and production skills he went on to single-handedly save the careers of the Newsboys and Guardian. In 1993 he graced us with Squint, another musical gem released on Warner Alliance. He followed that up with “Liver” (pronounced Lie-ver) which was a raw and energetic snapshot of Steve and band touring the Squint project.
He then went on to start Squint Records and launch the careers of Sixpence None The richer, Chevelle, and Burlap To Cashmere. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Most recently he produced and directed the movie Blue Like Jazz, based on author Donald Miller’s best-selling “autobiography” by the same name. Blue Like Jazz is currently working its way to a theater near you.
When “I Predict…” was released I was about 15 or 16 years old, at first the music was what drew me in, but as I soaked in the lyrics my interest and curiosity were peaked. How could it not be? I mean, the content on “I Predict…” was deep, real deep. For this reason I was compelled to research many of the names and themes in his songs. So I guess you could say that listening to Steve Taylor’s “I Predict 1990” actually made me smarter. And in the end, isn’t that what great art is supposed to do?