Father Yod, Charles Manson, David Koresh - all of them were cult leaders with musical aspirations who pursued them with varying degrees of success. Now a fourth name can be added to this list - Warren Jeffs, "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or FLDS). This breakaway Mormon sect was formed in part as a protest over the mainstream Church's renunciation of polygamy in the 1930's. For the FLDS, polygamy is not merely acceptable but a requirement if a man wants to achieve salvation. (Jeffs’ father and the previous sect leader, Rulon Jeffs, really took this doctrine to heart, acquiring at least 20 wives.) To ensure that the process unfolds in a smooth and expeditious manner, the spiritual leader can assign young woman of “marriageable” age to a husband – regardless of that young woman’s wishes.
Warren Jeffs attempted to do this in 2005 with a 14 year female cult member who had been promised to her 19 year old cousin. After being repeatedly raped by her assigned spouse, she went to the police and, on the basis of this and other charges, Jeffs was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in late 2007. After this, the authorities entered the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas, to look for more evidence of under-aged marriages - most of which would naturally have been arranged by Jeffs. (As part of these investigations, the FBI are now engaging in mass DNA testing of sect children to establish if any of them are the offspring of illegal unions.)
And what of Jeffs musical career?... Well, he initially found musical "fame" via samples of one of his racist/homophobic sermons that were incorporated in the song "Warren Jeffs Explain" by Chicago experimental rock band Kinkzoid. Recently though, it has come to light that Jeffs wrote and recorded songs of his own and the compound where the sect was based was even named after one of them - "Yearning For Zion". Kinkzoid's song can be heard on their MySpace page; Jeffs' own composition, which is a syrupy concoction of tremeloed synth, gentle piano and his drenched-in-saccahrin vocals, comes to us from the good folk at WFMU.
Time for a blast of old-time religious music coutesy of Life Is A Problem, a rousing compilation of rare gospel, sanctified blues and sacred steel recorded some time between the late 40's and early 60's.
Featured on this LP only release are an assortment of preachers and pious lay folk who know how to attack a tune and could quite easily have become "rock stars" in their day if they hadn't had such a disdain for the "devil's music". (One of the artists on the album, Reverend Lonnie Francis, even claimed to have been "offered a lot of money to play rock & roll". He consistently turned such offers down, however, and reveled in his ability to blow rock bands off the stage with his untouchable brand of sacred lap steel.)
On the show today, we featured three tracks from the LP. The first was "Seat in The Kingdom", a fairly straight ahead gospel number by The Crumb Brothers, an underage quartet who are notable for the astonishing vocal chops of their ten year old lead singer, "Sugar". This was followed by a 1956 anti-rock sermon by Elder Charles Beck which probably would have out-rocked almost anything else recorded at that time. The third track is something of an enigma; an abstract slide-guitar reworking of Amazing Grace by an unknown Oakland musician. It only came to light when it was saved from a fire by a local record collector who perished rescuing his kittens and the rest of that collection.
The album that all of these tracks come from came out last year on Mississippi Records. The release though was small and most of it was snapped up fairly quickly, so you might have to dig to find a copy. Mine, which I picked up about a month ago, came from German distributor, Music Berlin, who might hopefully still have a few tucked away.
FOOTNOTE: If you haven't checked in on the radio version of Rummage, you're running out of time to do so. In the next month or so, a restructure of the drive time band on 2SER will lead to the canning of the segment. I don't have a definitive date for its demise as yet, but I will keep you posted on any developments. (If you don't already know, it's currently broadcast and streamed online between 4pm & 5pm on Monday afternoons, Aussie Eastern Standard Time.)
I’ve always found the music of Christian puppet “songstress”, Little Marcy, somewhat unsettling. Partly because of songs like God Is At Working Within You, which the celebrate being unconsciously “controlled from within”, but mostly because I know that the squeaky child-like voice behind Little Marcy is actually the natural singing voice of her operator, Marcy Tigner! (That’s why she became a puppeteer…)
Now though, my uneasiness has to turned to skin-crawling dread as a result of finally seeing this apple-cheeked golem in action… Watch, if you dare, as she crooks her elbow at unnatural angles, stares at you with those cold, deathless eyes and croons about Jesus wanting her for a sunbeam; then shudder as she is joined by her grinning zombie minions for a rendition of I Don’t Have To Wait Until I’m Grown Up (To Be What Jesus Wants Me To Be).
(via the Sound Scavenger mailing list)
In the stiff-collared world of the Lutheran priesthood, John Rydgren stood out as the very epitome of suave (but slightly surreal) Christian cool... For much of the late 60's, his magnificent basso profundo voice could be heard on American radio delivering Acid-fried musings on God's relationship to the world of drugs, psychedelic rock... and miniskirts. These "sermons" were laid down over collages of psych, lounge music and sound effects, and given suitably hip titles like "The Happening", "Rinky Dink" and "Groovin On A Saturday Night".
Probably the most famous of them was "Music To Watch Girls By". In it, Big John attempts to transform perving at women into a righteous activity... Download and enjoy (but be warned, it may offend those with politically correct sensitives.)
If you like that mp3 (originally posted on the 365 Days Project), there's an even scarier one called "Teen's Prayer" over at Show And Tell Music, in which Rydgren seems to be simulating the experience of a very bad trip. Do not listen to THAT under the influence of anything...