*** Edit 11/20/08: I actually found the entire album online. You can’t get it on amazon or itunes, but you can download “First Fruits” HERE. Crazy!!!! And you know what the most surprising thing is? The rest of the album isn’t nearly as painful as “Jesus is a Friend of Mine.” Sure, the whole thing is dated, but definitely not jump-off-a-cliff-and-pour-acid-in-your-ears worthy. I think there are definitely many tracks that are worthy of some good-natured mockery, like “The Gospel Ship” and the cowbell on “Sail On.” But there’s a pretty catching cover of “O Happy Day” and some nice grooves here and there.
One of the comments had some background information on the band. Turns out they were a pioneer in the Catholic Rock scene. I don’t feel bad making fun of “Jesus Is a Friend of Mine” but they seem like cool people. No way of verifying, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here. Praise God for them! =P
Ok, I thought that was a fun piece of music and was sure it was authentic. Curiosity got the better of me, looked up the lead singer on WhitePages and gave him a call. Sal Polichetti, a lovely guy. Told him there was a controversy about whether Sonseed existed or not, about this post. He was totally friendly and likable. Turns out he works in NYC, a couple of blocks from where I live.
I asked him if I could take notes as we spoke and said ok. This is what he said:
When the song came out on YouTube and he got all these random emails and calls, the first thing he looked for his copyright and he has it, registered it in 1981.
The band got together around 1979/1980, kind of an accident through a friend, Joseph, connected with Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, they all met, played for Pentecost Sunday. They kept in touch, met, prayed for an hour, all Catholic. It was quite innovative at that time, no Catholic rock music then. How he wrote the songs, the band members took hymnals, added guitar solos and drum solos, ended up doing local concerts at churches and schools, never took a dime. 18 to 20 rotating performers at one time.
Recording studio in Brooklyn, 9 original songs. Sold record at cost, gave records away. Somebody sent the record to NBC and it was played on a show, The First Estate, Channel 4. They lipsynched. The people who ran that show thought Jesus Is a Friend was “catchy and snappy”.
The band, Sonseed, sold 1100 tickets at a concert and gave the money away to charities, like to soup kitchens.
The band lasted to “late ‘83”. The keyboard player was his first wife.
He got an email from a blogger in California who had showed the videotape to friends over the years and Doug heard about it.
Sal has a video of their last concert, their drummer passed away 15 years ago.
Father Joseph Ciccone, a band member, (now a priest) then worked for an advertising agency, he designed the logo and the album cover.”
Check it out!*****
A few entries ago, I mulled over the question of simplistic worship. I said somewhere in that entry that even the most trite words scribbled on the back of toilet paper written for nefarious, commercial reasons can be used by a genuine Christian in deep authentic worship. I still think that is true.
I also am a firm adherent to the fact that worship of our almighty Creator has a dynamic, paradoxical way of both inhabiting and transcending cultural. True worship contextualizes itself in the very best each culture has in the realm of its artistic expression, while at the same time speaking to the universal human condition.
I’ve embraced worship that’s in the form of dance, hip hop, country, punk, ska, pottery, baton twirling, american sign language, spoken word, poetry… in every style, in every genre imaginable. Or so I thought. I’ve sat in a small rural church in Mexico hearing a woman belt out praises deafeningly off pitch screech voice and still leave blessed beyond belief. I’ve been led in worship by awful amateur youth praise bands that could not keep a steady beat if their life depended on it, yet still would be ushered into the throneroom of grace.
While I consider myself one who approaches the world of art and music esp. with an open mind and heart, I’m afraid to say that upon watching this clip, I wanted to jump off a cliff and/or pour hot burning acid into my ears. Is that harsh? Sorry.
My heart tells me that all art offered to God has redeeming value, but this seems to be perhaps one exception that is beyond the pale. Thoughts?
For those of you who want to savor this more, here are the lyrcs:
Jesus is a friend of mine. Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine. I have a friend in Jesus. [repeat]
He taught me how to live my life as it should be.
He taught me how to turn my cheek when people laugh at me.
I’ve had friends before and I can tell you that
He’s one that will never leave you flat.
He taught me how to pray and how to save my soul.
He taught me how to praise my God and still play rock and roll.
The music may sound different but the message is the same.
It’s just an instrument to praise His name.
Once I tried to run, I tried to run and hide.
But Jesus came and found me and He touched me down inside.
He is like a Mountie, He always gets His man.
And He’ll zap you any way He can. ZAP!
He loves me when I’m right; He loves me when I’m wrong.
He loves me when I waste my time by writing silly songs.
He loves me when I’m quiet and I have nothing to say.
He’ll love me when I’m perfect if I ever get that way.
Sorry for subjecting you to this.