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Music to your ears

Barry McGuire will be ‘Trippin’ the Sixties’ with the Byrd’s John York in Australia in November. Photo courtesy of ‘Trippin’ the Sixties’ www.trippinthesixties.com

DO YOUR eyes still light up when you recall the thunder of a Wesley hymn raising the rafters at Albert Street church in the 1950s?

This writer remembers adults shaking their heads when we began using choruses from Scripture in Song at Aitkenvale Methodist church in 1974.

They muttered about “Jesus songs” and “ditties” from the brown book.

Lately my children are amazed that my congregation uses Hillsong material that “must be at least two years old”!

In the Church, as in the wider culture, music is a great reflector of generational change.

The formation of the Uniting Church coincided with guitars coming home from youth camp and appearing in Sunday worship.

Psalms and other scriptures were being sung in Good News English.

We didst not speak like King James thus our praises were no longer sung forth in such manner!

Now a broadcaster, author and university lecturer, Rev Dr Andrew Dutney was a touring singer/songwriter and Karana Downs minister Rev Ian Smallbone’s band Family was making it big.

Kirwan’s pastor Peter Ireland was one of the coolest guitarists in North Queensland.

It was a time of a few ‘Christian’ LP records and many dodgy cassette copies.

The late great Larry Norman asked, “Why should the devil have all the good music?”

Rock and Roll caught up with religion along with hippy haircuts and sandals.

Another more gravelly voice joined the chorus. From a background that included the Mamas and Papas, Broadway’s Hair and folk music legend status, Barry McGuire encountered Jesus in the early Seventies.

The music that flowed from that conversion is considered among the most influential in contemporary Christian music.

In November Australian youngsters of the seventies will flock to hear the now 71-year-old, whose world number one hit has just been re-released.

In the protest anthem ‘Eve of Destruction’ Barry McGuire asked the big questions of the war, poverty, nuclear arms and pollution.

The song found its way into Christian music in a way that connected faith with the realities of life.

Barry McGuire and John York (of The Byrds) will tour Australia with their show ‘Trippin’ the Sixties’.

Mr McGuire insists it’s no mere nostalgia trip.

The music and lyrics that caused a generation to stop and think, also helped forge faith for some.

“It’s just taking a trip through the 60s. Actually, it’s not nostalgic,” he said.

“It’s taking the songs and the truth that was in those songs from the 60’s and bringing them into the present moment.

“Living the truth now. It’s not going back to the 60s, it’s pulling the 60s into the present moment.

“I still sing ‘Eve of Destruction’, not to go back, but because the song is more valid today than it was in 1965 when I first recorded it.”

Eve of Destruction
By Barry McGuire
20 Inspirational Classics
Digital Audio Technologies Australia

Ian Smallbone reviewed a compilation of Barry McGuire’s music for Journey, recalling that time of generational change.

I FIRST met Barry McGuire in I’m guessing 1974 when we found ourselves sharing the stage on a low key national tour with the man himself and his good friend and mentor, Bible teacher Winkie Pratney.

We couldn’t help but be impressed by Barry’s humility, joy and love for life.

He certainly would not have been earning anything like what he would have been capable of on the secular circuit.

Not precocious or demanding in the slightest degree, he went with the flow and was a great servant and encourager.

He was quite adamant in those days that he would only sing ‘Jesus’ songs… “Why would a Christian want to sing any other sort?”

It seems like since then he’s been popping up all over the place in the local and national media, most recently on ABC Television’s Spicks and Specks, still larger than life.

Barry McGuire achieved international recognition for his recording Eve of Destruction, described on the cover notes of the compilation album bearing the same name as a “pessimistic, apocalyptic commentary on the fearful world of possible nuclear annihilation…probably the most pessimistic song to ever top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic”.

‘Destruction’ is reprised briefly and somewhat more gently than I remember on this latest compilation which brings together the songs of Seeds and Lighten Up, two albums that marked McGuire’s conversion to Christ in the early 70s.

The sense of apocalypse of another kind is never far away in most of the songs that follow.

The bluesy ‘Last Dayz Waltz’ features the lyric “If you want to read about tomorrow today – it’s all there in God’s Word”; in ‘Pay the Piper’, “some are going to go with Jesus and some will go alone”.

‘Callin’ Me Home’, a bluesy piano ballad showcases the full McGuire range – vocally – a low and sweet F – and more characteristically, dynamically.

Don’t blame God’ adopts a different prophetic genre with a challenge about “million dollar churches but no one’s on their knees.”

If you’re a Barry McGuire fan and all your recordings are on vinyl, this CD is probably for you.

It is a very listenable collection of songs that established Barry McGuire as one of the most effective and popular singers of the Jesus movement.

Photo : Barry McGuire will be ‘Trippin’ the Sixties’ with the Byrd’s John York in Australia in November. Photo courtesy of ‘Trippin’ the Sixties’ www.trippinthesixties.com