Friday, April 10, 2009

Larry Norman, The Grammy's & Me Part 5


For the rest of the 80's, I continued to work with teenagers, and Larry continued to record albums. He toured around, but rarely came any where near Denver. I was on the Phydeaux mailing list, so I got a newsletter a few times a year, and I would send off a check to buy his latest album.

There was plenty of other "Christian music" being recorded and available. That music ran the gamut of Great Stuff (in the minority for sure) to a bunch of what I referred to as Christian Schlock Music.

In reaction I became one of the many "undercover Larry Norman music pushers". I introduced many young people to his albums. My junior high choir sang "I Am A Servant".

One of the striking things about Larry's music was the fact it reached kids who had no interest whatsoever in any other Christian music. There is something about the honesty, the pain, the stark reality of Larry's music that struck a chord with what I called the "fringe" kids.

We were thrilled beyond belief in 1989 when I received notice in the mail that Larry was coming to Denver, not only to do a concert, but the concert was being video taped. So I rounded up a small group of friends who had all been bitten by the Larry bug, and we made plans to attend the taping.

We were convinced that there would be a mob scene at the small Denver church where the concert was being held. So we planned on arriving at lunch time. Ready to camp out and be first in line.

Sadly we arrived and not a single person was there. Except the occasional church member who was showing up for choir practice. They thought we were nutty. Seems in the end, not that many folks in the Denver area were on the mailing list. So it was small crowd, maybe 150 people, packed into the "House of Joy Miracle Deliverance Church". It was for me, the most intimate setting I had seen Larry perform in, and it was an amazing night.

In the context of Larry's career, that night was being filmed in conjunction with the release of "Home At Last". The album was released on the Benson label. This was part of the two or three minutes (sorry for the sarcasm) that the Christian Music industry had decided to let Larry back into their good graces. As far as I know, Benson never released the video, although at some point it was released by Larry. I have a copy and recently found that most of it has been posted on YouTube. If you watch all 9 parts, there is footage both from that night and from other appearances with a band. Looks like his brother Charlie on guitar. Watch this video and notice the faces of the choir members.

I talked to the choir ladies in the restroom during the breaks. They had been rehearsing the songs for weeks. But they had no idea who Larry was, and never had seen him till that day. Over the course of the evening you could see them move from confusion to delight.

It was a wonderful, strange, inspiring, bizarre and moving night. To me, Larry seemed out of sorts. Don't know a better way to put it. He rambled in between songs, sometimes seemed brilliant, sometimes exhausted, sometimes lost to reality. To a person seeing him for the first time, they may not have noticed, but to me......he seemed different.

But in other ways, he was still the Larry I knew. One young man, who had recently been through some very difficult days was with us that night. He wanted to talk to Larry. We waited, they talked, and then disappeared back stage for a while. Later he came out and showed us a tape Larry had given him. I was yet another time that Larry had taken time for my "kids". I was touched. Little did I know that my life was going to face some severely difficult days in the near future, and that years would pass before I saw Larry again.


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