I have listened to a great variety of music in my life. When I was younger, I was thrilled to listening to records…I listened to Shaun Cassidy, Queen, the Village People on 45’s, I have the Star Wars Soundtrack, alog with The Black Hole movie on full-length LP. I remember playing “Grease” in Bonnie Mohler’s garage, and singing along to the soundtrack. Scary.
My parents were (are) boomers, so I heard a lot of Beatles growing up. One of my fondest childhood memories was my dad driving me to school in the mornings. Often, we would leave a little early and drive down the Peachtree Parkway extension and look for deer. We listened to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” on 8-track, along with some 60’s compilations. I purchased Rumours on cd because of those memories.
Throughout high school, I listened to metal-van halen (both pre- and post-hagar), motley crue, twisted sister, quiet riot, a little judas priest thrown in for good measure. I was a huge Rush fan. Around ’85, I heard some U2. On my “high-speed dubbing dual-cassette boombox”, I copied “The Unforgettable Fire” from someone. Then, in 1987, came The Joshua Tree. Sounds I had not heard, or previously had ignored, came pouring from my Kraco cassette player in my Ford Pinto. I got introduced to REM around “Document”, also the Cult’s “Electric”. I graduated high school in ’88, and went off to Toccoa Falls College…I sensed my musical tastes changing.
Like a lot of people, it was in college where I was introduced to new things. My freshman photo in the TFC yearbook is me wearing my U2-Joshua Tree Tour t-shirt. I felt like such a rebel. Sometime that first weeked at TFC, I met up with Jamey Bozeman, who introduced me to Glenn Black and Phil Read. Glenn and Phil were roomates and had been at TFC for a while. Jamey and I became great friends, and we listened to a ton of music together. Jamey was patient as we listened to my Def Leppard, and I tolerated Camper Van Beethoven and Aztec Camera. I’m sure we both grew from the experience. Jamey, Glenn and Phil formed a band on campus, and it was the cool place to hang out. I always longed to play an instrument, the drums, but was lousy, and never took the time. Our friend Wendell Smith was also a metal fan, and I bought my first Metallica album, …and Justice For All. I also began to listen to Queensryche, thanks to Kelly Scercy. I hung on to the so-called alternativve rock as well.
After I got married, my wife and I moved away to Iowa. This was 91-92, and metal was dying, being ushered out by grunge. As Nikki Sixx would say on the Motley Crue Behind the Music episode, things were changing, people could feel a musical change in the air. Things just seemed in a holding pattern musically. In my book, there was Nirvana, and then U2’s Achtung, Baby; Pearl Jam; and Soul Asylum. I started working at Best Buy at the end of ’93, and we used to play “grave dancer’s union” in the store. When “99%” came on, you could cut the tension in the store, because it was LOUD. I had a chance to see Nirvana in Omaha, but did not go. STUPID! STUPID!
Thankfully, Jamey continued to send me music; compilation tapes (cd burners were not yet in widespread use) and Luxury cd’s and cassettes. I remember going to see Luxury play on some island off of SC. I was moved. I think they even opened for Third Day (whom they affectionately dubbed “Third Gay” if memory serves). U2’s Pop, Creed, etc took me through the balance of the 90’s. And Weezer! I remember being at Jamey’s house after “Blue” came out, for some reason I was not initially impressed. I have some home video from that visit, and “Blue” is playing in the background. I remember singing some Weezer with Jamey at that church in SC where they played. Actually, I think it was Weezer that got me through the rest of the 90’s. I can listen to “Blue” today; it is just as fresh and current as it was 10 years ago.
We moved to Columbus Ohio in 1995, and around ’98 or so, I began to listen to more “christian” music than any other genre, thanks to RadioU. Even the aformentioned Third Day. Then came 2000 and the election debacle. I heard about a band called “Pedro the Lion” and a record that in some ways mirrored the election. A story about a politician who, shortly before the election, had a DUI revelation. Curiosity happened, and I began to search for “Winners Never Quit” on Napster, or Kazaa, wherever I could find it.
Here’s a breakdown of “winners never quit” -it is a concept album, telling the story of two brothers, one good, and one not so good.
it opens with “slow and steady wins the race”; a song seemingly about the two brothers, but in reality a parable about how we as self-centered christians are so focused on our personal relationship with Jesus we let others fall by the wayside. we get excited about our mansions, and forget everyone else.
“simple economics” further sets the stage with political background, and listening to the words, you feel like you’re in an office, making phone calls, trying to get out the vote.
in “to protect the family name”, a slurred-speaking David Bazan imitates the drunken bad brother being pulled over and shaming the good brother, creating a political mess for him. he pleads not to be arrested.
the album takes the darkest of turns when the wife of the “good” brother is going to spill the beans about the “bad” brother. it ends with the wife being killed, beaten to death. musically, it is a departure for PTL, faster, and upbeat, foreboding in tempo.
“never leave a job half done” is the husband dealing with the aftermath of his crime, and his justification of it. again, musically, it is upbeat.
“eye on the finish line” continues the justification of the husband, he is so focused on the “finish line”, he is only thinking his end, even saying “Soon I will meet her at our mansion in the sky, Leaving this wicked world behind” in the song. he is completely oblivious to his sin, his heart is hard, his conscience no longer seared by his offense.
“bad things to such good people”-somehow the “good” son has died, the “bad” son watching their father “cry out to Jesus” that he’d always done what’s right. The haunting refrain “the good Lord smiled and looked the other way” ends the song.
The cd ends with “winners never quit”. The final words are “count it a blessing that you’re such a failure, your second chance might never have come.
One reviewer stated that this album is “the story of a sinful man determined to get to heaven by remaining “uncaught.” That is an interesting comment, how often do we seek to use our faith as mere “behavior modification” rather than a heart transformation?
Bazan is a gifted storyteller. On the two concept albums, both this one and “control”, his set up is similar. Bazan uses offensive situations and language and hard, depressing stories to have us be offended. Not for the sale of the offense, but in order that we might understand a taste of how God feels when we sin, when we choose to separate ourselves from him. We are far from God. All are equally sinful, and our offenses separate us from God. We should each be thankful for the mercies and patience of God. If we were not losers, if our righteousness were worth anything, we would not need Christ. We would not need His redemption or His salvation. And we need both.