Who Does Not Want To Be a Clone?

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Campus Life
January 1987 Volume 45 Number 6
© 1987 Campus Life Magazine, Christianity Today, Inc.
Cover story, Pages 5, 38-43, 60-61


· Michael J. Fox
· David Letterman
· The Orkin® Man
· A garbanzo bean
· Steve Taylor

(For the correct answer, please read on.)

by Jim Long

photos by Mark Tucker

From outside his hotel room you can hear two things: his shower, and his voice above the noise of his shower. La-la-la-la-la-la-la. The man is running through your standard vocal exercises. Up the scale and back down again. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. It is Monday afternoon. We are to meet for an interview--now--and are to spend quite a bit of time together over the coming week. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. I have not yet bothered to knock on the door. A guy vocalizing in the shower of a honeymoon suite at Reno's Bally Grand Hotel deserves a little personal time. Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo. I stand in the dimly lit hall, inspecting light fixtures, examining the brush strokes in the paintings and counting the different colors in the ornately patterned carpet. Intermittently, a young Latino woman on the hotel's housekeeping staff steps into the hallways, listens again to the vocal gymnastics and giggles as we exchange glances. Le-le-le-le-le-le-le.

Ladies and gentleman: Steve Taylor.

"Crumb," he says, "I know I had a belt here somewhere." The room is less than tidy. Open suitcases spit crumpled clothes onto the floor, and Steve, 6'2", bent over to resemble a clothespin, rummages through the piles with a vengeance. "Problem is, if I don't wear a belt with these pants, I'm in trouble."

Time is tight--we have to meet someone for a ride to Carson City for a bookstore appearance--but today time is friendly to the man without a belt. Just as he's about to give up, Eureka! "Oh wow, there it is."

Out the door. Briskly down the hall. Steve's flowing iridescent trench coat flapping behimd him. The man is hyper.

The better part of the next hour is spent on the road, in a Suburban-style vehicle--one of those truck/station wagon hybrids. The man driving, the son of the bookstore owner, is a Steve Taylor admirer and he's not at a loss for words. Steve listens graciously. No hint of the hyperactivity that fueled the belt search.

At the store, about 20 fans (one with a ferret on his shoulder and a cowboy hat on his head) turn out, seeking autographs, posing with Steve for snapshots and letting a little Taylor wit rain down on them. Steve gabs graciously. No hint of hyperactivity.

Later, at the Lawlor Events Center for soundcheck, hyperactivity, bordering on frenzy, returns. Steve Taylor and Some Band are to open for Amy Grant. The concert is to begin at 7:30. But it's already 5:30 and Steve's semi-load of sound equipment has not yet arrived. Something's on the fritz.

"You can watch me go into my pre-concert panic," he says.

After the show, Steve and the band hit Baily Grand's all-night bowling alley. And they bowl till dawn. Hyperactivity's aftermath.

Tuesday morning and early afternoon are spent recuperating from hyperkinesis and all-night bowling. Then, late afternoon, the short jaunt from the Baily Grand Hotel to the airport is negotiated smoothly, considering Steve is tossing stuff into suitcases up to the last minute.

The Tuesday evening flight out of Reno to Burbank, California, is uneventful and, upon arrival, we part company. Steve and Debbie, his wife, head for their Glendale home and a few days of rest and emotional cool-down before opening for Amy's SRO performance at L.A.'s 17,000-seat Forum on Friday evening. "A bill," as the Los Angeles Times put it, "featuring the effervescent queen of Christian rock and its witty new-wave king, Steve Taylor."

I enter the Glendale Holiday Inn and encounter my first clue that all is not well: I almost collide with the Orkin Pest Control technician. I am entering, he is exiting. This means, I suppose, that he has done his duty, which should be encouraging. Even so...

In my room, I pull out a small tablet and scribble interview notes and descriptive, raw impressions of Steve's stage presence the night before:

A life-size mannequin, bouncing on invisible puppet strings.

An anorexic Frankenstein.

An electrocuted scarecrow.

A circus clown on uppers.

He refuses to be a clone.

Must talk to Steve about stage presence and theatrics.

I slip the tablet into my pocket, then brush aside my initial Orkin misgivings and head for the hotel's restaurant.

Sunlight floods sparsely furnished rooms. The apartment is not plush, but is unusually pleasant in its simplicity--warm, unpretentious. It feels like honesty. Steve displays a Linn 9000 drum synthesizer, his chief instrument of composition, then we settle in the living room. Steve is ready to talk; there are no gashes of silence tearing the two-hour conversation. And yet today, here, there is scarcely a trace of Steve's trademark hyperactivity. And for one so--well, unusual--Steve spins a story with a thread of uncanny commonness. A story of striving to break out of the ordinary. Striving to find acceptance. But striving to do so without compromise.

Who wants to be a clone?

Anyone's clone?

Steve Taylor, teetering on the brink of 30, first happened in 1957, in the Imperial Valley's Brawley, California, 50 miles north of Mexico. "It was a real hot region," Steve summarizes. "But it grows a lot of food and has cockroaches the size of cats." (Speaking of Orkin.) Steve's not into the story more than a few sentences before he puts his dad--a Baptist minister--center-stage, a recurring theme. A brother came along precisely one year and 11 minutes after Steve's birth. On to Spring Valley, a San Diego suburb (a new church for Dad), and the family adds a sister.

"We never had a lot. But we never went without." It's a passing comment and the subject's changed.

"I look a lot like my dad." Steve offers the insight as if it is the most significant thing to be said at the moment. Then he fortifies the observation with an anecdote: Steve had been away from Brawley 15 years when he returned for a concert with the Continental Singers. Six people recognized him as Rev. Taylor's son.

Steve talks fluidly of the family's travels. By car. All over the country. And then, because Steve's dad grew up in Central America and he wanted to give the family an experience, there was The Trip. Through Mexico and all of Central America, finally arriving in Panama. Quite an adventure for five-year-old Steve. He remembers the mild scraps with bandits, the family's free first aid for the kid who had cut a chunk out of his foot with a machete. He remembers mosquitos so thick his dad had to stop the car; the bloodsuckers covered the windshield, cutting visibility to zero. He remembers standing on the rim of a broiling volcano, the greatest scare of his life. He remembers negotiations at each country's border, and the threat that their passage would be one-way. He remembers having to sell the family car in Panama to fund airline tickets back to the States.

All this Steve recalls in vivid detail.

But he remembers most his dad.

"My dad came from a real conservative background as a Plymouth Brethren, the son of missionaries--first to American Indians in Albuquerque, and then on to Colombia. But after five years in Central America, an insect bite claimed Grandpa Taylor's life and Grandma was left to raise the six kids single-handedly. Conservatively." Steve mentions this to underscore the awe he feels for his father. "It is amazing to me that he was able to remain free of legalism. We never felt that Dad was nuts-o or off-the-wall." Steve praises his dad for being loving, consistent in his beliefs and effective as a preacher. "He would preach without notes. I don't know how he did it.

"And"--here comes the early hints of music--"he's a great singer. He did some custom albums. And he'd sing in the car. Sometimes Mom joined in."

Some sort of public performance debut for young Steve was inevitable.

"The church in Spring Valley was doing a missionary play and needed a little kid to play an orphan from Japan named 'Howdy.' [laughter.] I had two lines: 'Howdy no like' and 'Howdy no please.' I had to perform in a red bathrobe, barefoot. As if that wasn't enough, before the play I got two black eyes, one from falling off my bike, the other from something else. I ended up doing the play barefoot, in a red bathrobe, with two shiners."

The show must go on.

And it has.

Steve was still quite young when Christianity made sense to him. "I accepted what I understood at this point: Jesus was a real person. He lived and died for me, and I needed him to forgive my sins, and to change me as a person--to change the way I did things. At that time, I understood the basics in a kid's way. But growing up in the church, I slowly learned more and more. I never grew disenchanted with the church, because my parents were very consistent."

At this Steve seems almost embarrassed, as if family life were too positive. "A lot of kids have a very tough childhood. I didn't. It doesn't seem fair now. I feel fortunate, or blessed, or whatever you want to call it. I'm always thinking back on what my parents did when I was a kid. It affects everything I do now."

Not that all this spared him from struggle:

"I recognized a tension between being a Christian and how I was to fit in with my classmates even at an early age." He wanted to feel he was a part of things, but he felt a pull, like gravity, against his own beliefs. Beliefs that differed from his peers'. All this intensified in junior high. Became more difficult in high school. More pressing still in college.

Steve's tension: How to fit in?

"I realized somewhere along the line that I wasn't a good athlete." The young Steve Taylor learns lessons from life. Third place in a field day event and the conclusion is drawn: "You can't have everything just because you want it."

Shift emphasis. Student government elections. "I did a speech. God knows what it meant. My dad helped me. I won. Next year, however, I didn't win." Conclusion: "Things are not necessarily going to happen the way I want them to happen."

Shift emphasis. Studies. Good student. Some achievement. Not enough.

"It's funny. I haven't thought about some of this stuff for so long. But then, it was a big deal. And I think what I was looking for was the best way to get a girl interested in me."

Hmmm. Sports. Sports deserves another go. "And I went out for basketball and track. But I wasn't tall then when I was playing basketball. So I sat on the bench. The whole time.

"And then there was track. I found out I was a decent high-jumper and hurdler."

"The hurdles. I remember them well. I had promise.

"The gun cracked and I was off. I took the lead after about three hurdles and I was thinking, This is great! And then, from the sidelines I heard one of the cheerleaders: 'GO STEVE!!'

"She was a cheerleader. She knew my name. She knew my name! I felt an extra surge of power. But that extra surge cost me my timing. And my footing. Smash! I hit the next hurdle. And I was flat, my knee mangled. And I was out for the rest of the year. So much for track. The sound of one cheerleader ruined me."

Shift emphasis. Band was all that was left, so the limping Mr. Taylor dusted off his elementary school trombone. "I wasn't good. I wasn't bad. I just ran on instinct. If it hadn't come so easily, perhaps I would have practiced. For the next year or two I was top dog trombone player. Then Number Two challenged my chair. And I was down a notch. Only it felt like a lot more than one notch."

Grades came fairly easily. Girls didn't. "I don't think I had been out on a date yet, not a real date. And I wasn't feeling particularly good about myself. I was doing fairly well academically, but even that by itself wasn't enough. Then I jumped into a math class well over my head. That 'C' blew my grade point average. Up until that point I had been shooting to be the top of my class. One silly 'C' and that idea was gone."

You'd think Steve would have let good be good enough. But just good wasn't good. Steve had to stand out. Himself. Alone. He had to be noticed.

Steve's last year of high school was a mix of strong academic achievement, involvement in the jazz band, and a bit of successful dabbling in drama. "But by the time I graduated from high school, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. Jazz band had been the one place I felt a sense of belonging. And my last year I did some stuff in drama and was good at that. But I felt compromise nipping at me. And my high-school career left me significantly confused. What next?"

Next stop: Biola University. On the President's scholarship. Steve Taylor the young man shows promise.

But that's not how he saw it.

"By the time I hit Biola, the only thing I had any knowledge of was music. But I could not play an instrument. Other than trombone. Which, to me, hardly counted. I wasn't particularly good as a trombone player. I didn't see my self as a trombone player." But Steve had done some singing at his dad's church...

Steve tries out for the Biola Chorale.

Steve doesn't make it.

"Here I am, a vocal music student, and I can't get into their little choir. By the time I left Biola I was totally confused. I had no idea what to do."

Left Biola? What has happened to Steve? In one year he has failed to make the choir, failed to find his niche, failed to maintain the G.P.A. necessary to retain his scholarship. And Steve did not have the money to return.

Freshman year at Biola brought a couple of other failures, too:

Steve's first and futile effort at forming a rock band. He played bass.

Sort of.

Two months of rehearsal. One lousy concert.

And romance had eluded him.

"I had hoped that at a Christian college I would find someone who would be interested in me. It didn't work out that way. My first college date was at one of those nights when they have Christian bands at Knott's Berry Farm. The girl lost her voice halfway into the night so we couldn't talk. I did all the talking, she did all the nodding. It was very awkward. We wandered around the park for two and a half hours. And it was kinda like talking to yourself. That was that for her. The rest of that year...nothing, no girlfriend."

Steve now admits there was a connection between the two--between his rock band fiasco and his drive to be noticed by girls. "I was praying desperately that we could play on campus, 'cause I figured that would help things out. But what can I say? We didn't make it and besides, after one brisk year, Biola was history."

The decision was traumatic, but Steve returned to Denver where his father was pastoring a growing suburban church.

Today Steve has the emotional distance to be philosophic about his setbacks. "I had set out that first year to find God's will for my life. And it didn't happen. It dawned on me only gradually that God's will is determined more by attitudes and by obeying in the big things. You know, 'Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.' That's not something you accomplish your first year in college. I had been looking for a seminar or spiritual leader to tell me what God's will was for me. Then as I read my Bible I realized that God's will was not some prescribed path that we follow, but was this attitude of loving God, and following the Bible in obedience.

"When we're doing that, we are capable of making decisions that are in line with God's wishes. But it's not a clear, uncluttered path.

"Even the romance thing. I was trying in a lot of different ways over the years to be noticed--sports, music, whatever--partly because I never felt particularly good about my looks. And yet, somewhere along the line I realized how shallow it would be to build a relationship on looks, or sports. Or music.

"What's funny is that when music finally did happen, and I was touring for a couple years as a single person, suddenly girls were interested. Except by the time it finally happened I was beyond that stage. So then the tough part came: I didn't want someone interested in me because of the music. The one thing that was nice about Debbie was that she didn't know about my music. So that was a big relief."

That's Steve Taylor now talking.

Steve Taylor then felt strong feelings of failure.

And the college sophomore had a few things to figure out. Where to go to school. What to major in. Where to work. And what about the long-range future?

"Going back home seemed like regressing. Going to a stage university seemed like regressing, too."

But Steve's options were limited.

"I was going to have to live at home and commute. Which seemed embarrassing, though my parents were great about it."

Steve enrolled in the University of Colorado at Boulder. Which, after Biola, was culture shock. Boulder had picked up where Berkeley left off. All these beat generation poets immigrated to Boulder, looking for a way to hang onto the '60s.

It was a "What shall we protest this weekend?" environment. A haven for leftover hippies. In the midst of Steve's emotional swirl, the board at his dad's church fell onto an idea: "Would Steve consider filling the recently vacated youth pastor position until they could find a permanent replacement?" (The interim position grew into a five-year stint, working side-by-side with his dad.)

"I made a lot of mistakes as a youth pastor, like taking the youth group to the airport to play capture the flag. We were removed by security guards. But when I started off in youth work, I was only 19. Somehow I survived. And learned. And the kids knew my heart and were always behind me. And so was the church. Dad took a hands-off policy. When I'd make a mistake I'd ask him, 'Why didn't you warn me?' And he'd say, 'It was your decision.'

"I learned to ask his advice on things ahead of time. And he gave me advice. But he was never pushy, which is remarkable. Pastors are under considerable pressure, even without having their son as the youth pastor."

And so Steve's college years became a time of sorting values, forced not only by his own questioning, but by the responsibility to give directions to his group of high-school students. But this leaves the story of Steve Taylor, university student, unresolved.

Academically, is there life after Biola?

"I didn't know what to do so I stayed in music. But I was having enough trouble learning how to type. I knew I couldn't play piano. I was in a tough spot. Without instrumental proficiency, I still had to major in voice. (I minored in theater.) So, I started in on my voice lessons--a year and a half. I knew I wasn't doing very well, but finally I had come to my voice jury, where the faculty was to hear me sing. And they made their recommendation: I was not really fit for a music major. Maybe I should try something else. I would have had to leave the department except my teacher was the head of the faculty and she pulled some strings so I could stay in. (I was good in the areas that didn't really help me out: theory, composition, arranging, things like that. But none of them had much to do with being a voice major. And, of course, the voice thing was all classical music.)"

Last year of college:

1) Steve dabbles in film. His best effort, "Baby Talk," is screened at The U.C.L.A. Film Festival. (Plot summary: A New Jersey couple attempts to trade in their infant son on a Corvette. Based on a true story.)

2) Steve does poorly in Italian language classes.

3) Steve develops interest in British punk and new wave music. And he wonders: Why wouldn't I want to write songs with the kind of fire behind them, yet offer some hope and truth?

Finally, mediocre voice Steve Taylor graduates.


Now what?

Thursday Morning. Steve and I meet, along with a representative from Sparrow Records. We join the flow of traffic as it snakes down the Santa Ana Freeway toward Orange County. Today Steve is to do a remote radio program at a Carl's Jr. restaurant. The car radio is tuned to the station and we monitor the announcer's nervousness as we proceed south. We are running late. Hyperactivity is setting in.

"Steve will be here any moment now," the announcer promises.

If he only knew.

Outside the fast-food stop, amid balloons and streamers, a fast-talking D.J. seems visibly relieved at our arrival. Steve is ushered through the modest crowd to the announcer's side. Between tunes, Steve dives into some witty bantering, including a tour of the Carl's Jr. salad bar--"for all you folks out there in RadioLand."

(Let's hear it for the garbanzo beans!)

He's getting wound.

He does on-the-air comparisons of different-sized balloons popping, and Friday's concert with Amy is hyped. The stage is set for an event.

Later, as we talk, Steve makes no effort to hide his appreciation of Sparrow, his record company. They, after all, are the ones who took the risk with the young maverick iconoclast from Denver.

Steve had put together demos of "I Want to Be a Clone," "Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Number's Up?" "Hero," and "Sin for a Season," and had been sending the tapes out. They bounced back with rejection letters attached. He even spent a week in Los Angeles, trying to gain a hearing from publishers and record companies. Primary reactions:

Secular companies uninterested. Due, in part, to the Christian content.

The music criticized as being too trendy, a fad that would blow over.

Even Christian companies thought the content too controversial, preferring neutrality on issues like abortion.

Initial contact with Sparrow was also negative. They were having a hard time getting a handle on the music. How could it work? What would they do with it?

"It's not that you're not good, that you don't have talent," they assured him. But they just didn't know how to make his unorthodox stuff work. Besides, they were also concentrating on established artists at the time.

The following few years blur as Steve's sputtering career suddenly gathers momentum. He meets a friend working with the Continental Singers. Positive reactions to the tapes. Introductions to Christian music people. An invitation to tour Poland for a summer with the Continental Singers--a series of concerts set up with Solidarity. Work with Jeremiah People. A noontime concert at Christian Artist's Music Seminar at Estes Park. Positive response from Sparrow's president. A recording contract. Release of the EP, I Want to Be a Clone. Touring with Rez Band. Meltdown. Touring. On the Fritz. Touring. Touring. Touring.

And somewhere in there marriage to Debbie, who had never heard of him or his music, who didn't care about his high-school athletic shortcomings, who didn't ask his G.P.A., who was indifferent toward trombone music.

Who liked Steve for Steve.

For Steve, where to from here is still the big question. Answer: one record at a time. "That way if it gets to a place where I don't feel like I want to do another one, or that I have some other things burning inside me, then I can do something else.

"I just can't imagine doing this as a lifetime career. And I don't want to be controversial just to be controversial. I'm not looking for things to write about--it has to be something that's really tugging at me.

"Musically I feel like you've got to keep moving or you end up stagnating. That's going to make it difficult to establish any kind of a secure market.

"I just always want to stay far enough from my music and my career so I can examine what I really want to do. Debbie and I have really tried to keep our expenses low enough that we don't have to make records to make a living. I don't want to become financially strapped to Christian music."

A question strikes me: "Is Steve Taylor afraid of success?"

"I'm afraid of what success can do to you. It's not like it's necessarily wrong, but it tends to change people in ways that are not positive.

"The Lord is the most important thing to me, and my wife is the second most important. Everything else falls beneath these priorities. But you have to keep an eye on it all the time. It becomes very complicated. There are a lot of questions. And the deeper in you go, the more questions you have."

Late afternoon, Friday. Steve and Debbie--and Steve's new manager, Tim--have promised to pick me up for the concert at the Forum. Steve meets me in the lobby of the Holiday Inn. (No roaches in sight.) As we walk past the front desk and toward the door, Steve, somewhat hyper already, is apologizing for our mode of transportation. By the way he is talking I am expecting a battered '63 Buick. Not so. Steve is apologizing for the stretch limousine Tim has rented for the occasion. Steve will be playing before 17,000 and Tim wants the boy to understand: This is significant.

Steve's embarrassed. "I've never ridden in one of these things," he says, still eyeing the TV set. The chauffeur pulls into the flow of traffic. Debbie smiles and squeezes Steve's hand. Tim tells insides stories of the entertainment world. Steve picks at his lip nervously.

At the arena, Steve finds time for a video interview. And gabs graciously with a few friends and curious media people. Sound check. Steve is tightly wound. Final preparations. Wardrobe. Vocal exercises. Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo- oo-oo. Backstage blurs with last-minute frenzy. And Steve does his best to veil just how hyper he really is.

Until the houselights dim and the music starts.

Steve Taylor's Top 10 Steve Taylor Songs (there are 11)

1. "I Want to Be a Clone" From the album: I Want to Be a Clone

When I wrote "Clone," for the first time I had the sense that maybe other people should hear what I was writing. I knew that it was a little outside the norm, but...

2. "Bad Rap (Who You Tryin' to Kid, Kid?)" From the album: I Want to Be a Clone

At the time, rap was a new form of music. The only rap stuff I could get a hold of was on an independent label, Sugar Hill Records. I listened to these records over and over again. There lyrics were kind of a turnoff--a lot of boasting, materialism and sexual innuendos. But the way the music was clicking and the way they were using their voices really impressed me.

What's great about rap music is that you can cram so many words into one song. I've always been a little wordy so this is the perfect vehicle for me. I always thought it was a good vehicle for satire as well. I spent a lot of time writing "Bad Rap," and I like the way it turns the picture around. A lot of the songs on the Clone album deal with problems in the church--hypocrisy and stuff, "Bad Rap" looks at the world outside the church and says there is some hypocrisy there, too.

3. "Whatever Happened to Sin?" From the album: I Want to Be a Clone

I remember as youth pastor going into my office one evening and working from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on just two lines of this song. The problem is getting words that say exactly what you want to say that also sing well. Certain words just don't sing. Try singing a word like "hosts." Too many consonants. And you don't want rhymes that are too obvious--"dreams and schemes" and things like that. The further you go in song writing the tougher it gets. Songwriters are discovering what Elvis Costello knew, that you can rhyme even three syllables. Cole Porter used to do it: take even longer words and play with the phrasing and rhyme. I'm getting a little better. It doesn't take quite as long as it used to.

4. "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)" From the album: Meltdown

I think the fact that "Meltdown" did reasonably well helped to say to other Christian artists, you can write something using a metaphor for the whole song. Maybe I'm just fooling myself and no one knows what the song means, they just like the beat or something. But I would like to think that people catch the message without being pounded over the head with it.

Musically, I go back and listen to some of this stuff and it sounds kind of puny now. But I decided eventually I'll get everything together.

5. "We Don't Need No Colour Code" From the album: Meltdown

I don't get my jollies off of being controversial. I researched this song. I read articles both for and against Bob Jones University. But when Time magazine reported on the controversy revolving around their non-profit status and policies of racial discrimination, it bothered me. The secular press should not have to tell us that racism is wrong. That's a message we need to say: Racism in the name of Christianity cannot be tolerated. It's presumptuous of me to think that writing a song like "Colour Code" would make a big difference. But who knows who is going to listen to it? Maybe one song can be a catalyst.

"Colour Code" is not brilliant music or anything like that, we just stuck in a "Bo Diddly" thing.

6. "Hero" From the album: Meltdown

"Hero" was one of the first songs that came out of a definite personal experience. When I was a kid, after my parents turned the lights off, I would read a book by the lights from outside my window. I was really into biographies--presidents, legends, things like that. I was always looking for heroes to pattern my life after. Yet as I grew up and started reading more in-depth accounts, these great people weren't always as great as I had first thought. It was a rude awakening for me. Yet, the opposite occurred with Jesus. The more I learned about him, the more I realized he was the person I could pattern my life after. Here was a hero who wasn't going to be a disappointment.

7. "Sin for a Season" From the album: Meltdown

A particular person was the catalyst for this song--a Christian musician. Without going into things, let's just say that this person was living a double life. There may have been private remorse, but there was no public acknowledgment, no sense that maybe it was time to get out of Christian music. Or at least get life back together before continuing in the business.

The problem is, when you're in high school, you tend to look for justifications to do what you want, even if you know it's wrong. People in Christian music must be careful with their lifestyles: the audience is watching.

I wanted this song to stress: Even though God's forgiveness is always available and is always complete, there are earthly consequences to our actions.

8. "Baby Doe" From the album: Meltdown

"Baby Doe" started off as a song that kind of points a judgmental finger and asks Indiana officials, "How could you let this happen?" [referring to the newborn allowed to starve to death in a Bloomington, Indiana, hospital]. But the more I got into the story, the more I sensed a guilt we all share if we fail to take a stand on this issue. This is not a hopeful song, then, except in the sense that it might cause someone to ask, "How can we assure that this does not happen again?"

9. "This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)" From the album: On the Fritz

This song was inspired by moving to California, where things often revolve around buzz words, demographics, trends, going-for-the-latest-thing. I think the church out here many times has tended to reflect that--taking the film company approach to marketing Jesus to the right people. But he didn't come to reach those who care only about being upwardly mobile or feel they have no need of a doctor. He came for those who know they need help, those who know they are sick.

10. "To Forgive" From the album: On the Fritz

"To Forgive" contains a lot fewer words than many of my songs, and yet it communicates a real important ideal of forgiveness. I like the sound of the song--big guitars and big drums. And the example that it uses is a strong one.

I got the idea from the cover of Time, picturing the pope in a jail cell shaking hands with the man who tried to assassinate him. There is so much hope wrapped up in that one picture. People can argue that he's the pope and he has to do that. Perhaps there's some validity to that. I don't know.

But if we can get beyond the cynical things and see what that picture says: the power of forgiveness. It is the only hope for so many situations in the world: Northern Ireland, the Middle East, India, South Africa. All these different places. You can get very depressed thinking that these cycles of revenge and violence will never be broken. And yet through forgiveness they can be broken.

11. "I Just Wanna Know" From the album: On the Fritz

The song "I Just Wanna Know" is kind of like "Hero"--the second song I've written that's really me singing. And I needed to write a song like that; it brought the whole [Fritz] album together and, I hope, established why I'm doing what I'm doing. I want to keep my motives pure. I want what I'm doing to have lasting value.

Steve Taylor's "I Have Second Thoughts about This Song" Songs

"I Want to Be a Clone"
From the album: I Want to Be a Clone

In a few more years, it may sound like the ultimate novelty song.

"Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)"
From the album: Meltdown

The thing I worried about when I wrote "Meltdown" was that it was going to be too topical. People may soon forget who Howard Hughes was or who John McEnroe is. That'll be kind of too bad for the song, I guess.

"Meat the Press"
From the album: Meltdown

When I wrote "Meat the Press," I think I was on target. At the time, I was traveling all across the country with the Jeremiah People and the whole "Baby Doe" thing was in the news. I heard news coverage from all across the nation.

Consistently, it was one-sided, taking a pro-parent view of the whole incident. It was like, "Poor parents, all the stress they are under." But no one voiced concern for the child.

It just seemed so ironic to me: starving a baby to death in a hospital! And Christians who opposed this were being categorized and discredited as right-wing fundamentalist Republicans. The media are beginning to see the divergence of opinion among Christians, and I think things have changed. But I sure came down hard on the press then. Perhaps too hard.

Another problem with the song is that it leads too much from the pun of the title. It's bad when you start off with a title, then allow it dictate a premise. If you want to write a good song, you've gotta write a song that holds together on its own.

From the album: On the Fritz

I don't even know if "Lifeboat" belonged on an album. If I had bought the LP, after playing it two or three times, I'd skip over that song. But as a writer, sometimes you have this idea you just have to get out, so you go ahead and put it on the record.

I toured once with Rez Band and stayed with them in their community, Jesus People U.S.A. While I was there, I really hit it off with the little kids--5- and 6-year-olds. We'd do stuff together in the afternoon--play marbles or something. The kids were also really into the music and memorized some of my songs.

Now, one of the guys from Rez Band tells me, "I wish you would come back to JPUSA and talk to these kids about that song. They're singing the chorus in the halls!" [Throw over fatty and we'll see if he can float, etc.] I thought, Oh great! Talk about being a consistent example! There is a risk in writing this satirical stuff...it's going to be misunderstsood. Not just by 5-year-olds, either.