Rock Music: THE VIEW FROM THE MICROPHONE
By Bob Larson
Before my conversion of Jesus Christ, rock music played big part in my life. In addition to serving as a radio announcer and disc jockey, I wrote more than one hundred rock-and-roll songs and performed as a guitarist and singer for nearly five years. I have provided music for dancing in many environments. These have included the ‘best’ (exclusive night clubs and even church sanctuaries) and the worst (teenage ‘beer joints’). From my experience I can affirm that there is no such thing as ‘the right time and the right place’ to participate in any of the modern, morally corrupting dances. For me it all adds up to multiplied wasted hours.
One thing I have observed about dance halls and night clubs is that they usually have the lights turned low. John 3:19 declares, ‘And this is the condemnation, that light is Come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’
One such place was located many miles from town. On Sunday morning it was a church, but on Saturday night the pews were removed, our musical equipment was placed on the platforms and beer was dispensed in the basement as teenagers danced in the sanctuary. It was especially popular because cars
could be parked surrounding the building. This provided a convenient bed of immorality during intermission for the release of sex tensions stimulated by the dancing.
Quite often, girls would want to get up on the stage while I was performing; so, I would play an instrumental number on the guitar and dance with them at the same time. I remember one young lady who became so mesmerized by her dancing that after I had danced with her for a while, I had to play
‘second fiddle.’ She was actually content to ‘dance’ with a pole which supported the roof from the middle of the dance floor. It used to amuse me to see how ridiculous girls would act and what fools they would make of themselves during and after my performances. The worship of pop musicians is asign of emotional immaturity. As a rock singer, I wouldn’t consider being interested in a girl who was so childish as to be impressed in such a manner.
Teenagers who worship rock entertainers are the dupes of the promotional agents who manage these performers.
One teenage night club in which I performed was so popular that it was not unusual even for college students to drive as much as three hundred miles to spend a Saturday night dancing there. Part of its popularity was undoubtedly due to the fact that 3.2 percent beer was sold to those eighteen years of age and over. Fake identification cards provided anyone with all the beer he could afford. It was in a basement with little ventilation for cigarette smoke and the smell of alcohol. Intoxicated teenagers by the
hundreds would jam the small dancing area. It was a sickening sight to see young married couples place their children in a booth with a glass of beer while they made fools of themselves trying to do today’s erotic dances.
When rock music and its demonic power grip a person he is likely to do anything. In the years that I performed in this place, the closing time became progressively earlier. After a certain point the crowd could not be controlled. Muscular football players were hired to handle the people but there was little even they could do after a couple of hours of liquor and the physical stimulation of rock.
One night a young man became so freaked while dancing that he fractured his hand clenching his list and swinging at a brick wall. I find it difficult to conceive what kind of sadistic pleasure one could find in breaking beer mugs; nevertheless, after the dance there was always a profusion of broken glass to sweep up.
One time a policeman was ordered to keep watch on the proceedings. His effectiveness was limited by continual offerings of what he thought were soft drinks, but which had liquor added unknown to him. What class of teenagers attended such a place? In many instances those in the upper socio-economic strata.
Adults should not judge teenage dancing by that which they see on television or at chaperoned parties. What they have seen probably was bad enough but hits little comparison to the gesticulations performed at most unsupervised teenage dances. With the effect of loud music, performed by a ‘live’ combo, and the stimulus of it crowd, there is little bodily decency exhibited. The louder and wilder the music, the better they like it. The tunes performed can hardly be described as anything resembling good music. Seldom
could the words I was singing be understood, or my voice even heard, over the din of the music and crowd. This really mattered little because the heat is all that is necessary. One of the drummers that I worked with was an exceptional musician, and one of the most important features of our dances was his drum solo. Thus serves to illustrate bow really subordinate the melody is to the rhythm. He would sometimes play as long as fifteen minutes while the crowd would shimmy and shake to nothing more than the throb of a drumbeat. The resulting frenzy was an example of human savagery.
When I observe such antics, I ponder what future generations in America will be like. There are few places in modern life where one can find a parallel for the sobriety of our founding fathers. What a farce is our attempt to civilize the heathen while we imitate him. Adults not only condone but participate in the same corrupt dances that their children do. At a time when we need sound leadership of our youth we have instead a worship of teenage folkways. Unless moral decency returns to America, our future is doomed!
The apathy of Christians and the lack of concern by church leaders regarding the influence of rock music on teenagers disturbs me. During one of my crusades when I gave the testimony of my conversion as announced I saw few teenagers in the audience. Afterward I learned that many parents had permitted
their sons and daughters to attend a performance by a popular rock group in town that evening.
A young lady once took issue with me on the dangers of rock after hearing me lecture on the subject. Later I was told that she was the daughter of a deacon and had shortly before that driven three hundred miles and paid seven dollars for a ticket to hear her favorite rock group.
These are not isolated instances. They happen all the time. In fact, the greatest opposition I receive in denouncing rock music comes from Christian teenagers and their self-righteous parents. How sad it is that money is spentby Christians to purchase rock albums when finances are desperately needed to spread the Gospel!
Walk into most Christian homes with teenagers and you will find an ample supply of rock records. Punch the buttons on their automobiles radios and you’ll find at least one set to pick up a rock station. Parents must be awakened to what is perhaps the greatest obstruction to moral and spiritual growth in their children today.
Recently several boys from a car thievery gang came to hear me speak on rock. They not only gave their lives to Christ but the leader came to me with more than one hundred dollars worth of stolen rock cartridge tapes in his hand. He destroyed them and related to me the story of what rock music had led
him to do. ‘Before we would steal a car or any part of a car, he said, ‘we would drive around for an hour listening to rock on a stereo tape deck in our car. When the music had us worked into a frenzy we would start stealing anything we could get our hands on. Believe me, after an hour of acid-rock music, there is nothing that we wouldn’t try to steal.’
I remember well a long-haired young man who came to speak to me after I had talked about rock music. He was holding several rock records under his arm. His story shows another side of the influence of rock music. I’ve been experimenting with auto-sexuality for over a year,’ he told me. ‘I know it’s wrong and the devil has tortured me with it. Whenever I engaged in such acts I would always use rock music to put me in the mood, especially these albums.’
We knelt at the altar and prayed. After a time he looked up with a determined look on his face. Then with his hands he broke in pieces the album he had been holding. ‘I know now that God will give me the strength to overcome this thing,’ he said. ‘If I hadn’t broken this record and had listened to it again, I know I would have gone back. Just like this record is broken, the hold of Satan upon me is also broken.’
During my crusades I have had many rock musicians come to hear me speak.
Most of them, though recognizing the truth of what I have said, have chosen to reject a personal commitment to Christ. There have been many, however, who have responded to Christ’s invitation and consequently become dynamic witnesses for the Lord.
Surprisingly enough I have found that many rock disc jockeys agree wholeheartedly that rock music is having a profoundly immoral effect upon youth. Some time ago I visited with the man who used to be the top rock jockey in the entire metropolitan Cleveland area. He was largely responsible for bringing the Beatles to America on both of their tours. He also managed several bands. He now works for a ‘good music’ station. He said, ‘I was a nervous wreck because of the pace of the programming and the neurotic
influence of the music. I had thought about quitting several times but when acid-rock music came on the scene I really wanted out.’ He went on, ‘When I first met the Beatles they were singing about young love. On their second tour it was nothing but drugs, sex, and oriental religion. I didn’t like the direction that rock music was headed. I’m glad I quit and I’m happier now than I ever was playing rock music.’
He does not stand alone in that opinion. In another major American city I visited with the program director of a rock station. ‘I’ve been a disc jockey for fifteen years,’ he said. ‘I know what this music is doing to kids today and it makes me feel like a prostitute, playing this music when I dislike it so much. Do you know that some acid-rock music combined properly with strobe lights can cause brain damage?’ he exclaimed. ‘I have to sponsor a lot of rock dances, and believe me those kids do actually blow their minds on the music. I traveled with the Beatles on their tour in 1964 and they were high on pot nearly every time I walked into their room. They are some of the most rotten characters I’ve ever met. I even have trouble with my conscience playing some of their good songs.’
Neither of these aforementioned disc jockeys are professing Christians yet they vehemently expressed their contempt for rock music. What an indictment this is of Christians who defend it.
On the less successful side of the ledger are those instances when I have talked with rock musicians and singers who have rejected Christ in favor of the performance of rock music I know what it means to look into the face of a dying rock musician. I recognized him in a hospital ward and went to tell him what Christ had done for me. He played an electronic piano in a local group and one in a local group and one night as he was plugging it in, he accidentally touched the prongs and was badly hurt. He lay in bed, on the critical ward a tube protruding from his chest and leading to a bottle on the floor. In this manner, the fluid was being drained from his lungs which had collapsed. After I explained God’s plan of salvation of his life, he begged me to come again and talk to him about Christ. When I returned several days later was sitting up in bed with a stack of Playboy magazines at his feet and a cigarette in his mouth. He informed me that his condition was much better and that he had thought about the things I told him. His conclusion was that if he became a Christian he would have to quit playing rock, and that was something
he would never do. He had chosen rock rather than God and rudely asked me to leave the room.
Another experience centers around a young man who is the lead singer for a group that had recent million-seller. He was invited by friends to attend a crusade the night I told the story of my conversion. He listened intently and afterward we had a lengthy discussion concerning rock. During the conversation
he asked me to hear a record he had just recorded. As I listened, I could recognize that the song had potential, but didn’t realize that in a few weeks it would be the number one song in the nation. I explained God’s redemptive purpose for his life and felt assured in my heart that I had been directed to
present him with an opportunity for salvation before the song became a ‘hit.’
Finally he asked, ‘If I give my life to Christ, what becomes of my rock career?’
I told him the truth: ‘If you become a Christian you wilt eventually have to cease performing rock if you want to continue serving God.’ He shook his head and said, ‘I can’t do it.’
That night we had discussed the use of drugs by professional rock musicians. ‘I’ll never use drugs,’ was his comment. My last knowledge of this young man was that he has since been jailed and charged with possession of narcotics.
There is one common factor in the preceding stories of musicians and others involved in rock with whom I have conversed. Nearly all of them have seemed to realize that they had to choose between rock and God. Without any comments from my viewpoint they have voluntarily expressed the thought that they would either have to perform rock music or serve God but that they could not do both. There have been many times when I’ve asked myself, ‘Why then can’t Christian teenagers see that a choice has to be made?’ Teenager, youcan’t have both God and rock music. The message and morality of hard rock is
incongruous with service to Christ. A choice has to be made.
Rock represents a blatant form of idolatry for many teenagers. Not only do they buy the records of their rock idols but they very empathetically identify with the stars by purchasing cheap magazines that contain the words to rock songs. They also search out sex-oriented pictures and pertinent details about their lives. Many hero-worshippers find out everything possible about their ‘god.’ They pin up pictures of the star on their walls along with a kaleidoscope of songs and lyrics, and defy anyone to say a derogatory word about their idol. These ‘gods’ are a reference point for teenage values, thoughts, and aspirations. Most rock entertainers are happy to exploit this power and influence on their young audiences. The sanctuary of worship for this religion may be a rock concert hail or a transistor radio with ear plugs.
Unfortunately the average age of those addicted in such a manner is usually somewhere between twelve and fourteen. Their god is not a graven image of stone or wood but their worship of him is nonetheless an abominable form of idolatry in the eyes of the true God. In their worship of rock entertainers, many teenagers have willfully broken the Second Commandment.
In the New Testament story of Ephesus, those converted to Christ destroyed the idols they had worshipped. It is much the same on foreign missionary fields today. Missionaries insist that those converted to Christ from pagan religions bring not only their idols but all other paraphernalia used in their former worship. Rock records are the fetishes which link teenage idolater to their rock idols. I therefore challenge Christians who have read this book or have heard me speak in person to destroy their hard rock records.
This act will do more than remove a potential temptation. It will be an outward act symbolic of the inner dedication to the discipline of one’s listening habit.
I have personally seen such consecrations made by thousands of teenagers all over the world. They have come to our crusades bringing what has amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rock records and have publicly destroyed them. I have seen one teenager destroy records worth two thousand
dollars. On several occasions I have returned months afterwards and heard the same teenagers testify to the progressive spiritual strengthening and joy that their lives knew after they destroyed their records. Some have told me that they listened to rock music as many as seven or eight hours each day. They had
tried to quit but were literally addicted. Many teenagers have come requesting that I personally pray for them so they could give up rock. To them it was more than just music. It was something upon which they had fed their minds and their bodies until leaving it required an actual ‘withdrawal’ period before they no longer were tempted to listen to rock. For many of them, destroying their records was the key step in their release from the addictive power of hard rock music.
Years of experience speaking on rock musk in hundreds of schools and churches has brought me to this l conclusion: on a practical basis there is only one way of effectively combating the moral debauchery present in rock music’total abstinence from rock music radio stations and the symbolic destruction of one’s hard rock albums and tapes!
From years of research and personal experience God has helped me to amass a factually convincing argument against the dangers of rock. But I recognize that it is not my academic presentation alone that has motivated thousands of teenagers to destroy their records and abandon their idolatry. It has ultimately been the conviction of the Holy Spirit in confirming the truths I have presented that has brought such results.
The proof of the dangers of rock lies in the changed lives of thousands of teenagers who have separated their lives from this music and consequently developed a more firm moral and spiritual foundation.
I have been at times encouraged by the response of the secular communications media against the moral crisis precipitated by rock music. It has been my privilege to appear on many radio and television stations across America. Most of these television broadcasts have been in major cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Houston, Albuquerque, Tulsa, Jacksonville, Toledo, and Mobile’to name but a few. Several of the radio interviews have been on the top rock stations in cities such as Detroit, St. Louis,
Albuquerque, and Tulsa.
I was recently flown to New York for an interview on the top ‘Underground’ rock station in the city. The three and one-half hour interview was broadcast nationwide over the ABC network. I not only knocked rock, but presented the claims of Christ as well. The week before me, they had interviewed John Lennon’the week afterward, Frank Zappa. Later, the moderator wrote me saying, ‘Your interview was one of the most popular shows we’ve done.’ He closed with an invitation to return for another interview. On all but a few occasions I have received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to my denunciation of rock music. Even the secular world knows that a moral crisis has arisen in contemporary music.
My work as a lecturer in the public schools of America has taken me to hundreds of schools, college, and universities all over America. At times I have received standing ovations from student bodies after speaking on the immoral influence of rock music. Such responses are indicative of the genuine concern for moral values that teenagers have. Unfortunately, to identity with what they think is the norm they hesitate to speak their mind against rock music for fear of peer rejection. Still I have found that the majority of young people agree with much of what this book reveals. Perhaps more so than their elders, they are aware that rock is responsible for promoting rejection of traditional moral values.
If rock music has created a moral crisis in America, what is the answer? Morality is a personal decision. While it may be true that our President is elected by multiples of tens of millions of votes, the decision for choosing time leader of our nation still rests in the hands of the individual voter. In the same sense, public morality is only the projection of the personal moral decisions made by individuals living in that society. If there were not a consumer market for illicit songs they would not be produced. Every teenager
who walks in the record store has the freedom of choosing what he will purchase. Likewise, our own volition determines what types of music we will listen to. If our schools, churches, and parents would make more of an effort to educate teenagers as to the necessity of discretion in musical tastes, thin
current trends that I have outlined in this book could be reversed.
Excerpted from The Day Music Died by Bob Larson
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’