8 December 2010
One Hit Wonders #17 - Parchment - Light Up The Fire
Year of Release: 1972
Christian music, in its many forms, has traditionally received an awkward mainstream media response. Even if it's by Cliff Richard and the results actually sell, radio stations generally tend not to bother much with it, and the mere mention of "quite a good Christian band" you're aware of will usually brings waves of incredulity crashing in your direction. This isn't, in my opinion at least, completely without justification. There have been many different kinds of Christian pop and rock, and even some New Wave orientated attempts by the likes of The Reps (who were actually responsible for the first gig I ever attended, although it should be noted that it was a special lunchtime performance at my school). Most, however, seem to have a smug piousness about them which is more of a turn-off than anything else, like celebratory hook-laden football songs performed by teams you don't support. It only makes sense to people who are already on the inside.
Parchment are considered by some pop-psych connoisseurs to be the exception to the rule that Christian music is always naff and fit only for believers who want to celebrate their choice of religion. This is largely thanks to the involvement of John Pantry, who we previously discussed over at the entry for The Factory's "Try A Little Sunshine". Tired of the inward looking, selfish and decadent nature of the traditional rock circuit, he gave up producing acts with mainstream potential (or even cult underground potential) and focussed on Christian rock and pop instead. Parchment were his first quarry, and some of his fairydust is evident on the odd track of theirs, not least "Love Is Come Again" which I've included as a bonus example below. That effort is reminiscent of psychedelic Christian folk, if such a hybrid ever really existed, all zinging sitars and childlike wonder.
"Light Up The Fire", on the other hand, was Parchment's sole Top 40 hit, climbing to number 31 largely thanks to a campaign to get a song about Jesus on to "Top of the Pops" (chart bothering campaigns, whether done on Facebook or by the church, are absolutely nothing new). I'm afraid it's rather more traditional fare, a very saccharine track which gives the converted cause to cheer in campfire unison, but seems absolutely, utterly baffling to non-believers. That's not to say that with Pantry at the wheel Parchment didn't produce a few tracks of note outside their one minor hit, however, and they're songs which make me feel frustrated he crossed the waters into Christian radio rather than sticking around with the likes of The Factory that little bit longer.
In the meantime, I've decided to make this the first "Left and to the Back" entry of December which has a tenuous (or otherwise) link to Christmas. Rather than diving straight into the Christmas buffet, we're going to slowly sink ourselves in bit by bit until the tenuous connections become actual ones.
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