65. I Predict 1990 – Steve Taylor

I PREDICT 1990 (1987)

Steve Taylor

Sometime in the Summer of 1987 I received a phone call at Maranatha Village. The lady answering the phones at the store mentioned that the caller asked for the Music Buyer or Store Manager, but would not give his name. That usually meant complaints and I was in no hurry to respond. I reluctantly picked up and the phone, and to my great pleasure, it was Steve Taylor on the other end.

He told me that most of his call were lasting less than 3 minutes and that stores either had not heard of any controversy regarding his most recent release or they were very familiar with the controversy and had returned the product immediately to Word Distribution. I was the rare store manager who was not only very familiar with the controversy, but also overwhelmingly supportive. I had been a fan and friend of Taylor’s for a few years at that time and once he realized who he was speaking with you could tell he relaxed.

The two main issues surrounding the album were the album cover and its pseudo “tarot card” appearance and the lyrics to the lead track, “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good.” The album title, a mocking of prophetic prognosticators, most notably Lester Sumrall, was matched perfectly by the artwork and was utterly inoffensive. And anyone who can’t get the point of the song in question doesn’t deserve a response. Fools!

The album was recorded using Sparrow’s money and distributed by Word on the Myrrh imprint after Sparrow “gave up hope” on the project. Myrrh bought the masters, finished the album and released it about a year after its initial release date.

The album features a maturing songwriter beginning to his stride and adding less of the satire and humor of the first few projects and a more serious content and writing style. There is plenty of sarcasm and satire on the release, but it is couched in a more sardonic tone and interspersed with more “serious” expressions.

The album also contains what I believe is Taylor’s finest rock song and most interesting use of arrangements. Also, Taylor’s vocals are expanded and challenged beyond the previous bouncing Boingo and Bowie stylings.

The album also features some of the longest titles to songs in any collection.

The album starts with the aforementioned, “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good,” the one of the few songs on the album that resembles his previously work. The obviously satirical work tells the story of an ice cream truck driver that notices a new abortion clinic opening in the neighborhood he canvasses. He realizes that if this clinic is successful it will damage his business by limiting the number of potential future client; children.

The song examines the futility and danger of responding to the horrific actions of one with the horrific actions of another. It was shocking just how often the song was misunderstood even though in one line Taylor clearly states “I don’t care if it’s a baby or a tissue blob.” That alone should have been enough to educate the listener as to the point of the song.

“What Is the Measure of Your Success,” reveals Taylor at his Bowiest, with a haunting rock groove and low growl in the chorus. If Christians were to be offended by any song on the album it should have been this one. Taylor examines the worldly tendency of modern Christendom and compares them to their secular counterparts and finds them all too similar. Like much of the record, there are few answers here as the question is meant to cause self-examination.

The quirky “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel a Lot Better” could have fit on “On the Fritz,” but is smarter and more engaging. And more dangerous. Sparrow would have nothing of it. The half-rapped verses are filled with more words than time to express them and one wonders when Taylor will actually breathe as he winds through them. The story here involves a young college student introduced to worldly philosophies and his inability to adequately deal with them. The song features the odd and intriguing fiddle work of Jefferson Airplane’s Papa John Creach.

As the album turns more serious, the slow and moving “Babylon” introduces a darker and more challenging Taylor. Whether expressing the Old Testament exile of Israel or God’s current people needing a legitimate and lasting cleansing of worldly influence, the song rings with eternal truths. It also features some of my favorite Taylor vocals.

What I consider Taylor’s finest rock songwriting follows with “Jim Morrison’s Grave.” The ode to “better to burn out than fade away” mantra of modern thinking and embraced by rock and roll as a whole is both brilliant and biting. Taylor’s vocals stretch and pierce with an edge that are nearly exclusive to this great song. The imagery displayed here as a result of visiting Morrison’s grave in Paris points to the vacuous and depraved life that believes cruelty and disdain are necessary evil of genius and success. The final line of the song is brilliant as he describes the lasting music like that of a ticking watch on a dead man’s wrist.

Musically the song is relentless and never lets up until the very end where the song doesn’t quite fade as simply dies with a strained backing vocal belts over a longing keyboard repeating over and over. The hook, though, is where Taylor reveals himself to be the growing and perfecting songwriter he was becoming at the time.

The slightly Indian influenced melody of “Svengali” reveals a powerful morality lesson set to a rock beat. The 19th century novel (and classic silent film) on which the song is based tells the story of a wretched and evil music teacher who develops a control over his opera star pupil and destroys both of their lives. Taylor relates this to those things in our lives that lead us astray and away from God, most notably intimate relationships with unbelievers that keep us away from maintaining a healthy relationship with others and with God.

Like “Since I Gave Up Hope,” “Jung and the Restless” addresses the modern and postmodern pitfalls of looking for truth outside of the Scriptures and embracing man’s misguided and ungodly ideologies. This is the only other song that sounds like Taylor’s earlier work, except here it is darker in tone and content. The guitar work (Dave Perkins) is subtle and groovy and really drives the song. This song also contains the annual yodeling that somehow seems to make every Taylor release.

Many consider “Innocent Lost” one of Taylor’s greatest songs and I do not disagree. In fact, it is here where the maturity as a songwriter and a performer are shown through restraint. The simple song reveals a simple Gospel story in a brilliantly moving fashion.

But the best song on the album is the albums final pop/rock number, “A Principled Man.” Oddly enough, it was my least favorite song at first listen, but not only has grown on me, it has become a real anthem with lasting power. A touch of Big Country, Hothouse Flowers and World Party 80’s rock dominates a world music delight. The jangly chorus and final chorus is striking and unforgettable.

The album closes with a classically influenced ballad, or operatic pop number. “It’s Harder to Believe Than Not To” is really a simple and haunting song recorded with a small string orchestra and vocal support from an opera singer and is based on a quote from Flannery O’Connor. When challenged that Christianity is for the weak O’Connor responded with the line that makes up the title.

The song is probably the simplest song in Taylor’s repertoire outside of “Hero” or “baby Doe.” Yet it remains a personal favorite because its beautiful arrangement and poignant content. Taylor nearly whispers at points and the listener finds themselves leaning into the song to assure they do not miss a moment. Really quite brilliant!

Taylor would only record one more solo project after this and has been MIA for two decades, though rumors of a 2012 Taylor release are making the rounds. Before a single decade Taylor was probably the single most important solo rock artist in CCM and repercussions are felt until today. In fact, every single Taylor studio release made the list as well as his band effort under a different name.

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  1. Tim
    May 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    To me, Taylor’s greatest contribution post-solo work has been his songwriting partnership with the Newsboys. Most of my favorite Newsboys songs were penned by Taylor.

  2. shawnuel
    May 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I am a big fan of “Harder to Believe Than Not To” and love the orchestral arrangement. If you are looking for an influence, check out the final cut on Squeezes East Side Story, “Vanity Fair” Very similar string chart.

  3. Shawn McLaughlin
    May 27, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I think Steve helped Pete Furler become a better songwriter as well.

  4. DanW
    May 27, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Taylor also released an excellent video album of I Predict 1990 including 8 of the songs. The videos were very professional with Jim Morrison’s Grave being a highlight. I even had the T-shirt with album art which seemed pretty cool to me for a 16 year old kid at a public school.

  5. Charles
    May 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    This LP is one reason why I can’t stand religion. This LP from start to finish challenges those who say they’re Christians concerning every facet of life and what they truly believe and believe in, yet, the church, the very foundation that should be asking these same hard questions, dismissed this LP without trying to truly understand the message. Thank goodness the Christian bookstore that was open in my town when this LP was released didn’t buy into the controversy and very willing sold this and other Steve Taylor LP’s. I still listen to this LP regularly. Musically and lyrically, it’s one of the best CCM LP’s ever.

  6. Christopher™
    May 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I actually met Steve Taylor when he was performing at a local “Jesus festival” in Tampa in 1987, and we had a nice chat about this record and the accompanying video album (although he wouldn’t tell me how much they cost to produce when I asked).

    When he performed “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good” live that night, he appeared dressed as an ice cream truck driver and threw water balloons into the audience. That was hilarious.

  7. May 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    A classic from start to finish!

    I also agree with the previous comments about Taylor’s contribution to the Newsboys career. “Shine” and “Breakfast” are still their two most famous songs and both were penned by Steve Taylor!

  8. adam
    June 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    It’s a shame how quickly the CCM industry abandoned Taylor, but I guess he was too hot for a major label to handle. This was a great album (much better than Squint, which was disappointing).

  9. June 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Gotta love Steve Taylor.
    Cutting Edge….when you are on the cutting edge it upsets a lot of folks….just ask JESUS about that. 😉
    Loved what real faith he brought into play in his music…

  10. Greenchili
    January 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

    You pick the fight. I pick dynamite! Wooo!

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