18. Outdoor Elvis – The Swirling Eddies
OUTDOOR ELVIS (1989)
The Swirling Eddies
With most supergroups have the talented and famous names attached to its release as the primary purpose and marketing angle. With the Swirling Eddies it was all about anonymity and secrecy. It was also about creating some of the finest alternative music in Christian music to date. And perhaps it was just another outlet for Terry Scott Taylor to go along with Daniel Amos, DA, solo projects and the Lost Dogs!
Members included Taylor (Camarillo Eddy), Tim Chandler (Berger Roy Al), Gene Pool (Greg Flesch), Arthur Fhardy (Rob Watson), Spot (Jerry Chamberlain), Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) and Hort Elvison (David Raven). Guest Eddies have included Mike Roe, Eddie DeGarmo and many, many more.
I remember attending my first Eddies concert at BIOLA University in LaMirada, CA in which the band appeared on stage is some of the most beautiful and stunning evening gowns. This type of shenanigans were common place and matched the witty, sarcastic and irreverent tone of most of the Eddies tunes.
The first Eddies album was released on Alarma records (a Frontline Records imprint) just as I started working for the Benson Company. Suffice it to say that the company noted for Larnelle Harris, DeGarmo and Key, Sandy Patti and carman was not quite sure what to make of “Let’s Spin.”
It would be a mistake here (and quite frankly anywhere) to try to decipher the message of every song on an Eddies release. Some of poignant and powerful, most are quirky, odd, funny, experimental and irreverent. On “Let’s Spin” some true standouts are the title track, the beautiful “Catch That Angel,” the stunning “What a World” that could have found its way onto one of Taylor’s solo projects and the hilarious “I’ve Got an Idea” that made its way into video form that some at the Benson Company found…uh…disturbing.
The third nationally distributed album was the provocative and stunning “Zoom Daddy.” Zoom Daddy contains one of Taylor’s finest compositions, “The Twist.” Taylor’s take on the sacrifice of Christ is difficult to absorb and heart wrenching on many levels.
But sandwiched between those two amazing records is “Outdoor Elvis,” the funniest and most irreverent of the projects. It also contains some of Taylor’s best work and most accessible music. Most importantly it contains the song, “Hide the Beer the Pastor’s Here,” a song about hypocrisy that more than one college student has latched onto as a theme song or sorts.
As mentioned above I am not going to try and demystify every song on the album as the chances that someone forwards this to Terry Taylor and my being completely wrong about the context would be too embarrassing. I will throw out the “this is what I think it means” occasionally and leave the rest up to the reader.
The title track starts the album off with the imagery of Elvis Presley taking the role of Sasquatch complete with large footprints and the crooning of “hunk a burnin’ love.” Our fascination with these images are ultimately displayed with a tendency to make “gods” of them and revere them as saviors.
oh, oh, come again outdoor elvis
be our friend, save us outdoor elvis
we have sinned, forgive us outdoor elvis
we’ll build a shrine among the pines to you
(’till the end of time we’ll stand in this line for you)
o.e. o.e. we look for a sign from you
we might have to set a trap
dead or alive, we’ll bring him back
“Driving In England” follows and ended up being Taylor’s only number one song in his career. This ode to individuality and “going against the grain” has one of the best hooks in Taylor’s repertoire with a great, memorable chorus. But Taylor does not withhold some impressive imagery amidst the hooks. Only Taylor could really use the imagery of driving in the “British” direction on an American freeway as a way to communicate the difficulty of being ones own person.
roadblock on the road to glory
gridlock on the golden highway
i’ll stop at nothing to get to you
some people get so bored
they start turnin’ into cannibals
eat each others hearts out
it’s like a sacrifice of animals
deep freeze their own souls
shut down their brains
i think the only way to go
is against the grain
(let’s go) driving in england
down the santa ana freeway
somebody’s screaming out
you’re going down the wrong way!
big surprise we’re still alive
Modern evangelicalism’s fascination with gnostic approaches to truth and refusal to actually read and study the source of truth. Once again this deeper truth is couched in humorous prose by comparing popular urban legends with popular “Christian” urban legends.
remember the girl with the bee hive hairdo
stung by a spider in a rat’s nest igloo
hook man leavin’ his hook on the door
after givin’ that girlfriend’s guy what for
someone put a rat in the deep fry
madman on the phone in the upstairs bedroom
alligators down in the sewer lines
i had a tough time believing all that
‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker
i picked up (the vanishing hitchhiker)
he was an angel (the vanishing hitchhiker)
i heard him say “stop telling lies.”
then he went away
The final verse is worth the price of admission as many of the famous Christian myths are properly ridiculed with deft commentary. Again I recommend here Douglas Wilson’s wonderful book on Scriptural satire entitled “Serrated Edge.”
i get my info from the backward masking
i get the Word of God through prayer and fasting
j.f.k. is alive and well
and kissenger is a beast from hell
the face of saint paul in this butt roast
assures me that i’m going up to heaven
the anti-christ does laundry on the east coast
i doubted the most — did not believe in all that
‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker
“Tiny Town” is such a wonderful melody mixed with Taylor’s over-vibrato vocals. The dangers of small town response to something “new” reminds one of the scene in Frankenstein where that which is new and different is to be feared and destroyed. It’s a good thing the Church is nothing like that, right?
“Attack of the Pulpit Masters” comes across as the most Daniel Amos like of any Eddies song and would have fit quite nicely on “Doppelganger.” This attack on money driven evangelist and ministries may go down as possessing the fastest singing in Taylor’s career, and great synthesized vocals. He does mention something about money I think.
“Mystery Babylon” continues Taylor’s fascination with images from the book of Revelation that was obviously most realized on side two Daniel Amos’ classic, “Shotgun Angel.”The Beach Boys like pop melody and vocal is juxtaposed against the dark image of the beastly Babylon nation in Revelation.
It should be noted that throughout Eddie’s projects there are short, humorous snippets. Some spoken word and some songs. Two of the finest appear on Outdoor Elvis. The first is “Arthur Fhardy’s Yodeling Party,” which is just what it’s called. The other is “Coco the Talking Guitar” which is also just what it is called.
“Hell Oh” is Taylor admitting that his work can sometime (often?) be an irritant to the listener. Like any prophetic songwriter (Keith Green, Steve Camp, Mark Heard, Larry Norman) taking the listener and the Christian world to task is part of the job description. This was not unlike the words of Jesus in Matthew 23.
there once was a cynic
talkin’ ’bout a white bleached sepulcher
i’m the bee at your picnic
who stung you ’till you had to run home
“Blowing Smoke” is such a pretty song one finds it difficult to see it belonging to the Eddies canon. This beautiful love song of sorts is often overlooked, but it should not be missed as it may be one of the more transparent looks at Taylor as father and husband.
“Hide the Beer, The Pastor’s Here” is a real and true classic. Sheer brilliance in under 3 1/2 minutes. The song poignantly and powerful points out the pure hypocrisy associated with “moral clauses” in Christian College entrance forms, most notably the prohibition of drinking alcohol, even for those of legal age. This set up leads to hysterical imagery.
the straw runs down his arm and leg
under the carpet out to the keg
a secret party tonight at Point Loma
and the hate in your heart you’re hiding well
but the booze on your breath is easy to smell
there’s a six-pack to hide
on the Oral U side
let’s drive to oklahoma
hide the beer, the pastor’s here
hide the beer, think of your career
As hinted at in the verse above the real issue is that one can outlaw “questionable behavior” but it is those sins that we conceal that are the most damning. It is not drinking, smoking and watching “R Rated” movies that are so eternally damning as lust, hatred and envy as they can be concealed and hidden. There is no room on the “entrance form” for these sins. Taylor makes it obvious in the second verse.
she had a beer as an evening snack
when the ‘scripture man’ planned a sneak attack
suspension’s the buzz out at Wheaton
as she packed her bags and gathered her books
‘scripture man’ gave her that lustful look
yes lust is his brew but no one sees through
his minty fresh breath ain’t reekin’
So, the same man whose moral character is flawed and depraved sits in judgment of those whose “sins: are more visible, but no more damning. But quite frankly it was the “guts” to name names that caused the greatest controversy as Taylor and crew close the song by naming the nation’s most prominent Christian Colleges.
hide the beer (biola!)
hide the beer (bethel!)
wear a beard (west mont!)
hide the beer (calvin college!)
hide the beer (azusa pacific!)
hide the beer (liberty baptist!)
hide the beer (san jose bible college!)
hide the beer (bob jones!)
hide the beer (taylor u!)
hide the beer (california baptist!)
hide the beer (gordon college!)
hide the beer (calvin klein!)
hide the beer!
george fox, moody bible institute,
seattle pacific, baylor, smu, pacific christian,
jimmy swaggart u, john brown,
anderson, eastern mennonite, fort wayne bible,
grand rapids baptist, greenville, grove city, nyack,
travecca nazarine, multnoma school of the bible,
inland empire school of the bible, philadelphia college of the bible,
whitworth spring arbor,
and south & north western. . .
Now it should be noted that many students of those Universities saw it as a badge of honor to be listed in the song and they “got the joke!” Administrators? Not so much.
“Hold Back the Wind, Donna” is one of the most beautiful songs on this or any Eddies album. Both musically and lyrically the song is uplifting and encouraging. The little spark of truth one possesses may not seem like much but it can “hold back the devil wind.” It is a wonderful and encouraging song of faith and love and completely devoid of the normal sarcastic or irreverent tone associated with much the Eddies tunes.
“Knee Jerk” is a slower and blues and reggae influenced rocker that shows what a wonderful group of musicians were assembled. The bass and drum groove is the best on the album, especiallyDavid ravens’ pounding and thrashing drum work.
“All the Way to Heaven” is another beautiful ballad that sounds like a heavier version of something that would have appeared on Taylor’s earlier solo work. Every time I listen to Taylor on a song like this it just amazes me that he never received the recognition he clearly deserved. Songs like this are so original and great, it’s just a crime.
The experimental and obscure “Rubber Sky” then reminds just why the band was never fully embraced. Odd, off-center and completely brilliant, songs like this just don’t resonate even with the more adventurous fans of CCM that lean more toward the world of the 77’s and Steve Taylor, but for those willing to go with it, the rewards are limitless.
“Your Little Gawd” examines how many in the Church have limited to scope and majesty of the triune God. Limiting God to the conscience or some puppy leashed to man’s desires leaves one with a God not worthy of worship. If there was ever such a style as alternative country, this would be the definitive example.
The touching tribute to “Billy Graham” and the simplicity of the Gospel the famed evangelist was known for is far too short of a song. This song also contains an appearance of Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) on vocals.
“Potential” is pure Eddies. the best musical expressions the band delivered were always the more funkier and driving grooves like “Let’s Spin” and “Driving in England.” This song falls in line with those greats.
One would expect a band like The Swirling Eddies to have a song called “Strange days.” But one would never assume it would be a pretty, country influenced ballad. But than again, that’s the Swirling Eddies.
The album closes with “Elimination (The band That Won’t Go Away)” a wonderful response to critics of the Swirling Eddies, and quite possibly Daniel Amos or any other similar band. But in the normal Taylor twist, the song is sarcastically sung from the point of view of the critic. “Give up and repent” the critic proclaims. Taylor than goes on to list the many reasons I assume he has heard over the years for him and his mates to find a new occupation.
don’t cry, you big babies
don’t feel sorry for yourselves
you’re no more misunderstood
than anybody else
but you keep on makin’ waves
it’s your lousy attitude
why would you be thinkin’ you’re doin’
anybody any good?
so bow out
i’d like to pull the fader down
on “the band that won’t go away”
and all God’s blessings on
“the band that won’t go away”
This recalls an experience I had with Terry at a Roller Rink in Orange County during a show for the Daniel Amos “Vox Humana” tour that I previously have shared. Before playing the song “Mall All Over the World” from Doppelganger Terry made a joke about how “Resurrection Band” ripped them off with their song “Elevator Muzik” as it related to the lyric “elevator up, escalate down…” He also noted that once Daniel Amos switched to using the name “DA” that Resurrection Band started shrinking their name to “Rez Band.”
It was clearly a joke. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “clearly.”
While talking to terry after the show I noted he was wearing the famous green and orange “DA” button. I asked if they were selling them that evening. He told me it was the last one he had but took it off his coat and gave it to me. I still have it. But right then a young lady came and confronted terry about the joke stating it was unChristian of him to castigate and complain about his “brothers” in Rez Band.