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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. . .
northwestern!

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
get lost
i’d like to pull the fader down
on “the band that won’t go away”

go away!
beat it!

give up
repent
good riddance
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.

Seriously!

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  1. Don
    November 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Honestly, I love Daniel Amos. And I like the idea of the Swirling Eddies. But I have a hard time enjoying the music. It just seems silly and sounds silly.

    But a more trustworthy recommendation I will not find. I will buy this one and give it a few more tries.

    Thanks Dave

  2. harvey_d
    November 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I love this album. Somehow it works, even with songs as wild as “Attack of the Pulpit Masters” and as sweet as “Billy Graham”.

  3. November 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I recently sold this for $40 on eBay.

  4. Shawn McLaughlin
    November 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Although I used to consider this the cream of the crop of Swirling Eddies albums, I now find myself partial to Let’s Spin……it is a tighter album, not as sprawling or uneven as Outdoor Elvis. I also understand Don’s opinion. There is a silliness to the SE ouvre that almost keeps them from serious consideration in Best of lists. That said, there are enough GREAT songs on either album to engender the type of crazy love that each disc gets from fans.

  5. November 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I was at Taylor U when this came out, so I always got a kick out of the reference. Meanwhile, as outrageous as those lyrics were, it pointed to a far more serious question in that song, as described above. At this time, it was against the Life Together Statement at Taylor to have a VCR in your dorm room, to save us all from the R-rated movies. Stop surfing. But no matter how hard we tried to follow (or how hard we tried to break, just because…) those rules, the rules really didn’t have anything to do with anything except the Life Together Statement. Since I was utterly incapable of dancing, the no-dancing rule didn’t bother me.

    If it had not already been confirmed in the Alarma chronicles, the Darn Floor – Big Bite/ Let’s Spin!/ Outdoor Elvis/ Kalhoun section of Terry’s career proved his lyrical and songwriting genious.

    I happen to think Let’s Spin! has fewer weak spots/ filler than Outdoor Elvis. Stop surfing. When space was an issue, I had eight of the 11 songs from Let’s Spin!, nine of the 21 songs from Outdoor Elvis, and eight of the 14 songs from Zoom Daddy on my iPhone. So I might rank Let’s Spin higher because of consistency. But those 9-12 great songs from Outdoor Elvis are great by any standard, 1989 vs. whenever, Christian vs. secular, Eddies vs. DA, any standard.

    .

    .

    .

    Stop surfing.

  6. TMc
    November 11, 2011 at 3:53 am

    Whoaa Nellie!!!

    I had been married just a few years and was struggling as a young teacher when the Eddies appeared. I had no idea who they were and was no longer in contact with anyone who would have known. I bought this cassette on a clearance table for a buck and have loved it ever since. I appreciate the zaniness (I still have Isaac Air Freight albums around here somewhere). Had kids at school singing along with Arthur Fhardy one day at school.

  7. Don
    November 11, 2011 at 4:21 am

    I guess Jay’s idea of buying all the SE songs and putting together your own best of makes sense. I think Zoom Daddy sounds better, although the material is weaker. I guess I always liked Let’s Spin the best but even that one I could part with. But, there are a number of very good songs in each album.

    I just re-listened to samples of Outdoor Elvis and it is really the voice and the quality of the sound (engineering?) I don’t like – not so much the silliness. Maybe the remaster has improved these problems?

    From this album onward I kind of lost interest in the many incarnations of DA cause of Terry’s voice. But then, I had little interest in Dylan for many years for the same reason. Once I wade in to the latter day stuff I suppose I will be kicking myself.

  8. Don
    November 11, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Any comments from anyone on how they like “The Midget, the Speck and the Molecule”?

  9. BrianD
    November 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    This is by far my favorite Eddies album. It’s the only one of their albums where I have more than four songs on my itunes playlist. I agree with Shawn that it is sprawling and uneven, but it is interesting how if I take my favorite 10 tracks and skip all of the short and “silly” songs it makes up one of my favorite albums of all time.

  10. Art
    November 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm
  11. November 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    My favorite Eddies album, upon reflection, would contain “The Twist” and “Zoom Daddy, from God Went Bowling”, “Let’s Spin”, I Got An Idea” and “Catch That Angel” from Let’s Spin and about 6 cuts from Outdoor Elvis. Maybe even “Medley of Our Hit” and “This Is the Title/Old Hitchhiker” from Midget…….which is a pretty solid album, Don. I was a little underwhelmed by the production but there is a melding of the more serious tone of Zoom Daddy with some of the satire of Elvis/Let’s Spin.

    • Don
      November 12, 2011 at 3:13 am

      Thanks shawnuel

  12. Sam
    November 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I bought this as a new release (on cassette, unfortunatly,) along with Let’s Spin when I was on a business trip to Chicago in early 1990. I loved Let’s Spin, but this one really got my attention. I remember playing it in my hotel room while I was relaxing one evening. I was so tired I was starting to nod off by the time Elimination ended. Then out of nowhere I heard “STOP SURFING!” Scared the crap out of me! My favorite Eddies album, and one of the
    finest Terry Scott Taylor projects ever. S true classic.

  13. November 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    All SE albums are available on Spotify for those of you that have it. Except for Sacred Cows, which I fully expect to be the #1 album on this list ; )

  14. Adam
    November 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    This one took a while to grow on me. I was introduced to Terry Taylor and crew with DA’s Vox Humana, then went back and got Doppelganger, then bought Knowledge & Innocence. The Eddies weren’t quite what I was expecting, but I grew to love them over the years.

    Except Zoom Daddy. How I hate that album. It sits there in my CD collection, mocking me.

    • Greenchili
      January 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Zoom daddy.. zoom daddy.. zoom daddy zoom!

  15. Dennis
    December 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I love Outdoor Elvis.
    A fantastic record from beginning to end utterly fantastic.

  16. Ecron Muss
    January 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I remember being shown the pre-release onesheet from Frontline Records when Let’s Spin was coming out.

    “Oh, that’s obviously Daniel Amos/DA!” I said to the sales rep, who asked me where on earth I would get that idea from.

    This seemed to me to be DA doing a Travelling Wilburys type of thing, adopting pseudonyms and satirizing their own often-satirical selves.

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