I wonder if anyone caught Paul Bayley’s fascinating BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘The Strange Parallel World of Christian Pop’ on Tuesday 12th February? The title and the trailers made it sound as though this might be another example of the ‘see how weird these religious people are’ genre of programming, but in fact the programme was a well-researched and even-handed account of the development and motivations of early pop and beat groups formed by younger Christians of the 1960s and 1970s. Band members interviewed on the programme explained how their music was partly missionary in intent – designed to present the Christian message in a form accessible to a rising generation fed on the Mersey Beat, folk rock and psychedelic rock sounds of the early sixties to early seventies. However, the motivation was not purely evangelistic, but contained a more general desire to make religious music in the style of the kind of music they might usually listen to. This is significant, given that critics of the music (both religious and secular) have often tended to assume that the missionary motive predominates, making for a product which is less satisfying both musically and spiritually. In fact, Bayley (who discovered Christian pop through the rare vinyl collector’s scene) argues that amidst the mass of average recordings there is some genuinely original material which is the equal of its ‘secular’ contemporaries (its continuing appeal demonstrated by the fact that some records are changing hands in the wider rare vinyl market for hundreds of pounds).
If anyone who was involved in the contemporary Christian music scene of the late fifties to early seventies reads this blog and would like to add their own thoughts, it would be very interesting to read them!