Larry Norman – Upon This Rock

What do you say that already has not been said about this man, that is almost as much of fiction and legend than fact or history. I struggle to put into words the years of curious fascination with Larry Norman, be it his music or life. So I will try to keep this as much a record review as possible although that is hard when reviewing anything by the “Father” of CCM and Christian Rock, a title of which I am not sure Larry was comfortable with.

Before Larry there was not much in the horizon of contemporary based Christian themed music.  If you look real hard, sure you can find some. Nothing as well written, produced or as edgy as Larry for the time, especially his first album Upon This Rock in 1969 and many of the songs from Larry’s Band PEOPLE! in 1968.

In the Beginnings Larry stated what he was trying to do in those early songs, “I wanted to push aside the traditional gospel quartet music, break down the church doors and let the hippies and the prostitutes and other unwashed rabble into the sanctuary…I wanted to talk about feeding the poor, going into the world….[I felt that] most of the modern music was anemic and needed a transfusion.” Soon Upon This Rock became a declaration of forgiveness and stability to a hippie culture trying to find answers in a place where drugs, rock ‘n roll and free love no longer seemed to promote peace but violence, insanity and sexual diseases.

Larry became that figure for a new and radical yet odd generation that were finding a different yet somehow familiar Jesus. That generation began bringing a new language and music to The Church, to the dismay of some. Larry Norman songs were being played in evangelistic movies and sung from church hymnals although some had no idea. The One Way sign was synonymous with Larry’s long blond hair and pointed finger going straight to the sky.

The record Upon This Rock was the catalyst that started much of it. Songs like Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation and I Wish We’d All Been Ready were the theme songs of The Jesus Movement and everything it seemed to stand for.  The song Moses could easily had been sung in Sunday School and shared Larry’s fascination with humorous tendencies along with Nothing Really Changes. Lyrics on future recordings would become more sarcastic and satirical with age. The Last Supper and Ha Ha World proved what a great lyricist, poet, writer and creative musician Larry could and would be.

If you hear the original capital mixes there is a tad more orchestration and really getting hard to find. The production is very 60’s sounding but not bad. It is all we had and we were fairly proud of it, so I heard from friends and family because I was a whopping three when Upon This Rock was released.

Larry died on February 24th, 2008 after many years of health problems, leaving a large catalogue of music and memories. I realized early that Larry was multidimensional and full of mystery. After Norman’s death his lifes pages have become just as puzzling as when he was among us.

One things for sure, I know the Jesus Movement or Christ-centered music would not have been as creative or impacting without God using Larry Norman or that first album; Upon This Rock.

-Marty Phillips

Larry Norman Pages

Upon This Rock at Amazon


One Response to “Larry Norman – Upon This Rock”

  1. I was privileged to see Larry in concert near the end of his ministery when he toured with Randy Stonehill and what a concert that was. His music left an indelible memory on me that I will never forget. It saddened me to hear that he is now dead, but I am sure he is now with the Lord. Thank you for this memory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: