Sunday, April 6, 2008

St Christopher in early 1970's American rock music:

This little writing is just an odd adjunct to a larger topic: that of Saint Christopher.

My interest in St Christopher stems from before becoming a Christian. Being the patron Saint of travellers, he is a common figure. He was also the first Christopher, so anyone with that name (which I share) should have an interest in the story.

St Christopher's feast on 25 July was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

Since I have been researching St Christopher in the past few months, I have been really pleased to find a couple of music related items.

Styx "Christopher, Mr Christopher" Man of Miracles (1974)

The song "Christopher, Mr Christopher" was written by lead singer and keyboardist, Dennis DeYoung. De Young was a Roman Catholic, and the song is essentially a plea to have Christopher reinstated. The lyrics deal with two themes: one a retelling of the legend of Saint Christopher; and another which deals "Mary Margaret" who thinks the world has gone mad, due to his demotion. The music is very seventies American, FM sound: distorted whining twin guitar leads, the vocal harmonies are shrill with exaggerated vibrato. However, the synth textures (Oberheim?) are in advance of their UK counterparts.

I dig it. I'm not a huge Styx fan by any means, but they did some stuff of value, this song being an early example. From 74-77 Styx did some quintessential American rock. It would be impossible to listen to side one of The Grand Illusion (1977) and not think of late 70's suburban America. It is sound of WKRP in Cincinnati or That Seventies Show.

s/t (1970)

From an earlier period in music history, the Texas power trio Christopher are a different story. Christopher saw themselves as a religious band, and when they had to change from their earlier name of United Gas, they chose Christopher in reference to the then contemporaneous demotion of the Saint. The lyrics alternate between themes of mystic visions, the apocalypse, Christian love, women. The music is classic late 60's sound: Cream, Love, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead (sort of). Christopher only recorded one album, 1000 copies were pressed. The band was plagued by drug problems, suicide attempts, womanising and a changing line up. Thankfully, the album has been issued on CD, and it truly is a forgotten gem. Although there is no mention of Saint Christopher on the album, the fact that they chose him for their name says a lot about peoples feelings toward him.

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