SET IT OFF
I’m going to be honest with you. I am not a Calvinist. I like to believe that God’s sovereignty is shown through the fact that humankind gets to make its own choices even though God could pull every string and direct every action. However (get ready for the hyperbole), it is hard for me to look past the idea of divine appointment, née even the possibility of total pre-destination in some extreme instances. Such an instance was about to occur. It wouldn’t seem like much at the time…
I will never forget the day that I received “The Tape”. We had just piled into our Mercury Villager mini-van and were beginning a summer vacation to Colorado to visit my aunt Kay. It was going to be a long trip with just my mom, my sister, my brother and I stuck together in that little tan box for hours and hours. I had cleverly managed to smuggle some good music along by hiding a couple of Pearl Jam and Metallica tapes in my “The Early Beatles Volume 1 and 2” cases, so I was ready to roll. But just as I was about to put on my headphones my mom turned around and handed me her new find, imploring me to, “give it a try”. Before I even took The Tape in my hand I had mentally tossed it in the trash, but I knew my mom would bug me about it the whole trip if I didn’t listen to it. So I decided to just get it out of the way and listen to the stupid thing.
I grabbed the thing out of her hand, and as I did I looked down at it. Weird. There was something different about this album. For one thing, on the cover there were no 30-40 year-old, clean-cut, wannabe hipsters. Instead there were seven young guys wearing slick suits, skinny ties, and some insanely cool (and in retrospect very late 90’s) looking shades. The guy in the middle had a plaid suit and his head was shaved completely bald. The band’s name was “The O.C. Supertones” and the album was called “The Supertones Strike Back”.
I flipped the case over and began to read. I saw song titles such as “Shut Up and Play” and “Louder than the Mob” oddly comingled with the likes of “Grace Flood” and “So Great a Salvation”. I clearly remember thinking to myself, “What the hell is this?” and I couldn’t believe it as I heard the single word, “Cool.” involuntarily slip past my lips. What was happening to me? Little did I know that these were just the beginnings of a great new obsession that would quite literally define the course of my entire life. Such was the weight of the moment in which I slipped that cassette into my Walkman and pressed play.
As the tape began to roll, something radical happened inside of me. This monumental experience wasn’t a gradual progression… it was instantaneous. The pounding of the drums, the crunch of the guitar, and the blaring of the horns that opened the album crushed to dust the walls that separated me from “Christian” music. I might not have realized it at the time, but I had made a revolutionary personal discovery. For the first time I was coming to realize that faith and art could not only co-exist, but that art could indeed embody that faith in a way that is fresh, active, creative and inspiring.
Like I said at the beginning of this story, for some reason I feel like there was something beyond the natural at work here, though I didn’t see it at the time. I know that receiving a cassette tape of a third-wave ska band (no matter how cool they are), hardly seems like a miracle… but I think the argument can be made. Just as the parting of the Red Sea kicked off the journey to the Promise Land for the people of Israel, so would the miraculous discovery of The Supertones start me down the path towards my own musical “land of milk and honey”.
I must have listened to that album 20 or 30 times over the course of that trip. The Black Album never made it out of its hiding place. When we got home, The Tape played on throughout the Summer and into the Fall as I began my 8th grade year of school. Oh yes, The Supertones were awesome for sure. But I wanted more…
For some reason every time I hear this track I just want to bust out my N64 and play some Tony Hawk Pro Skater.