"New Music From the "Exit Shrapnel"by Brian Quincy Newcomb (CCM Magazine September 1990)
There was a period in the mid-'80's when those of us hoping for a broad vindication of the artistic endeavors of Christian rockers with commercial success in the secular marketplace, turned our eyes toward Sacramento and Exit Records. Featuring Charlie Peacock, The 77s, Vector, Steve Scott and others, and getting Christian distribution through Word, the label's primary goal was to establish a mainstream presence. The 77s and Charlie Peacock each had an album released on A&M Records and another on Island, but promotion and sales were negligible. While the broad mark success they were shooting for was denied, Christian rock fans enjoyed the handful of memorable albums that came from these fine artisans.
These days, a new wind is blowing and each of these fine artists is finding fresh avenues to release material to their older fans, while seeking greater exposure. Mike Roe, of the 77's, released an indie package of demos and collectibles last year as 7 as 7 Is, and has released a new 77s album, Sticks and Stones, on Broken Records. Jimmy A (who's worked as Peacock's guitarist in recent years) and Steve Griffith have moved to Nashville. Vector released Simple Experience last year and a double-CD of it's first two records became available. Steve Scott has released two CDs of unreleased material, Lost Horizon and Magnificent Obsession, which makes 1990 a banner year for the return of the Exit exiles, or as Roe puts it "Exit Shrapnel".
Interviewed separately, this trio of artists, who have performed together, produced each other, and who shared the closing night's encore stage at Cornerstone '90, seem eager to put the disappointments behind them, Roe, whose 7 & 7 Is material, previously available only on outdated formats and a 4-song cassette, has surfaced this summer on an 11-track CD titled More Miserable Than You'll Ever Be (Alternative Records), seems far from miserable these days.
Sticks and Stones, Roe suggests, "is a collection of songs that had been done as demos to be shopped for a record deal that I thought would make a fun album. With no new album in the works I wanted to sort of clean house as far as that particular group of four individuals is concerned. I felt it's some of the best things we've ever done, so let's get it out there." Since these tracks were recorded, original 77s Mark Tootle has left the band and Jan Eric, now manager to Charlie Peacock, has moved to Nashvegas, and is considered an alumni artist in good standing.
Of the most recent material, the first four songs on Miserable, Roe explains, "I wanted a name that exploited the 77s logo, because I knew the music would appeal mostly to 77s fans, and I remembered that song by the group Love, '7 and 7 Is' and I thought that's perfect. I knew it would be confusing, and hard to pronounce, but it was real obscure, and I liked that."
Vector is Steve Griffith and Jimmy Abegg, still. Abegg nay now be more noticeable as Charlie Peacock's guitarist, but Vector, he says, is his band. While Abegg has been busy touring, Griffith produced The Altar Boys' latest and mixed Sticks and Stones with Roe. Now the two are back working together writing, playing and shaping the future. "Simple Experience was kind of thrown together because we had this gig to play Cornerstone ('89) and felt we needed to have something to sell to our fans. I had seen the success of the Diaries and felt it was time for us to get back into the studio," says Abegg.
Griffith adds, "We've wanted to get Mannequin Virtue and Please Stand By out on CD for years, and this just seemed to be the right time." gaga records is their own indie labelm (the 'g' ia Griffth and the 'a' is Abegg, and gaga sounded better than ga," says Griffith), which, like Alternative, is distributed by Spring Arbor. Griffith decided it was time to get back to work with Abegg and Vector. "I had been working in video productions, but I'm a songwriter, that's what I was created to do. But, when you've got families and responsibilites, you've got to work and earn a living. Now we hope to see what we can make of this."
Steve Scott is not just a rocker. The sometimes author, counselor and lecturer on art, sees himself as "much more in touch with performance art than this whole rock 'n' roll thing." For him making music is part of a unified whole. "People are more interested in my efforts when they find out I do poetry readings and lectures, that I have several books and that I've made these albums."
These great arty rockers have earned a special place in the history of alternative Christian music, and although no one's quite sure what to expect from this new chapter, I'm very pglad to announce that the book is not closed.
©1990 CCM Magazine--all rights reserved