15. Outdoor Elvis – The Swirling Eddies

OUTDOOR ELVIS

The Swirling Eddies

With most supergroups having the talented and famous names attached to a release is the primary purpose and marketing angle. With the Swirling Eddies it was all about anonymity and secrecy. It was also about creating some of the finest alternative music in Christian music to date. And perhaps it was just another outlet for Terry Scott Taylor to go along with Daniel Amos, DA, solo projects and the Lost Dogs!

Members included Taylor (Camarillo Eddy), Tim Chandler (Berger Roy Al), Gene Pool (Greg Flesch), Arthur Fhardy (Rob Watson), Spot (Jerry Chamberlain), Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) and Hort Elvison (David Raven). Guest Eddies have included Mike Roe, Eddie DeGarmo and many, many more.

I remember attending my first Eddies concert at BIOLA University in LaMirada, CA in which the band appeared on stage is some of the most beautiful and stunning evening gowns. This type of shenanigans were common place and matched the witty, sarcastic and irreverent tone of most of the Eddies tunes.

The first Eddies album was released on Alarma records (a Frontline Records imprint) just as I started working for the Benson Company. Suffice it to say that the company noted for Larnelle Harris, DeGarmo and Key, Sandy Patti and carman was not quite sure what to make of “Let’s Spin.”

It would be a mistake here (and quite frankly anywhere) to try to decipher the message of every song on an Eddies release. Some of poignant and powerful, most are quirky, odd, funny, experimental and irreverent. On “Let’s Spin” some true standouts are the title track, the beautiful “Catch That Angel,” the stunning “What a World” that could have found its way onto one of Taylor’s solo projects and the hilarious “I’ve Got an Idea” that made its way into video form that some at the Benson Company found…uh…disturbing.

The third nationally distributed album was the provocative and stunning “Zoom Daddy.” Zoom Daddy contains one of Taylor’s finest compositions, “The Twist.” Taylor’s take on the sacrifice of Christ is difficult to absorb and heart wrenching on many levels.

and look me in the face, at least what’s left of it
tell me you still love me just a little bit
or nail me down, break the skin
hard enough to do me in
but don’t leave me hanging
dying and dangling
twisting in the wind

here, touch my side
let doubt be crucified
nailed with your wounded pride
to love’s grim altar
here, taste my flesh
my bloody humanness
i am no phantom guest
no skinless martyr

But sandwiched between those two amazing records is “Outdoor Elvis,” the funniest and most irreverent of the projects. It also contains some of Taylor’s best work and most accessible music. Most importantly it contains the song, “Hide the Beer the Pastor’s Here,” a song about hypocrisy that more than one college student has latched onto as a theme song or sorts.

As mentioned above I am not going to try and demystify every song on the album as the chances that someone forwards this to Terry Taylor and my being completely wrong about the context would be too embarrassing. I will throw out the “this is what I think it means” occasionally and leave the rest up to the reader.

The title track starts the album off with the  imagery of Elvis Presley taking the role of Sasquatch complete with large footprints and the crooning of “hunk a burnin’ love.” Our fascination with these images are ultimately displayed with a tendency to make “gods” of them and revere them as saviors.

oh, oh, come again outdoor elvis
be our friend, save us outdoor elvis
we have sinned, forgive us outdoor elvis

we’ll build a shrine among the pines to you
(’till the end of time we’ll stand in this line for you)
o.e. o.e. we look for a sign from you

we might have to set a trap
dead or alive, we’ll bring him back

“Driving In England” follows and ended being Taylor’s only number one song in his career. This ode to individuality and “going against the grain” has one of the best hooks in Taylor’s repertoire with a great, memorable chorus. But Taylor does not withhold some impressive imagery amidst the hooks.

roadblock on the road to glory
gridlock on the golden highway
i’ll stop at nothing to get to you

some people get so bored
they start turnin’ into cannibals
eat each others hearts out
it’s like a sacrifice of animals
deep freeze their own souls
shut down their brains
i think the only way to go
is against the grain

(let’s go) driving in england
down the santa ana freeway
somebody’s screaming out
you’re going down the wrong way!
big surprise we’re still alive

Modern evangelicalism’s fascination with gnostic approaches to truth and refusal to actually read and study the source of truth. Once again this deeper truth is couched in humorous prose by comparing popular urban legends with popular “Christian” urban legends.

remember the girl with the bee hive hairdo
stung by a spider in a rat’s nest igloo
hook man leavin’ his hook on the door
after givin’ that girlfriend’s guy what for
someone put a rat in the deep fry
madman on the phone in the upstairs bedroom
alligators down in the sewer lines
i had a tough time believing all that

‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker
i picked up (the vanishing hitchhiker)
he was an angel (the vanishing hitchhiker)
i heard him say “stop telling lies.”
then he went away

The final verse is worth the price of admission as many of the famous Christian myths are properly ridiculed with deft commentary.

i get my info from the backward masking
i get the Word of God through prayer and fasting
j.f.k. is alive and well
and kissenger is a beast from hell

the face of saint paul in this butt roast
assures me that i’m going up to heaven
the anti-christ does laundry on the east coast
i doubted the most — did not believe in all that

‘till i picked up
the vanishing hitchhiker

It should be noted that throughout Eddie’s projects there are short, humorous snippets. Some spoken word and some songs. Two of the finest appear on Outdoor Elvis. the first is “Arthur Fhardy’s Yodeling Party,” which is just what it’s called. The other is “Coco the Talking Guitar” which is also just what it is called.

“Attack of the Pulpit Masters” comes across as the most Daniel Amos like of any Eddies song and would have fit quite nicely on “Doppelganger.” This attack on money driven evangelist and ministries may go down as possessing the fastest singing in Taylor’s career.

“Mystery Babylon” continues Taylor’s fascination with images from the book of Revelation that was obviously most realized on side two Daniel Amos’ classic, “Shotgun Angel.” “Hell Oh” is Taylor admitting that his work can sometime (often?) be an irritant to the listener. Like any prophetic songwriter (Keith Green, Steve Camp, Mark Heard, Larry Norman) taking the listener and the Christian world to task is part of the job description.This was not unlike the words of Jesus in Matthew 23.

there once was a cynic
talkin’ ’bout a white bleached sepulcher
i’m the bee at your picnic
who stung you ’till you had to run home

With somewhere around 20 tracks on the project it would be nearly impossible to address every song in this review, but I do need to point out a few more highlights for consideration. The first is the classic “Hide the Beer, The Pastor’s Here.” This song poignantly and powerful points out the pure hypocrisy associated with “moral clauses” in Christian College entrance forms, most notably the prohibition of drinking alcohol, even for those of legal age. This set up leads to hysterical imagery.

the straw runs down his arm and leg
under the carpet out to the keg
a secret party tonight at Point Loma

and the hate in your heart you’re hiding well
but the booze on your breath is easy to smell
there’s a six-pack to hide
on the Oral U side
let’s drive to oklahoma

hide the beer, the pastor’s here
hide the beer, think of your career

As hinted at in the verse above the real issue is that one can outlaw “questionable behavior” but it is those sins that we conceal that are the most damning. It is not drinking, smoking and watching “R Rated” movies that are so eternally damning as lust, hatred and envy as they can be concealed and hidden. There is no room on the “entrance form” for these sins. Taylor makes it obvious in the second verse.

she had a beer as an evening snack
when the ‘scripture man’ planned a sneak attack
suspension’s the buzz out at Wheaton
as she packed her bags and gathered her books
‘scripture man’ gave her that lustful look
yes lust is his brew but no one sees through
his minty fresh breath ain’t reekin’

So, the same man whose moral character is flawed and depraved sits in judgment of those whose “sins: are more visible, but no more damning. But quite frankly it was the “guts” to name names that caused the greatest controversy as Taylor and crew close the song by naming the nation’s most prominent Christian Colleges.

hide the beer (biola!)
hide the beer (bethel!)
wear a beard (west mont!)
hide the beer (calvin college!)
hide the beer (azusa pacific!)
hide the beer (liberty baptist!)
hide the beer (san jose bible college!)
hide the beer (bob jones!)
hide the beer (taylor u!)
hide the beer (california baptist!)
hide the beer (gordon college!)
hide the beer (calvin klein!)
hide the beer!

george fox, moody bible institute,
seattle pacific, baylor, smu, pacific christian,
jimmy swaggart u, john brown,
anderson, eastern mennonite, fort wayne bible,
grand rapids baptist, greenville, grove city, nyack,
travecca nazarine, multnoma school of the bible,
inland empire school of the bible, philadelphia college of the bible,
whitworth spring arbor,
and south & north western. . .
northwestern!

Now it should be noted that many students of those Universities saw it as a badge of honor to be listed in the song and they “got the joke!” Administrators? Not so much.

“Hold Back the Wind, Donna” is one of the most beautiful songs on this or any Eddies album. Both musically and lyrically the song is uplifting and encouraging. The little spark of truth one possesses may not seem like much but it can “hold back the devil wind.” It is a wonderful and encouraging song of faith and love and completely devoid of the normal sarcastic or irreverent tone associated with much the Eddies tunes.

The touching tribute to “Billy Graham” and the simplicity of the Gospel the famed evangelist was known for is far too short of a song. This song also contains an appearance of Prickly Disco (Gene Eugene) on vocals.

The album closes with “Elimination (The band That Won’t Go Away)” a wonderful response to critics of the Swirling Eddies, and quite possibly Daniel Amos or any other similar band. But in the normal Taylor twist, the song is sarcastically sung from the point of view of the critic. “Give up and repent” the critic proclaims. Taylor than goes on to list the many reasons I assume he has heard over the years for him and his mates to find a new occupation.

don’t cry, you big babies
don’t feel sorry for yourselves
you’re no more misunderstood
than anybody else
but you keep on makin’ waves
it’s your lousy attitude
why would you be thinkin’ you’re doin’
anybody any good?

so bow out
get lost
i’d like to pull the fader down
on “the band that won’t go away”

go away!
beat it!

give up
repent
good riddance
and all God’s blessings on
“the band that won’t go away”

This recalls an experience I had with Terry at a Roller Rink in Orange County during a show for the Daniel Amos “Vox Humana” tour. Seriously…a roller rink! Before playing the song “Mall All Over the World” from Doppelganger Terry made a joke about how “Resurrection Band” ripped them off with their song “Elevator Muzik” as it related to the lyric “elevator up, escalate down…” He also noted that once Daniel Amos switch to using the name “DA” that Resurrection Band started shrinking their name to “Rez Band.”

It was clearly a joke. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “clearly.”

While talking to terry after the show I noted he was wearing the famous green and orange “DA” button. I asked if they were selling them that evening. He told me it was the last one he had but took it off his coat and gave it to me. I still have it. But right then a young lady came and confronted terry about the joke stating it was unChristian of him to castigate and complain about his “brothers” in Rez Band.

Seriously!

This is not the last we will hear from Taylor on this countdown and with the inclusion of the Lost Dogs previously Taylor is the most “decorated” artist in the countdown. This doesn’t even count the albums he wrote or produced for. But no one deserves it more. It is one thing to be prolific, it’s another to be prolific and brilliant. Terry Scott Taylor is just that…

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9 responses to this post.

  1. So, here’s the big admission. I have several favorite bands and artists, but it surprises everyone I know that just above The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd etc. I put Daniel Amos (and tend to lump The Eddies and Terry’s solo stuff into that – not so much The Lost Dogs as that’s quite a different outfit) right at the top. Last year, I told Terry Doppelganger got me through school. It was a bizarre statement, but one he completely got because – let’s be real here – the music DA was putting out there was as honest and dangerous as it got. It scared the church elders, and thank God for it.

    As for Taylor being an irritant, only insofar as he pointed as many fingers at himself and at the ‘infallible’ edifice of the church as he did the world. In his lyrics, it’s not us versus them, it’s we ARE them, and now what do we do? The church at that time did not like one of their own pointing out the hollowness of some of their new doctrines, how being saved fast-tracked you to easy joy, money and health. If anything, his songs constantly pointed to the fact that believers are usually the first to suffer most, hardest and with a special lack of mercy from their accusers. “But we were still honest, even when no one was looking.”

    The Lost Dogs, despite not being in the DA umbrella in my overview, may be be one of, if not the very finest of our Americana acts today. Nonetheless, there still is a tear in me that it seems those crazed days of The Eddies and DA are behind them…

    Reply

  2. As I said on my own website, I can’t believe it took me this long to get into the Eddies. That’s a tip to everyone… don’t begin your Eddies experience with “Sacred Cows!”

    I am currently getting into “Zoom Daddy” as of this writing.

    Reply

  3. Posted by aarjayaitch on February 24, 2010 at 12:45 am

    If I had to name the one musical artist who has had the most impact on me through their work, it would have to be Terry Scott Taylor. I would pick “Zoom Daddy” as my favorite Eddies album, primarily because of “The Twist” (though all the songs are good– of course!)

    Reply

  4. Posted by Dave Haddock on February 24, 2010 at 4:24 am

    Ahhh!…the Eddies. I remember Frontline bringing Let’s Spin to the folks at Benson. A lot of em didn’t know what to make of it. Being a huge DA fan I was on board from the get go. Kent Songer can confirm I was the first one to actually identify the members of the Eddies since it was a secret and they were doing a “Guess the Eddies” contest with retailers and buyers. As a Benson employee I was not eligible for any prizes 😦

    I also have the original typed bio sheets on all the Eddies. And I have my Let’s Spin button. Absolutely hilarious stuff. Fun band with a lot of tongue in cheek, make you think lyrics. I would be disappointed Lowman had this not made the list. good man.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Shawn McLaughlin on February 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I could easily see an all “Terry Scott Taylor” related top 10 list if I let emotions get the best of me. He (and his cohorts) made it safe for the artistic side of me to embrace Christian music and opened the door for me to embrace other good Christian artists (Heard, Choir, Adam Again, 77’s Peacock etc.). Yet, even with a non biased eye, Terry, in some form, would easily occupy 5 of my top 10 spots. He is just that good. I would go as far as to call him one of today’s 5 greatest living songwriters.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Dennis Rich on March 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Outdoor Elvis is one of the greatest albums, Christian or otherwise, though I suppose it really makes the most sense in a “Christian” setting.
    I love this album, it’s one of those records I start singing along with the next song before the song even starts.

    Seeing The Swiling Eddies live was a concert hightlight for me back in 2002.

    I treasure all The Eddies records, from “Let’s Spin” to “Sacred Cows” but for me “Outdoor Elvis” really takes the cake (as the young people are so fond of saying in the parlance of our times.)

    Reply

  7. Posted by paul on October 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    this is a great album. My favorite of the swirling eddies. It really shows how truly talented Terry Taylor really is. In my opinion Terry is the most talented songwriter ever, christian or secular. Just look at the amount of quality work he has put out. My fave on this album is “Vanishing Hitchhiker” but thats just me.

    Reply

  8. As a Taylor University student when “Hide the Beer” was released all those years ago, I must say we sat around the dorm and read lyrics to Terry’s best songs and tried really hard to figure them out. I’ve spent a lot of time complaining to my wife (don’t know who else to complain to) about how brain-dead Christian music has become, but Terry’s work (and Steve’s, and Ojo’s, and Steve/Derry, and Mike Roe, and a few others) still makes me think today. And I’ve had a tough time believing all this until I picked up that vanishing hitchhiker.

    Reply

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