The Stories Behind the Songs on Single #13
Fri., Jul. 22. 2022 3:13pm EDT
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
Here are the stories behind the songs on our 13th single of 2022. Both are remakes of parodies we originally released in the 1990's, but I still have plenty to say about them:
I already explained this parody's origin in the journal entry for our previous version in the ApologetiX Digital Songbook, but here's another angle:
In 1969, Larry Norman released what is considered to be the first Christian rock album, Upon This Rock. Its most famous song, the apocalyptic "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," is a classic of the "Jesus Music" genre. Larry rerecorded it later and released that version in 1972 on his Only Visiting This Planet LP, which CCM Magazine ranked as #2 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music."
I owned copies of both of those albums (plus many others from his catalog) and listened to a lot of Larry in my first few years as a believer, so I would imagine that "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" subtly influenced me when I wrote "Lightning Flashes" back in '95. We released our original version in '97. It only took Larry three years to redo "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," but we waited 25 years to redo "Lightning Flashes."
We got to meet Larry at the Creation Music Festival in in Mount Union PA in 2000. It was the biggest Christian music festival in the country at the time, and ApologetiX was scheduled to perform on the main stage (yes, I couldn't believe it, either), but I met Larry at our CD table in a big pavilion the festival organizers had set up in the woods.
He just came up and started talking to me, and we had a nice little chat. I was amazed he knew who we were, but he'd even been to our website! Not only that, he graciously put on an ApX t-shirt for a photo with all of us!
I actually couldn't fit in the entire story behind "Lightning Flashes" in our songbook, so I'll give you the full account below. I wrote it down the day it happened, because I knew I would forget details if I didn't — plus I knew that it was so unusual that I would start to wonder if it really happened as time went on. Here's what I wrote:
On Nov. 21, 1995, something really wild happened to me. A few days before, I had written Lightning Flashes, a parody based on Jesus' prediction of his second coming in Matthew 24:27. I wondered, "Am I writing too many songs about the end times lately? Is Lightning Flashes just one more?"
As I walked across the bridge to work that morning I came upon a beggar with a Styrofoam cup, who was sitting on the sidewalk in one of the compartments of the bridge. He wasn't dressed well for the chilly breeze over the river — his underwear was even showing through holes in his jeans. I gave him some change and a pocket Bible, said "Jesus loves you," and kept moving to try and get to work on time ... but something told me to go back and at least give him a dollar bill ... not that a dollar is much.
When I got back to him, he was already reading the Bible. He looked up at me and said, "Matthew Chapter 24, Verse 27, 'As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.'"
It really blew me away, because he wasn't even on that page in his Bible; he was quoting it from memory. We introduced ourselves. His name was Anthony, and he'd obviously been drinking. I asked him why he was on the streets, and he told me how his wife had thrown him out and how he missed his kids. He knew his eschatology (end-times theology) pretty well. I asked him how he knew about the Bible, and he said "From reading it in prison." Then we prayed together.
I knew I would soon be late for work, so I quickly asked him if he was hungry. It just so happened that I had two strombolis in my lunch instead of just one. Finally, we said our goodbyes to which he added, "J., He's coming back."
I hurried across the rest of the bridge, where I met a co-worker who'd seen us praying. He asked what we'd talked about. He wasn't too impressed with my Lightning Flashes story, but I think he was impressed by my taking time to talk to Anthony. Here I thought I was going to witness to Anthony, and I wound up witnessing to somebody else ... while God was witnessing to me.
I KNOW A RIDDLE
We released our first version of "I Know a Riddle" on our Radical History Tour cassette (1994) and CD ('99). It wasn't polished enough to make the cut for our Classics compilation CDs in 2010, but I always hoped we could do a proper remake at some point.
ApX lead guitarist Tom Tincha had been suggesting for years that we do this song, so when he asked again in 2022, the timing seemed right, since we were already planning to rerecord a number of our older parodies in honor of the band's 30th anniversary.
As I compared our old version of "I Know a Riddle" with Skynyrd's original, there was a new riddle to be solved: Why on earth didn't I do a better job making our lyrics rhyme with theirs the first time around? Don't ask me no questions I can't answer, even though you got that right. It's not like I ain't the one responsible, but I never dreamed we'd still be doing this so many years later, and now all I can do is write about it.
I got nothin' fancy to say by way of explanation, but I like the second helping of "I Know a Riddle" a lot better. My one lament is that I couldn't get the text of Samson's original riddle into our lyrics and still make it rhyme with Skynyrd's lyrics. But at least it rhymes in most popular translations of Judge 14:14.
The Radical History Tour cassette had 24 tracks, and this is the 18th one we've redone. The CD had 20, and this is the 15th one we've redone. So either way you look at it, we've revisited 75 percent of the stops on the Radical History Tour.