Mention the record album "Jesus Sound Explosion" to a typical child of the 1970s and that person is likely to picture one of those collections that used to be shown on TV (Call now Not available in stores ). When Mark Curtis Anderson spied a copy in a junk store a few years ago, he knew just what he'd found, and the memories of growing up in a Baptist minister's family came flooding forth.
The title of Anderson's memoir is a nod to the live concert album from Explo '72, a kind of evangelical Woodstock emceed by Billy Graham. Explo's crowds of 100,000-plus signaled that enterprising evangelicals were discovering how to use rock and roll in the marketplace of conversion. Anderson was eleven that year, too young to be at Explo but old enough to wish he was. Other preachers' kids may have gazed out at the wider world and craved its movies, clothes, or toys, but he wanted its music. And not just the Jesus-rocker fare of Explo's Armageddon Experience or Children of Truth, but the real stuff, too.
"Jesus Sound Explosion" recalls Anderson's quest for worldliness-through-rock as he came of age under the gaze, he often sensed, of his father's entire congregation. All of the backsliding and revival, idealism and disillusionment one would expect is here, told with delightfully understated humor and set against the sounds of The Guess Who, Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bruce Springsteen. Here is a knowing look back on a time when "Jesus Christ Superstar" climbed the pop charts, "The Cross and the Switchblade" hit the big screen, and anxious parents played their kids' records backwards in search of hidden messages from Satan.