060984 Petra, Etobicoke, ON

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I did not go to this concert.  I have never seen Petra, not on June 9th, 1984 or ever.  Heck, I don’t even know if they’re still a band.  Let me check…yep, turns out they’re still faith-rockin’.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Petra.  Heathen!  (And I mean that literally, not in a “you’ve never heard of Jethro Tull?  You’re a heathen…” rock and roll sense.)  Petra was the big Christian rock act, perhaps the first major Christian rock act ever and as a result they were quite controversial amongst the Sunday-best crowd, which further resulted in them getting quite popular with the kids.  Yes, Christian kids like to rebel too, though it’s generally more in a drinking-chocolate-milk-on-the-Lord’s-Day kind of way.

I should know: I lived with a couple of them.

(After inadvertently renting a room in a house full of the “wrong” kind of people I got in a disproportionately large amount of trouble, which was seriously bad news for a pre-Young Offenders Act sixteen-year-old such as myself.  My saviour came in the form of a very pretty seventeen-year-old girl and her very Pentecostal family.  I had met her at an all-night roller skating thing that I had randomly walked into not knowing it was a Christian youth event.  This was the theological equivalent of a straight guy walking into a gay bar.  By the time I found out what was happening I was already besotten with beautiful, unattainable Lori.  And as sweetly frustrating as that was, it resulted in an astounding outreach of unconditional love and support when the family bailed me out, and again I mean that literally [as well as figuratively].  I ended up living with Lori and her family for what was it, six or eight months? before I was finally cleared by the courts [not guilty on all counts, of course, despite being under the bumbling tutelage of the worst lawyer in the history of the legal aid program].  I shared a room with Lori’s kid brother Paul, I read the Bible every day, and I seriously pondered a career as a faith healer.  Once again: literally.)

Just like in every strictly Pentecost household I would visit, television was not allowed nor were any secular books.  Or secular music.  “What does secular mean?” I remember asking.  Oh.  “You mean, like Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da by Walt Disn…”

“That is secular music and we will not have it in this house.  Secular music is not welcome.”

“But Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da…?!?”

“If it doesn’t glorify God,” I was told, “it glorifies Satan.  And around here we don’t glorify Satan.

“Besides, Walt Disney had himself frozen when he died and that’s against God’s Will to so he’s a sinner through and through.”  

(Walt Disney did not suspend his body cryogenically or otherwise.  That’s another one of those pre-internet rumours that remains widely accepted despite being readily disprovable.)

But then Lori hipped me out to Christian rock music.  Petra was her hands-down favourite.  And though they did have one tune called Judas’ Kiss that totally killed me*, they were a little soft around the edges for my tastes, like a God-geared April Wine.  Heck, I can still remember Lori’s favourite was a song called Annie’s Song** that had a distinct Just Between You and Me syrupy catchiness, even if it was about a girl who commits suicide.  Personally, I got more into harder-edged Christian stuff like Resurrection Band and especially a Zeppelin-esque female-fronted group called Barnabas.  I even had one of their records.  So I converted.

I remember quite distinctly when my Christian religiosity came to its end.  I was with the family visiting another Pentecostal household and ended up alone with their teenaged daughter…in her bedroom…where we quietly latched the door and…

…listened to Rush.  I hadn’t heard my favourite band in months.  I suppose it’s fitting that it was their A Farewell to Kings album (which was and remains my favourite) because hunkering down and sneakily listening to that cassette ushered in my farewell to the Anointed One.  You know that you’ve found music that you love when you feel it more than you hear it, and I just knew that the feeling I got from listening to Rush just couldn’t be bad, much less a sin.  And if it was, well, I just wasn’t ready to give up that sort of nirvana for some Promised Land.  Still ain’t.

Post Script: 

Back in the day I remember Petra having the undisputed reputation of playing in front of more people in 1982 than any other band or group in the world, something I took as fact, as unfathomable as it was.  It just now occurs to me how easy it was in the pre-internet days to propagate such improbabilities.  Astoundingly, access to the internet has only made it moreso.  

Same goes for God I suppose.

(Curiously, I just googled “biggest concert tour 1982” and the only thing I could find was a list of the biggest tours of the ’80’s, which includes the likes of Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.  But get this: none of the tours on the list were from 1982.  So maybe there weren’t that many big bands touring in 1982.  Except Petra.  A band who played for the collection plate and catered to an audience that wasn’t allowed to go see The Stones or U2.  Surely they filled every venue the played.  So you never know, maybe Disney is a suspended animator.)

Post-Post Script: 

You may be wondering why I even have this ticket stub if I didn’t go to the concert.  Me too.  I don’t recall, but I suspect Lori must have given it to me.  Further, I suspect she would have given it to me after I showed off my concert ticket binder, which I certainly would have done.  And as smitten as I was with both Lori and ticket stubs in general of course I would have immediately stuck it in with the rest.  And there it sits today – however I got it – ironically sharing a page with Ozzy Osbourne and Nazareth, among others.

*I mean the riff of this tune tore my soul wide open.  I felt like it was on par with any riff I had heard before and I listened to it over and over when my craving for real rock music would start to overcome me.  My God, I thought dude was the best guitar player ever because of that riff.  As an experiment I’m going to see if it’s on youtube and see how long it takes me to learn it.  And…go!

Ah, the tune ain’t so great.  Funny, I had forgotten that the song started with backwards masking, which would be comically ironic were it not obviously aimed at the then-controversy-of-the-day.  I had also forgotten the very awesome album cover, which is basically what you would get if you combined any Boston album cover with any Journey album cover.  Oh, and it took me an embarrassing sixteen minutes to figure out the riff and get it to the point of playing along, an impossible teenaged dream that felt much less epic than I used to imagine it would feel.  The only reason it took so long was because dude on the recording was consistently flubbing one of the notes to the point of inaudibility.  I had the rest of the riff in the first ninety seconds.

**From memory:

And it’s too late for Annie, she’s gone away for good

There’s so much we would tell her and now we wish we could.

We would tell her Jesus loves her.  Tell her Jesus cares.

Tell her He can free her from…something something something. 

To be fair, I’m sure I didn’t know the full lyric forty years ago either.   

(Just checked the internet.  It’s “Tell her He can free her and her burdens bear…”  Otherwise: nailed it.***)

***Pun intended.  What?!?  Too soon?

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