Saturday, April 19, 2014

Turn On to Jesus is Coming - City Boy and Andy Pratt

On casual listen, the lyrics for "Turn On to Jesus" by City Boy are oddly ungodly. On the wrong side of the border, a city boy finds a house full of "ladies of the night." But what thrills are they into? One of them cries out, "HEY MAN! Turn on to JESUS!"

The inspiration? Lol Mason and Steve Broughton, the band's lead vocalists, were touring America and got stuck right in the middle of the country. Broughton:

"Lol and I spent time in a dry area of Kansas. There’s no bars, the only place you can get a drink is one of these ‘religious’ clubs, with topless waitresses with dollar bills stuffed in their G-strings, and out of the jukebox is blaring this ‘Jesus is the Saviour’-music. It was bizarre – I mean, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Birmingham."

Birmingham, England, not Alabama.

"Turn On to Jesus" was offed by the band's record label, over worries that the song could be interpreted as profane. New lyrics were written. The result was "5-7-0-5," the band's only hit single. God moves in mysterious ways.

In another twist, the lead vocal was not from Lol or Steve, but Roy Ward, who had been brought in by the band's producer Mutt Lange (yes, of later Shania Twain infamy) who wanted a better drummer and perhaps a new sound as well, since the band's harmonizing had been accused of sounding too much like 10CC or Queen.

In the spirit of Christian charity, you can also get an American Jesus song via the download links below.

It's a very strange number from the very strange Andy Pratt. This sensitive soul had a surprise hit with a falsetto sex-change on a Woody Guthrie melody about Pretty Boy Floyd. The song became "Avenging Annie," about a feminist who fucks with guys in apparently every way possible. In the original uncensored version (which was on one side of a Columbia promo featuring Springsteen and "Blinded by the Light" on the other):

"I spend my whole life telling lies, lead you on and fuck you over good. I'll take all you spoiled young hippies running around playing games...I'll blow your head. I'll put you through a change. What you've done to others — I'll do unto you!"

However...after finishing with her work: "I might go back to my Floyd, if I think it's the thing to do. He gave up murder and theft right after I left, and you know I still love him too. Just like your woman loves you. Just like your woman loves you."

That last line is repeated often enough to provoke some uncomfortable paranoia. Is your woman true to you? Or is she just fucking with you like Avenging Annie?

That element of the optimistic and the ominous is very strong in "Jesus is Coming." It's one of the few songs I can think of that is both inspiring and creepy; "Jesus is coming" is sung as both a comfort and a threat. At least, that's my take, and I'm sure I'm wrong. Pratt's catalog is loaded with Jesus references and I doubt any of them are intended as anything but pure tribute. Still, this is one odd minor-key tribute. Closer...and closer...JESUS IS COMING...



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