Steve Taylor’s second full length album was 1985’s ON THE FRITZ (Sparrow Records). It was produced by Foreigner’s Ian McDonald along with Taylor. It was Taylor’s first album to use all studio musicians rather than his usual backing group. Musicians on this album include: Tony Davillo, Hugh McCracken, and Carmine Rojas.
The title track, ‘On The Fritz’, is a great rock song. It warns of the dangers of celebrity: “So the crowds grew and their praises did too/And a mailing list sent you money/So they love Jerry Lewis in France/Does that make him funny?/It’s too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed/Now victims of your double life are naming names.” ‘This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)’ is a stellar, fast paced dance number. It was inspired by the New York Limelight Club, once known as the ‘Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion.’ The song laments the deflection of many of us from church: “Got no need for altar calls/Sold the altar for the mirror balls/Do you shuffle? Do you twist?/Cause with a hot hits playlist now we say/This disco used to be a cute cathedral/Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year/This disco used to be a cute cathedral/Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear.”
‘Lifeboat’ is a humorous story song with Steve doing his best female voice impression. In the song, a teacher helps her class determine who is really worthwhile to society and who isn’t. It is, of course, meant to be an absurd notion: “Throw over grandpa cause he’s getting pretty old/Throw out the baby or we’ll all be catching its cold/Throw over fatty and we’ll see if she can float/Throw out the retard and they won’t be rockin’ the boat.” ‘I Manipulate’ is a dark rock song. It takes aim at Bill Gothard and other heavy handed Christian leaders: “Does your soul crave center stage?/Have you heard about the latest rage?/Read your Bible by lightning flash/Get ordained at the thunder crash/Build a Kingdom with a cattle prod/Tell the masses, it’s a message from God/Where the innocent congregate, I manipulate.”
‘It’s a Personal Thing’ is a mix of talking and singing by Steve. He critiques politicians who don’t stand up for their beliefs in the political arena: “It’s a personal thing and I boldly state/That my views on morality will have to wait/’Till my personal life’s out of the public eye/And the limitations statute can protect my alibi/I’m devout, I’m sincere, and I’m proud to say/That it’s had exactly no effect on who I am today/I believe for the benefit for all mankind/In the total separation of church and mind.” ‘To Forgive’ is a great pop song inspired by the personal appearance of Pope John Paul II with his attempted assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca: “I saw a man/He was holding the hand/That had fired a gun at his heart/Oh, will we live to forgive?/I saw the eyes/And the look of surprise/As He left an indelible mark/Oh, will we live to forgive?/Come, find release/Go, make your peace.” The song also speaks of Christ’s forgiveness.
‘Drive, He Said’ includes finger snaps by Cactus Moser and Debbie Taylor. It is a memorable story song that has the devil interacting with an individual in a car in the desert. The song has Carman-style lyrics: “Scratch! Dressed in red-pointy tail and a horn-rimmed head/And a widow’s peak like Eddie Munster sat frozen in my seat-‘We haven’t had the chance to meet/Are you a singing telegram or something?’/He just flashed a hellish smile-‘Let’s go driving for a while’/He held something in his hand I’d never seen before/It was my Chevrolet’s pink slip.” Taylor sings ‘You’ve Been Bought’ with attitude. He takes aim at less than noble rock stars: “We don’t need another manufactured rebel/We don’t want your twisted doctrines of despair/If your music’s saying nothing save it for the dentist chair/You’ve been bought/Interests are conflicting/You’ve been bought/Chemicals addicting/You’ve been bought/What goes around comes around/You’ll get caught.”
Ian McDonald plays alto sax on ‘You Don’t Owe Me Nothing’¸while Dave Thrush plays tenor sax. On this song Steve sets his sights on prosperity teachers: “There was a time in Christendom/The road to God was hard to tread/Till charlatans in leisure suits/Saw dollars dancing in their heads/You don’t owe me nothing.” Steve says we need to rely on God, not wealth: “I know You’ll give me what I need/They say I need a shopping mall/I claim the victory over greed/Lord Jesus, I surrender all/You don’t owe me nothing.” ‘I Just Wanna Know’ is a ballad with a slow groove. It finds Steve desiring to be a pure vessel for God: “Search me Father and know my heart/Try me and know my mind/And if there be any wicked way in me/Pull me to the Rock that is higher than I/I just wanna know, am I pulling people closer?/I just wanna be pulling them to You/I just wanna stay angry at the evil/I just wanna be hungry for the true.”
ON THE FRITZ really sees Steve hitting his musical and lyrical stride. By now his tongue-in-cheek craft was near perfected. He proved that Christian music could have a bite to it. His intent was not to hurt people but to challenge the status quo. I’m rating ON THE FRITZ 95%.