After my writeup on Andrew Peterson, I figured featuring Counting Crows would kind of be cheating, especially since, I’m trying to steer people towards music that they may not have heard of, or that they may have forgotten about. So, even though I was planning on writing about August and Everything After, I decided to go in a different direction.
1987 was the first year that I really remember paying attention to music. And I owe it to skipping church.
My childhood, for lack of a better term, was unique. It wasn’t ever perfect, sometimes it was tumultuous, and a lot of the time it was just weird. I’m sure that a lot of people could say that about their childhood, but sparing details that I don’t want to share just yet, my childhood was definitely unique.
All through my elementary and middle school years, my mom rented a mobile home from my grandfather, and it was placed on my grandparent’s land, just about fifty yards from their house. This was a good situation for her, she didn’t make a lot of money at her job, we lived below the poverty line, and a cheap or free housing situation was better than nothing. Especially considering she had children.
One of the caveats for us living there, was we had to go to church. I’m not sure if it was an edict from my grandfather, or if my Mom was genuinely searching for solace in faith, but we had to go to church.
Every Sunday morning, without fail, my mom would get us all in the car, and drive about fifteen minutes to the local Baptist church. My earliest memories of the Christian faith (before I actually grasped the concept), happened in that church. The many summer VBS programs I would attend, my first viewing of the animated adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, a catchy memory verse song for Romans 5:1, set to the tune of “The Colonel Bogey March”1.
It was at that church where the first seeds of my current faith were planted, and I’m forever thankful for that.2
This church situation worked well for us as a family, I think.
Until 1986, when Mom met a guy named Bill. I don’t know where she met Bill, but Bill was from Canada. He promised her the world, and she decided to take as many of the kids as she could, and moved us to Gloucester, just outside of Ottawa.
Uprooted from everything that we were familiar with, in a foreign country, with no support system around us at all. It was total culture shock, and for reasons that I can’t really explain here, it was a huge mistake. Because in February of 1987, my Mom, whose car had been sold for scrap because Bill was an alcoholic deadbeat, called that same church, and pleaded with them to send someone to help us come back home.
And, because the church wanted to represent Jesus well, they did just that. Two men came to our rescue, one driving a moving van, the other driving a vehicle large enough to fit my mom, my younger siblings, and I.
Returning to the States was difficult. Despite the home situation in Canada, I was flourishing in school, I had a lot of friends, and nobody seemed to care that I was white trash; I was an American, and back then, that carried a lot of cache with people. I returned to my old school, barely passing the fourth grade, and speaking with a Canadian accent3.
But we returned to church for a while. I say a while, because I’m not sure when we stopped going4. One Sunday, my Mom loaded us all up into the car, but instead of driving to church, she turned the radio on to the local pop station, and we’d drive around, listening to American Top 40, hosted by Casey Kasem.
Soon enough, this was our Sunday ritual. We’d dress as though we were going to church, get in the car and drive, listening to Casey Kasem count down the hits. My mom told us to not tell our grandfather, he would be upset that we were not going to church. So we didn’t. At least not for a while.
Eventually we stopped faking going to church, once my grandfather found out about our deception. I’d still listen to American Top 40, though. Taping my favorite songs when I’d hear them, because it was the easiest way to plan on getting a clean recording of a hit song - if you knew its position the week before, you could be ready for it to either climb or go down the charts.
So what does this have to do with Cutting Crew?
The first song I really remember digging on American Top 40 was “(I Just) Died in Your Arms”. I’m not sure why it appealed to my 9 year-old brain, maybe it was the heavily flanged out vocals on the “Now I…” part, or the keyboard part. I just dug that song. And I was super psyched to listen as it climbed the chart every week, eventually hitting number 1.
There’s other songs I love on this album too - “I’ve Been in Love Before” was their follow up single, and “One for the Mockingbird” was featured on the soundtrack for Can’t Buy Me Love, one of my favorite movies of all time for sentimental reasons. The other songs are standard eighties Brit-Pop, with synthesizers and guitars that have a bit of a prog-rock vibe to them.
Is the album good enough to cut church for? I think I’ll let you decide that.
I didn’t know the name of the song until I wrote this. I had to Google “What song do the kids in The Breakfast Club whistle?” in order to find this out. I figured the actual title of the song would look better than me writing, “to the tune that the kids in The Breakfast Club whistle in that one scene while they are bored.”
That church is so important to me that I convinced my wife to hold our wedding ceremony there. Even though the decor was … not good.
To this day, if we take a trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, or further north, like Toronto, I find myself slipping into the accent subconsciously. I have no idea why.
I have no idea why we stopped going either. I don’t know if Mom was ashamed of having to ask for help to move back home, or if someone asked her to stop attending for some reason. We just…stopped going. And it’s really weird that we left after they did something so huge for us. I know if you did something that huge for me, I’d at least wait a year before bailing.