When someone mentions the phrase “Christian music,” what comes to mind? Beyond hymnals, maybe DC Talk, Jars of Clay, Kirk Franklin, or Amy Grant? Those are all good answers—answers that highlight the fact that “Jesus music” has occasionally gone mainstream in the past few decades. Heck, sometimes bands that are mainstream but spiritual, like Lifehouse, go out of their way to avoid the “Christian band” label.
But there was a time when Christian rock was less about reaching broad audiences and more about speaking out against a disinterested public—think the visceral reaction to Time Magazine’s "Is God Dead?" cover.
That leads us to The New Creation. Seeing problems with the culture of the time, Vancouver mom Lorna Towers decided to fight culture with culture—first by working to write a play with her son Chris, then by starting a band. Chris was a guitarist interested in the rock music of the era, and he helped make those Bible-themed messages tuneful.
"The devil has the best music. It was very hard to reconcile,” Chris Towers told the Vancouver Sun of the effort in 2003.
With the help of family friend Janet Tiessen, who had just started playing the drums, the trio recorded an album called Troubled. With a budget of just $1,000, the band pressed 100 copies and recorded the album in a single six-hour studio session. The band, like the Shaggs, struggled to keep pace with their time signatures, but the Towers had a better sound engineer on the boards than the Wiggins family did—check out the tricks the engineer pulled off on the opening track, “Countdown to Revolution.”
That said, with a small number of copies produced, it was not an album appreciated in its time. Few religious stations were interested in playing rock music (or vice versa), and the record apparently aired on the radio just once after its 1970 release. (Larry Norman, who literally wrote a song titled "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music," had slightly better luck.) Troubled, meanwhile, caused trouble in Lorna Towers’ marriage, leading to divorce. The band, likewise, disintegrated soon after.
But also like the Shaggs, The New Creation found a second life in the 21st century, especially among record collectors who believed Troubled was a creative treasure. Songs like “Dig,” which implied a scenario in which archaeologists were digging up holy lands, unsuccessfully, to disprove the existence of Jesus, hold up musically even for those who might find the message a bit much.
The album was reissued in 2003—I checked, it’s on Apple Music—and a follow-up, the strikingly similar A Unique Disaster, came out in 2006. That’s right, they reunited after all those years, with neither faith nor sound wavering.
Lorna Towers died in 2015, but The New Creation’s counter-counter-cultural message lives on.
(photo via Companion Records)