Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sam Phillips: I Need Love

I've been on a Sam Phillips kick recently. Probably because I had heard that she was coming out with a new album in February 2008, and I'm not ashamed to say, I've been checking her site every week or so for news. So when I found out that Don't Do Anything won't actually be out until June (sigh), I've been digging out all her old stuff, just to get my fix.

Last night, it was her 1994 album, Martinis & Bikinis, which Kevin had to finally ask me to turn the volume down on since I *was* kind of blasting out the whole neighborhood. But 1994 was the year I graduated high school, and I Need Love was one of the songs playing full blast in my head back then.

I've been a Sam Phillips fan since about 1986 (if you don't want to do the math, I was 11). Only she wasn't Sam back then, she was Leslie Phillips, a CCM ("Contemporary Christian Music") pop star who was billed by her record label as the "Christian Cyndi Lauper." Her album Black and White in a Grey World was one of the first cassette tapes I bought with my own money (and yes, I tried to wear my hair like that, too).

But Leslie Phillips' lyrics weren't the kind of warm, fuzzy mainstream CCM that was the norm in the 80s. She sang about spirituality in poetic and challenging ways and tackled the tough issues of both faith *and* doubt. In her songs, she called out the holier-than-thou, judgmental attitudes of the Christian community ("You smoke-screen with your judgmental words/But when the air clears you're just a scared little child/You smoke-screen, but you're fearful inside/That God doesn't love you/You let fear run you wild"). Her lyrics spoke so clearly to the world I lived in, and the ideas and emotions I was trying to sort through in my pre-teen years. I would listen on my pink portable tape player, liner notes in hand, following along word for word. Eventually in the late 80s, Leslie "went secular," changing her name and her record label, and I rooted for her all the way.

So that's all to say that if Leslie Phillips was the conduit for my pre-teen contemplations, by the time 1994 rolled around, Sam Phillips' I Need Love was the outlet for my particular brand of teen angst, blasted at full volume in my room on my very first CD player. It said everything I wanted to say:
I need love
Not some sentimental prison
I need god
Not the political church
I need fire
To melt the frozen sea inside me
I need love

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