Jun 19, 2014

Lost in his performance piece of Jesus


David Di Sabatino, director of the documentary of Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, Fallen Angel,' describes the creation of Norman's stage persona:
It is after that last mainstream album fails that he turns his attention towards the fledgling Christian youth culture where he had found steady work playing church youth group gatherings and Christian coffeehouses.

And in that subculture, Larry Norman made a genius move, filling in that hole between the two cultures by actually becoming the interstitial character that joined the mainstream pop world with the fledgling evangelical youth culture. He basically took the best of the rock world -- borrowing heavily from David Bowie but also other rock heroes like Jagger, Lennon and Dylan -- and created a character-based performance piece where he embodied the essence of the Christian faith in the persona he enveloped and projected for his fans.

I would very much make the case that just as David Bowie creates this alien space being named Ziggy Stardust who comes to earth as a messenger sent by extraterrestrials, Larry Norman became the Hollywood Street Jesus evangelist sent on a mission from God to be a singing troubadour to the Christian teen generation. The long blond hair, the denim outfit, the black leather jacket, the One-Way sign, all of it encapsulated a messianic representation for the music performances that carried such a direct Christian message. If you could have been a fly on the wall in the room where Larry and his then manager Philip Mangano cobbled together and honed Larry's image, I think the conversation would have been, 'What do these young Christian kids want to see? They want to see Jesus. Then let's give them Jesus.' And that is what Larry Norman was doing, a performance piece modeling Jesus for these young Christians. 
... Part of the Larry Norman story that needs to be understood is that not unlike Alice Cooper, who will testify that at some point he didn’t realize where Alice Cooper ended and Vince Furnier (his real name) began. I think Larry Norman got lost in his performance piece of Jesus.
The full, two-part interview is at Christian Nightmares. Di Sabato is also the director of a documentary on Lonnie Frisbee, who was influential in the Jesus People movement.