Thursday, September 8, 2005

Petra Means Rock

Rules of the Day:
Rule #1 - When aliens talk, they never use contractions.
Rule #2 - Old people always have exact change.
Rule #3 - Do not trust a man who calls the bathroom "the little boys" room.

About 14 years ago, when I was a high-school freshman, I was walking out of a youth group meeting one Wednesday night and into the parking lot where my mother's van waited. A car - an old beater of a car, too - sped right up to me, and stopped. It was my youth minister's brother-in-law. He said nothing, only rolled down his window, and handed me two cassette tapes.

"What the heck is this?" I asked.

He just smiled, rolled up his window, and drove away.

In the movie version of my life, that moment will feature a bright light shining down and angels singing.

The contents of those cassettes changed my little 14-year-old life forever.
One of those tapes had Deliverance's self titled album on one side and Deliverance - Weapons of our Warfare on the other. THAT is a whole other post altogether. The other tape had Whiteheart - Powerhouse on one side, and on the other side? Petra- Beyond Belief.

That day I was thrust into a world unlike any other I had ever known. Until that time, the soundtrack of my life had been The Beach Boys and The Monkees, and more recently Sir Mix-A-Lot and Public Enemy. I was not prepared for it - but switch had been thrown in me, and from that day forward I would be a worshiper at the church of the rock. (Dramatic enough for ya?)


There's no telling how many actual members that band has had over the years. In fact, based on the above "Then" and "Now" pictures, only one man has actually been involved for 33 years - Bob "Eddie Who?" Hartman. Which begs the question - what percentage of actual "Petra" is necessary to continue Petra? 1 out of 5? 20%? Any at all? Or perhaps - obscure Princess Bride reference coming - perhaps, like the Dread Pirate Roberts, it's the name that's the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear/respect. I do find it amazing that a band could survive something so drastic as a lead-singer change, and STILL be as good, if not better, than it was before. When that happens with most bands, people end up choosing one, to the detriment of the band's other stuff. Admit it - you either like Van Halen with Dave, or with Sammy, but not both (and certainly not Gary Cherone). You either like Judas Priest with Rob Halford or with Ripper Owens. The one notable exception is AC/DC - nobody has to choose between Bon Scott and Brian Johnson because they sound almost exactly the same. It's not like that with Petra, either. Don't get me wrong - fans will be debating Grex X. Volz vs. John Schlitt forever - but it's a little bit like arguing about who was the best Bond. It's a win-win. And no - I'm not saying which one is Connery.

Now comes word of Petra's farewell. After 33 years, and very nearly as many members, they are retiring. There have been rumors of a kind of Best Of Petra Concert, with all the former members showing up to play the all the best songs from the albums that they were on. They should literally put a revolving door on the stage. I can't tell you how cool I think that would be - I would pay any amount of money to see it. But I only say that because I know it will never happen. I did have the privilege of seeing them in concert once, though. ETBU brought them in to play for my Freshman class - the last cool thing ETBU actually did.

Anyway - say what you want about Petra, their current place in music, their relevance, and the choices they've made in the past few years, but there's no doubt that they started something, and were the best at it for a long time. I know I sound like everybody's grandfather now, but they just don't write songs like those anymore. For me, Petra will never go out of style, because every time I listen I'll remember what it meant to me growing up. I think it's safe to say that - for better or worse - without them, I wouldn't have ended up the guy I am now. Funny the things we allow to shape us, isn't it? Some people would be ashamed, but not me. Thanks for the memories, Petra - lol.

R.I.P. Petra 1972-2005


jamie said...

How is The Dread Pirate Roberts considered "obscure"?

J.T. said...

Well, not everyone is quite as well-versed in classic literature and film as you and I.

krysten said...


thats what i think about petra.

and what the heck is wrong with Gary Cherone?!?!?

...and i hate sammy, love DLR.

and who cares a rip about ac/dc, they suck all around.

ooooh, i'm nasty today...must be the bette davis in me, heh heh heh!

krysten said...

and the Dread Pirate Roberts is never obscure! amen to that.

J.T. said...

Look, about the "Dread Pirate Roberts" - I'm just trying to put the cookies on the bottom shelf, yo. After all - who would have guessed that ONE of us has missed the boat on The West Wing? And yet out of three commenters on this post so far, 33 1/3 of us are completely out in the cold on the cultural phenomenon referred to in the next post.

The Bagboy said...

Jon Schlitt winked at me once, and I swore off Christian pop/rock forever. I felt like I had just been leered at by my dirty uncle (hypothetical uncle, not literal).

West Wing can bite me. I'm culturally relevant enough without it.

Pat Man said...

Petra... They shaped my adolescence as well. That same youth ministers brother-in-law gave me tapes of Deliverance, angelica, stryper, petra, mortification and a few others... It turned me from WFMF top ten listener to a Christian Metal Head. I never actually saw Petra in concert, but I did meet the drummer back in '96 or 97' at my wifes church in Mobile. He came for a youth service where he set up his drum set and played along with cd tracks. Kinda sad, but none the less he was a phenominal drummer. I haven't listened to any of their stuff in a long time. I think I'll have to get a little petra fix later...

J.T. said...

Actually, Bill, The West Wing can't bite you. It's a television show. But YOU can bite ME, sucka. My hip itches!