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The Covers XII: “God Gave Rock and Roll To You.”

September 1, 2020

If you are new to my covers posts, or to my blog in general, I want to let you know that I like to ramble on a bit. I’ll take you on a journey.. a musical one, yes, but occasionally back into my past.

“God Gave Rock and Roll To You.”

This is a really fun song! I first heard it back in 1985, on an album called “Beat The System,” by a Christian Rock group called Petra. (Petra means “rock” in Greek, so I’ve heard) I had no idea the song was a cover.

Petra was very popular in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene, and had been for years, but was not at all well known to the public at large.

The only Christian band to have major crossover success was Stryper, and Stryper would not achieve their success until the following year, with their 3rd release, “To Hell With the Devil.” That was in ’86.

In ’85, I turned 13, and was living in Chicago. I’d already been a Petra fan for two years.

My dad was a graduate student at North Park College and Seminary. Our family moved out from the Central Valley California city of Modesto to Chicago, so dad could earn a Master’s of Divinity degree. He was hoping to become a chaplain. That didn’t work out, but that’s another story.

It took dad three years to earn his M.A. The first year, he, my mom, my little brother, I and our two pet rats lived in a very small apartment. After a year passed, dad was able to get us into a much larger apartment, in a big old building – a classic Chicago brownstone.

Amazing square footage for an apartment. Not fancy at all, ancient radiators, no air conditioning except those AC boxes that fit in windows. We had the third floor apartment, which was the top floor. The first floor was a walk-up, because there was a basement apartment beneath, that was not quite a basement. I loved the place.

I spent a LOT of time in that apartment listening to music. Not just Christian music, but ’80’s top 40. Such a huge variety! I first became a music fanatic in that apartment. I had a little off-brand boom box which I listened to every day.

I had been a fan of Petra since 1983, when I first heard them. That was the year we moved to Chicago. Dad took me to a Petra concert that was part of their “Not of this World” tour. Someone, I don’t remember who, gave us free tickets.

Quite an experience for a 5th grader! Pretty big concert for a Christian band. Even had pyrotechnics. I was amazed, thrilled. And temporarily deafened. I didn’t mind. Such a powerful experience!

At the time, I didn’t know the tour name. I was hoping to purchase a cassette with the songs from the concert that were most memorable to me, but by mistake, I bought a previous album, “More Power To You,” which was released in 1982. Not a bad mistake that I made. The album was excellent. I eventually bought “Not Of This World.”

Two years later, “Beat The System” came out. It is hard for me to describe the sound. More distorted – not a crunchier guitar sound – but a weird use of synthesizers and sound effects – not exactly an album that would fit into a genre later called Industrial, but moving a bit in that direction.

The only two songs I liked on that album were “Witch Hunt,” which was a bit humorous, and “God Gave Rock and Roll To You,” which was very enjoyable. Also, this song sounded more like the music on their previous two albums than the other songs on “Beat The System.”

One of the most famous bands ever, Kiss, later covered this tune, in 1991. It was released on the soundtrack for “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” The film was the sequel to the classic, strange and hilarious comedy, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” In the first film, Bill and Ted (Ted played by Keanu Reeves, who surprisingly because hugely famous.. he played the dumber of the two characters) traveled through time in a phone booth, collecting historical figures.

In the second film, Bill and Ted were killed. I forget how exactly. Most of the rest of the film was their funny and bizarre journey through various realms of the afterlife.

Although I’m not a Kiss fan, I think that band did a heck of a job covering the song.

Their cover was really a shock to me. Why? Because up until doing some research for this post, I thought the 1985 Petra version was the original. I was stunned that Kiss was even aware of Petra, and that they’d heard and liked the tune.

But the Petra version I heard in ’85 was.. not the original..

The original song was recorded by British band Argent (not a Christian band). Argent was started by a guy named Ron Argent. Argent means “silver” or “silvery white” in French, by the way. I had a feeling the name meant something, so I googled it.

The band Argent recorded the song in 1971 during their sessions for their album, “All Together Now,” which was released in 1972. However, the song was not on that album.

If you are an American, and not very familiar with Argent, don’t feel bad. They only had one hit over here, called “Hold Your Head Up,” from “All Together Now.”

“God Gave Rock and Roll to You” did not show up until their next album, “In Deep,” released in 1973.

Here is the original by Argent:

Here are the original lyrics. I’m posting the lyrics because Petra later got permission not only to cover the song, but change the lyrics. And after that, Kiss tweaked the lyrics.

God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Saved rock and roll for everyone
Love your friend and love your neighbour
Love you life and love your labor
No it’s never too late to change your mind
Don’t step on snails, don’t climb in trees
Love Cliff Richard but please don’t tease
It’s never too late to change your mind
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Saved rock and roll for everyone
If you wanna be a singer or play guitar
Man you’ve gotta sweat or you won’t get far
‘Coz it’s never too late to work nine to five…

Cliff Richard? Mentioned in the song, but, as I am an American, I’ve never heard of this guy. Some pop stars in the UK don’t make it over here. However, Cliff Richard was so successful in his native land that he was made a Knight of the British Empire. He’s called Sir Cliff Richard. He is 79 now.

The lyric “please don’t tease” might have been a reference to Richard’s practice of Christianity, and his softer music sound that contrasted with his earlier recordings. Maybe he became less popular because of this choice. He was very popular before the Beatles became famous.

Enough about Sir Cliff..

I want to return to Petra for a bit..

After doing some reading, mostly on Wikipedia, I learned that Petra actually covered this song twice. The first Petra album I bought was their 5th release, “More Power To You.”  I didn’t go that far into their back catalog, and so was unaware of their second album, called “Come and Join Us,” released in ’77, and the first of two Petra albums to feature this song.

Petra’s sound had changed over time. Their first four albums were sort of generic rock, although in their 4th release, “Never Say Die,” it was clear they were starting to develop their own sound.

“More Power To You” and “Not of This World” were a lot more interesting than their previous albums.  A prog rock sound that was heavier than their earlier recordings, more bold, and had much more focus on keyboards.

And then, as I already mentioned, they made “Beat the System.”

But back in ’77, Petra didn’t have an official lead singer. They got a guy named Greg X. Volz to sing a couple songs on “Come And Join Us,” including the song I am writing about. Volz eventually became the lead singer, (I still think he was a truly great rock singer.. very unique voice) and recorded the song with the band a second time, in 1985.

Here are the Petra lyrics.. obviously Christian..

God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone.
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone.
You can learn to dance
Or you can be a square
You can let the music take you anywhere
But where will you be when the music’s gone?
You can learn to sing
You can play guitar
You can learn to rock
You can be a star
But where will you be when the music’s gone?
If you love the sound
Then don’t forget the source
You can turn around,
You can change your course,
‘Cause it’s never too late to change your mind.
You can love the rock
And let Him free you soul
Or you can let the old man take his toll
It’s never too late to change your mind.
Here is the second of Petra’s renditions, and the one I first heard..

On to Kiss..

Because Kiss, like Petra, changed the lyrics some, Kiss released the song as “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II.”

Here are the Kiss lyrics..

God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
Do you know what you want? You don’t know for sure
You don’t feel right, you can’t find a cure
And you’re gettin’ less than what you’re lookin’ for
You don’t have money or a fancy car
And you’re tired of wishin’ on a falling star
You gotta put your faith in a loud guitar
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone (oh yeah)
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
Now listen
If you wanna be a singer, or play guitar
Man, you gotta sweat or you won’t get far
‘Cause it’s never too late to work nine-to-five
You can take a stand, or you can compromise
You can work real hard or just fantasize
But you don’t start livin’ ’till you realize
I gotta tell ya
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul
God gave rock and roll to you (to everyone he gave the song to be sung)
Gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you (to everyone he gave the song to be sung)
Gave rock and roll to you, saved rock and roll for everyone
Saved rock and roll
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you put it in the soul
I know life sometimes can get tough and I know life sometimes can be a drag
But people, we have been given a gift, we have been given a road
And that road’s name is rock and roll
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
And here is Kiss, with plenty of clips from the film.
https://youtu.be/ybmEK64OkjA
Damn. It is not showing up.. hopefully at least the link will work. I haven’t had a youtube glitch in years. I don’t know what is going on now.
That’s it for this entry. Coming up in later covers posts.. Neil Young, Type O Negative, Joni Mitchel, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Stay with me..
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