Putting Together The Puzzle
DAylight Newsletter 1995
by Rob Stevenson
The story of Horrendous Disc was, and continues to be, a long, drawn-out drama for the people involved, who no doubt feel that the record is aptly named. For fans, it was an ordeal waiting for an album that was always around the corner. Even when we could quiz the band members at local concerts, they were optimistic about its release. This went on for two and a half years. When Contemporary Christian Music published the story, "What Ever Happened To Horrendous Disc?" in march 1981, readers got an idea of the mess that surrounded the album. To Karen Marie Platt's credit, she details a quite fair account of the story with no one wearing white or black hats. In some ways it sounds like a divorce, each side having a curiously different account of the same events. Unlike that piece, this article doesn't concentrate so much on the personalities involved, which would be a much longer story, but the story of the album itself and its progress over several years. The music was ahead of its time in 1978. When the album was released in 1981, it was still seen as the cutting edge of CCM.
In a retrospective of popular Christian music several years ago, CCM published a list of the most influential albums of the past 25 years. Daniel Amos weighed in with two, Shotgun Angel and Horrendous Disc. Although some may argue with their selection and see these LPs as relatively tame compared to other DA records, the impact these albums made at the time was unquestioned. When they were recorded, the band was at the peak of their popularity, thousands came to their concerts and the band was loved by the Christian press. Shotgun Angel was seen as very innovative and progressive - and it was a popular album with the public.
Very shortly after the release of Shotgun Angel in the summer of 1977, new songs were being written and played live. Among these were "Hound Of Heaven," "Happily Married man," and "After All These years."
At that rate, they probably had most of the albums songs written by the new year. According to Karen Marie Platt, the six-member band went into the studio to record their next record for Maranatha! Music on March 18, 1978. They were finished by summer. A copy of the record was played at the offices of Contemporary Christian Music magazine.
A New Label
Nothing happens to the record for a while, but in late 1978 or early 1979, Daniel Amos go with Solid Rock Records, the progressive label started by CCM pioneer Larry Norman. Around this time, Word bought the Horrendous Disc tapes from Maranatha! Music. Solid Rock then leased the recordings from Word and Larry Norman, according to Platt, "began working on the final stages of the LP." Part of this involved dropping two songs and recording two new cuts, "I Love You #19" and "Hound Of Heaven." In the liner notes of the 1992 CD Shirley Goodness And Misery, Tom Gulotta of Stunt Records confirms that "Hound Of Heaven" was added, and Mark's song "Fairy Tale," was one that was dropped. Strangely "Hound Of Heaven" was being performed almost two years before its inclusion at this time, and one can only wonder why it wasn't, in fact, one of the first songs selected for the LP. "I Love You #19" is another story. According to Tom Gulotta, relaying Terry Taylor's recollection, this song was always a part of the album and "I Believe In You" was the song added at this point.
Around this same time, Larry took the band into the studio to record 5 new songs for an EP demo record. Platt reports that "Happily Married Man" was one of them, although it would seem DA was getting far from its country roots by mid 1979. Even so, this would not be the same version that most of us have heard on the Maranatha! Music releases. The effort was funded by Solid Rock, the EP never released and "the band kept the masters." To my knowledge, no test pressings of this 5-song demo have appeared on the collector's market, so it probably never got to the point where it was being seriously produced for industry distribution.
The Test Pressing
In September of 1979, a test pressing of Horrendous Disc was made by Word. It contains the same songs that appear as on the final, American released version, but in a different order and the most significant difference being some flying saucer-style sounds at the beginning of side 1.
Track Listing of the 9/79 Horrendous Disc Test Pressing
Flying Saucer Sounds
On The Line
Never Leave You
I Believe In You
I Love You #19
Man In The Moon
Hound Of Heaven
At a closer listen, there are some slight differences between this pressing and the one finally released. The test pressing's version Of "On the Line" is about four seconds longer, and the fade-out lasts longer with the brass playing some extra notes not found on the released version. More intriguing is "Hound of Heaven". On the US version, as the song ends, if one increases the volume (carefully, because you don't want to blow out your speakers or your ears by leaving it way up too long), some very different sounds can be heard - mostly some drums and guitars, and these don't appear to really belong to "Hound". On the test pressings, these were not faded out, but were at full volume which abruptly end, leading into "Horrendous Disc". There is a possibility that this was the intro to a entirely different song.
The band may have taken a copy of the record to Hawaii while they were there for a series of concerts, but Platt states that they did not hear the record until the spring of 1980 and were then surprised that it was not the correct track listing and a song was dropped. Regardless of the band's contact with the music on the test pressing, the syndicated radio program Rock & Religion recorded a program with Daniel Amos to be run in January, 1980. The program introduced listeners to the brand new album and played "I Love You #19, "I Believe in You", "Hound of Heaven", "Tidal Wave" and "On the Line". In the interview, Terry Taylor explained that they had considered putting "Happily Married Man" on the album to help satisfy the country music-loving DA fans, but ended up dropping the idea. As it was, the prescient fans who taped this program off the radio in early 1980 had the only publicly available copies of these songs for well over a year. The cover art for the album was finished by this time because Contemporary Christian Music's January, 1980 issue, featured a cover story on Daniel Amos entitled, "Christian Music's Angry Young Men?" The magazine cover shot appeared on the back of the Horrendous Disc LP.
The story continues in May of 1980 when, it seems, Word was pressing a number of copies of Horrendous Disc, including cassettes. Whether this is the same as the September test-pressing is unclear. In July, 1980, Word released a 10-inch EP for radio stations, although there may have been two configurations. The multi-color vinyl record, according to Platt, contains 2 songs on the first side to be played at a normal album speed, "I Believe in You" and "Hound of Heaven". The other side, pressed at 78 RPM, was the title cut of the album. Whether or not there were two EP configurations, what is certain is that there is another version of the EP, serial number SREP-207, that was pressed on blue and white vinyl as well, with the same differences in recording speed between the two sides. Side 1 contains "I Believe in You", "Hound of Heaven", and "Horrendous Disc", and the other side has the flying saucer sounds which leads into "On the Line". The cuts used are those from the 9\79 test pressing. This move by Word certainly indicates that the label thought the album would be released very shortly thereafter. With the promo EP release and the band's appearance on Rock & Religion, we can also see which cuts were being targeted for radio airplay.
Back In The Studio
While Daniel Amos and the world were waiting for Horrendous Disc to be released, a number of songs were written and recorded by the band as demos. The previously noted Shirley, Goodness and Misery contains some of these gems which were also frequently played in the band's concerts. To that list can be added "As Long as I Live" and perhaps "No Spaceship" and "Out of Town". All the while, the band's musical tastes were evolving and changing along with the rest of the music world. At the end of this period, they recorded for Benson an album that sounded very different from the often-delayed Horrendous Disc. As it worked out, !Alarma! was released weeks after Horrendous Disc in the spring of 1981, so close together, in fact, that they were reviewed together in the same issue of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. The released version had gone through some very slight changes from September, 1979, with early fadeouts on a couple songs. This editing was probably done by either Solid Rock or by Word and not by the band, else the record may have undergone even more changes. The mysteries don't end even with the release of the LP, since the CCM reviewer, JWS, was unsure whether the nine-song or the ten-song version of the LP would be released. If JWS is John Styll, then he probably heard the record way back in 1978. he either could have remembered a different line-up or there was, at some point, a ten-song test pressing that was given to him.
After All These Years
With the CD revolution, reissues have been popular in both Christian and mainstream music. All of the Daniel Amos backlog has been released except for this album. 1995 isn't so different from 1979. Fans want to see this album re-released. Da would like to see it released, so much so, that, at times past, they have even considered simply re-recording the songs from the LP. Although it would be interesting to listen to the music revisited by an older, more experienced band, it would not carry the memories that many of us have of the original. They have been endlessly pestered about a CD reissue, but it is not up to them. The right to the original recordings belong solely to Solid Rock, although, since "Fairy Tale" was released on Shirley, Goodness and Misery, it would seem that some of the earlier tapes do not belong to that label. With the recent release of Randy Stonehill's The Sky is Falling, there is reason to hope not only for a release of the Daniel Amos recording, but also the other fine Solid Rock releases. There is an outside chance that someday the other songs in this story might come to light. Some of us waited two and a half years for the first coming of the album, we can do this too. Until then, we take good care of our LPs and patiently wait in another Horrendous Disc vigil.
This bit of archaeology would not have been possible without CCM's and Karen Marie Platt's great article from March 1981. In addition, many thanks go to Tom Gulotta for keeping me from reiterating some questionable facts.