Larry Norman died back in 2008. It seemed like a big deal to me at the time. I had followed his life and music since I was in Grade 7 and it really shocked me that he had finally, actually died. I mean, he'd sung about his impending death so much that it was kind-of weird that it actually happened. I planned to go to a little open-mic tribute show at The House of James in Abbotsford, but was thwarted by unique circumstances. I intended to play one of his lesser-known blues numbers, "When the Son Comes Back."
For all intents and purposes, I was a fan. I think I really enjoyed Larry Norman's music for the most part, or at least I enjoyed collecting it and following him. Some of his songs are excellent; a bunch of them are pretty good; lots of them are laughably bad. Late in his life, he released five or six albums a year on CD-R and I was able to generally keep up with the releases until I got married. Admittedly, most of these albums were disappointing, but I have to admit they were fun to collect.
After a while, I started collecting the albums more for the artwork and the liner notes than for the music itself. Music-wise, I expected disappointment: some raggle-taggle collection of outtakes that didn't deserve to be released in the first place, or perhaps a live concert with a bunch of the same songs released on ten other albums. He seemed to have a mission to release everything he put to tape, even the most unsuitable bootlegs, and often alluded in his newsletters that it was hard to tell what type of music his fans wanted. Apparently there are piles of tapes still sitting at his estate in Salem, still waiting to be digitized.
Recently, on Christian Nightmares, I read an interview with David Di Sabatino, the director of Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman. I saw the film a few years ago and wasn't impressed. I felt it was cheap and sloppy, extremely long, and obsessively shill-ish. Moreso, it seemed as self-indulgent as Larry's own liner notes: it made a big, big deal out of comparatively minor events. The film prompted loads of Internet and real-life drama for diehard Larry Norman fans. I even wrote a negative review of the film on Amazon.
But I couldn't shake a bunch of the film's accusations, largely because I felt he indirectly confirmed them by his many defensive and aggressive allegations in his extensive liner notes, interviews, and newsletters. Even when I was in high school, I could read between the lines and infer that there was more going on than he let on.
So, in case you're interested in the interesting Larry Norman story, although I can't recommend the film, I do recommend the interviews at Christian Nightmares. Here's Part 1: Here's Part 2. I feel that this interview is much more balanced than what came out in the film. Where the film came off as vendetta-like, these interviews come off as literate. Di Sabatino keeps it personal, describes his experiences clearly, and delineates the differences between his facts and inferences.
Here's one part that I appreciated, simply because it confirmed to me that somebody else read through the liner notes in a similar way:
And I appreciate what he says about being a "fan."
It's hard to say whether I'm a "fan" anymore. I only have five or six of his songs on my phone and I usually skip them when they appear in the shuffle. As much as I try to enjoy listening to the So Long Ago the Garden album (which is an excellent album) or scattered songs, interviews like this one have just tainted his image too much to really enjoy the music. And that's kind-of sad because I know his music brought me joy so many times before.
But here's a little version of one of his songs that I recorded a few years ago. His songs weren't all that bad. I just can't enjoy them anymore.
The Internet Archive
YouTube: ephemeral ideas