Over the years many rockers have found religion – so here is our pick of the pops - the top ten believers who are more at home in leathers than sweaters, and more likely to site the influence of AC DC than Graham Kendrick.
Here, in descending order, are our top ten examples of rock and rollers who have made the transition from trashing hotel rooms to sharing a cup of tea after the morning service.
10) At number ten is the former rock and roll roadie Barry Taylor, who became a Christian while working for Rock legends AC DC – on their ‘Highway to Hell’ tour. Taylor still looks the part, but now pastors a church in California.
Once nicknamed ‘The screaming skull’ because of his gaunt drug addicted frame, Taylor began to search for a ‘higher power’ after realising the emptiness of his existence. His life hasn’t been totally smooth since his conversion but Barry has come a long way since he sat in the wings playing back up guitar for Angus and co.
Nicko McBrain, they dont make much madder drummers.
9) At number nine is Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain. Iron Maiden, for all their heavy rock iconography, were always an idiosyncratic outfit – and Nicko felt no need to retire from drumming for Maiden after his conversion in 1999.
Having joined the group in 1983 at the time when Maiden were part of the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ McBrain became well known as one of the ‘characters’ of Rock music – something which hasn’t changed dramatically since he became a Christian after being taken to church by his wife.
Barry McGuire, not as hairy, but still here.
8) Back in the 1960s, when the seeds of heavy rock were being planted by the hippies, a long haired Barry McGuire was in the thick of things, experimenting with the ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’ lifestyle which has become a cliché of modern music. His No 1 hit ‘Eve of Destruction’ ensured his musical immortality.
So key was he in the scene of the time, that he was even sited as a direct influence on Frank Zappa. But unlike many of his contemporaries who went on to die untimely deaths, McGuire saw the light in 1971. Since his conversion he hasn’t stopped performing, but switched from the heady highs and devastating lows of Californian rock, to the Jesus movement.
Petra front man John Schlitt wasnt always Mr Nice Guy.
7) One of the key Christian rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s was Petra, and their charismatic front man John Schlitt was a key part of that. But prior to joining Petra, Schlitt was another of Rock’s casualties, having become an alcoholic cocaine addict during his time with Hard Rockers ‘Head East’.
His decent into addiction and depression precipitated a radical reversal in lifestyle, when he became a Christian. His conversion signalled his departure from the music industry, but he was tempted back on to the stage when Petra founder Bob Hartman invited him to audition for the group.
Caped crusader prog rock king Rick, has turned into a Songs of Praise stalwart
6) Songs of Praise stalwart Rick Wakeman used to be one of Rock’s bad boys too. The keyboard maestro of prog rock ensemble Yes, and one time member of the Strawbs, used to drink prodigiously.
But his party animal days began to end when he suffered two heart attacks in his twenties. Eventually he made the momentous decision to return to the faith which he had professed as a teenager, and now party animal Rick is long gone, and in his place is family man Rick, albeit still with an ascerbic tongue, long hair, and amazing keyboard skills.
5) In at number 5 – it’s the first of two entries from the masters of metal - Megadeth. Dave Mustaine was initially fired from thrashers Metallica partly because of his ‘incredibly large’ problem with alcohol and drugs, and his aggressive behaviour.
Monster of Rock Dave Mustaine was too tough for Metallica, but not too tough for God.
But not long after being given the boot from Metallica Mustaine met bassist Dave Ellefson and formed Megadeth. Along with Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, Megadeth was one of ‘The Big Four’. Mustaine began to explore Christianity when he attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and eventually became a committed Christian.
4) At number 4 is Mustaine’s band mate, Dave Ellefson. Despite a well-publicised falling out with Mustaine which led to Ellefson leaving Megadeth, and for a long time refusing to talk about the band at all – he has recently been reconciled to his old friend, and toured with Megadeth again.
The reason he makes it one place higher up the chart than Mustaine is that Ellefson has recently decided to train for ministry as a Lutheran pastor. He already plays in a worship group in the church he and his family attend, and now plans to take his commitment a step further. Famously he described Satan, the traditional talisman of heavy metal bands, as ‘kind of a small fry guy’.
3) At number 3 is the diminutive guitarist Dan Spitz from Thrash pioneers Anthrax. Renowned for the musical onslaught that their records provide for receptive ears – the name ‘Anthrax’ was chosen because it sounded ‘evil’ – and their audience lapped it up.
But in 1995, after years of musical success, and award nominations for music he co-wrote and co-produced, Spitz grew disillusioned with the music he had loved, and left it behind to become… a watchmaker. In this period of relative peace, he revisited his Jewish roots, and eventually converted to Messianic Judaism.
Brian 'Head' Welch, from nu metallers Korn
2) At number two is the remarkable ‘Head’ from ‘nu metal’ band Korn. Formed in the 1990s the band became the embodiment of a new type of heavy metal music, but although the music may have been different, the lifestyles weren’t. By the mid 2000’s, Head, aka Brian Welch was caught in a self-destructive whirlpool of methamphetamine abuse.
Like many rockers before him he realised his only way out was to find God, so he began to go to church, where he would sit, high on drugs and watch others give their lives to Jesus. After experiencing his own conversion in 2005 he quit Korn and decided to take his parental responsibilities seriously. He still plays music, but the days of hate and anger which had fuelled his dissonant guitar riffs are now behind him.
Not your conventional Christian: Alice Cooper isn't everyone's first choice for Pastor.
1) In at number one is the man who in many ways came to define the image of heavy metal music. Having begun his recording career in the 1960s Vincent Furnier – better known as the shock-rocker Alice Cooper first made headlines for the infamous ‘chicken incident’ when he threw a live chicken into his audience, only for frenzied fans to rip it apart.
Alice Cooper, originally a band name, was signed by lover of the bizarre, Frank Zappa, (in turn influenced by Barry McGuire). When newspapers began to report that Furnier had in fact bitten the head off the chicken, and drunk its blood Zappa quickly urged him not to deny it – the resulting publicity made Alice Cooper a household name.
Despite continuing to use the same kind of shocking imagery he used to – including guillotines and plenty of fake blood and black make up – Cooper is very much a reformed character, having been spurred on to a change of life because of his acute alcoholism.
May 1st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross