I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
"The Peters Brothers Interview Stryper: Whose Side Are They On?"
(Truth About Rock Ministries, 1987)
Run Time: Approx. 60 Minutes
Over the course of their 30+ year career, the yellow-and-black clad stalwarts of Stryper have become beloved elder statesmen not only of the "Christian Metal" scene they helped found, but also of the late '80s glam-metal scene in general. The band continues to tour and record to this day and their classic hits like "Calling On You," "Honestly," and "Soldiers Under Command" are staples of '80s metal playlists.
Their perseverance has earned Stryper the respect of peers on both sides of the theological aisle, but that wasn't always the case. During their formative period in the big '80s Stryper wasn't always taken seriously by secular hard rock fans or critics due to their religious viewpoint... but at the same time, their "heavy metal" sound and big-haired "glam" image was met with suspicion or outright hostility by segments of the Christian community, who should have been the band's biggest supporters.
[sarcasm mode on]
Fortunately, there were fair and balanced faith leaders like The Peters Brothers out there to help God-fearin' families decide if Stryper was indeed rockin' for the Rock, or if they were wolves in sheep's clothing, out to corrupt America's youth.
[sarcasm mode off]
...all of this brings us to today's review of a particularly delightful obscurity from my cassette stash, The Peters Brothers Interview Stryper: Whose Side Are They On? released in 1987 by "Truth About Rock Ministries."
I received The Peters Brothers Interview Stryper many years ago as a "free gift" with an order from a Christian-music mail order company. It's an unintentionally hilarious ministry cassette in which the Peters Brothers - a pair of evangelist preachers known for their anti-rock 'n' roll stance - investigate the Yellow & Black Attack to find out if they were clean living altar boys, or undercover agents of Satan on a mission to lure Christian youth into a lifestyle of spandex and Aqua-Net.
It may be hard to believe in this day and age, but yes, Virginia, there was actually a time when church leaders and parents thought that Stryper was a legitimate threat to their children's immortal souls!
Stryper - "Soldiers Under Command" (1985)
So Who Were the Peters Brothers, Anyway?
Dan and Steve Peters were a pair of Minnesota-based preachers who first hit the church circuit with their "Truth About Rock" campaign in 1979, warning parents about secret "backwards messages" hidden in their kids' record collections. Dan and Steve didn't invent this style of "Satanic Panic" evangelism, but they certainly came along at the perfect time to cash in, as their crusade coincided with the beginning of the 1980s heavy metal boom. KISS, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and good ol' Ozzy Osbourne provided the Brothers with more than enough gory album covers, suggestive song titles, and scary lyrics to drive their point home to terrified Christian parents.
In addition to their traveling anti-rock seminars, the Peters Brothers authored several books on the subject, the most well known being Why Knock Rock?, which was published in 1984. (Used copies of Why Knock Rock? can now be purchased from Amazon starting at a mere twenty-five cents. Just sayin.')
Calling this tape an "interview" with Stryper borders on false advertising, because Dan and Steve spend the bulk of the roughly sixty-minute run time talking to each other.
Stryper's lyrics, lifestyle, album graphics, and spiritual goals are all dissected in excruciatingly silly detail according to the brothers' four-part "system" of analysis to decide whether their music is "safe" for your kids. (The bro's also take numerous breaks to promote their various books and tapes, which are all "available at your local Christian bookstore," of course).
My favorite part comes when Steve discusses a Stryper concert he attended as part of his research. He marvels at how loud the band was, while Dan breathlessly inquires about Stryper's "style of dress" onstage. "Were they dressed sensually?" he asks his brother. "Were they grinding or trying to be sexual?" I was waiting for Steve to ask, "Ummm, Dan, is there something you'd like to tell me?"
The brothers also chat with a member of Stryper's road crew, who predictably tells them that he sees spiritual "results" among audience members after every concert, and Janice Sweet, mother of guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet and drummer Robert Sweet, who was managing the band at the time. She seems like a nice enough lady but doesn't have anything substantial to say.
FINALLY, after almost forty minutes, the Peters Brothers actually sit down and talk to a real live member of Stryper (yes, only one of them) -- drummer Robert Sweet. His laid-back, Southern Californian surfer-dude drawl makes Robert sound bored (and eventually, slightly annoyed) by the brothers' questions, though he does take the opportunity to get in a few shots at the then-current Christian music industry, particularly artists who stay out of the "unsaved" trenches and play exclusively to Christian audiences, saying, "That's like teaching Spanish in Mexico." (Excellent burn, Robert!)
"Calling On You" (1986)
As the tape comes to its merciful close, the Peters brothers never quite conclude whose "side" Stryper is on. They sum things up by saying, in essence, "Well, kids, the Stryper boys seemed pretty nice to us... but if your parents don't like them, or your youth pastor doesn't approve of them, then you should submit to their wishes." (!!) Then, of course, they encourage listeners to pray about it... which seems like a pretty major cop-out to me. I can just imagine outraged Church Ladies reaching this point in the tape and screeching, "What-what-whaaaaaat? You were supposed to TELL me what to think!"
The Peters Brothers Interview Stryper is obviously not an essential listen (aside from its ironic, cringy humor appeal) but it is certainly one of the oddest collectibles I've come across from the early days of the Christian Metal movement.
If you can find a copy of this tape on at a decent price, snap it up. It's not an "official" Stryper release so it will never be reissued.
As for the Peters Brothers, they have apparently packed up their "Truth About Rock" tent and disappeared, for which we should probably be grateful.
© 2019 Keith Abt