"The Peters Brothers Interview Stryper: Whose Side Are They On?" Review
"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 Christian rock 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. They are still touring and recording to this day and their classic hits like "Calling On You," "Honestly," and "Soldiers Under Command" are staples of '80s metal playlists.
Stryper may have eventually earned respect from their peers on both sides of the aisle, but that wasn't always the case. During their formative period in the big '80s the band wasn't taken seriously by many secular hard rock fans and critics due to their religious viewpoint. At the same time, Stryper's "heavy metal" sound and big-haired "glam" image was often 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 undercover agents of Satan, 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 ancient 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 released in 1987, in which the Peters Brothers - a pair of preachers known for their anti-rock 'n' roll stance - investigate the Yellow & Black Attack boys to find out if they were wolves in sheep's clothing, out to lure unsuspecting Christian youth into a lifestyle of spandex and Satan.
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 a safe-as-milk band like Stryper represented 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 whose "Truth About Rock" campaign first hit the road in 1979, traveling the church circuit to warn parents about secret "backwards messages" hidden in their kids' record collections. Dan and Steve didn't invent this style of anti-rock "Satanic Panic" evangelism, but they certainly came along at the perfect time to cash in on the craze, as their crusade coincided with the beginning of the 1980s heavy metal boom. Obviously, bands like KISS, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and good ol' Ozzy Osbourne provided the Brothers with more than enough examples of gory album covers, suggestive song titles, and scary lyrics to drive their point home to terrified Christian parents. In addition to their anti-rock traveling seminars, the brothers authored several books on the subject. Their most well known title is probably Why Knock Rock?, which was published in 1984. (If you're curious, used copies of Why Knock Rock? can now be purchased from Amazon starting at a mere ten cents. Just sayin.')
Actually, calling this tape an "interview" with Stryper borders on false advertising, since Dan and Steve spend the bulk of its roughly sixty-minute run time talking to each other (while self-promoting their books and tapes, all of which are "available at your local Christian bookstore," of course). Stryper's lyrics, lifestyles, album graphics, and spiritual goals are all dissected in excruciatingly silly depth according to the brothers' four-part "system" of analysis to decide whether Stryper's music is "safe" for your kids.
My favorite part comes when Steve discusses a Stryper concert he attended, marveling at how loud it was, and Dan inquires about their "style of dress" onstage. "Were they dressed sensually?" he asks breathlessly. "Were they grinding or trying to be sexual?" I think if I were Steve, I would've asked ol' Dan if there was something he wanted to get off his chest at that point.
Eventually the brothers talk with a member of Stryper's road crew, who predictably tells them that he sees spiritual "results" among audience members after each and every concert. They also speak to Janice Sweet, the band's manager (and mother of guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet and drummer Robert Sweet), who seems like a very nice lady but has very little to say.
FINALLY, after almost forty minutes of mostly irrelevant jibba-jabba, the Peters Brothers actually talk to a real live member of Stryper (yes, only one of them) -- drummer Robert Sweet, whose laid-back, Southern Californian surfer-dude drawl makes him sound bored (and eventually, slightly annoyed) by the brothers' questions. Robert takes some pretty legit shots at the state of the then-current Christian music industry, particularly artists who stay out of the "unsaved" trenches and play almost exclusively to converted 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 really conclude whose "side" Stryper is on. They sum things up by saying, in essence, "Well, kids, them Stryper boys seemed like pretty nice fellas to us... but if your parents don't want you to listen to them, or your youth pastor doesn't like 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 lecture 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 (outside of its ironic-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 likely never be reissued, especially since the Peters Brothers have apparently packed up their "Truth About Rock" tent and disappeared, for which we should probably be grateful.
© 2019 Keith Abt