There is a group on Facebook urging good Christian people in Britain to buy a particular song. If you are on Facebook you may already have been pestered to join. The song is History Maker by Delirious (who recently split). The reason we should buy? Apparently we need to get the song to Number one in the music singles chart and thereby get the Christian message out to the British people. But is that a good reason, and what are the chances of the scheme actually working?
A cunning Christian plan
I must at this point confess a guilty secret. In 1989 I was swayed by a similar campaign (though not, obviously, via internet means) to purchase “Let The Flame Burn Brighter” by Graham Kendrick. The marketing had a cunning plan – the song was to be sung throughout the shopping streets of Britain by thousands of Christians of many church affiliations taking part in the March For Jesus. Despite this twist, and despite me trying to sway my then girlfriend to buy a copy of her own, the song peaked at 55 in the charts, the general population were oblivious to the whole endeavour and many Christians were left with a single that they had little wish to play.
More recently and with a somewhat higher profile, Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer in 1999 was refused a release by his own record label EMI but with help from a Christian bandwagon made it to the number one spot for two weeks, though it was severely panned by critics and caused heated argument and ill-will between, on the one side, people who felt it was a dreadful religious record being foisted on them in the name of charity, and on the other side, people who felt that at the time of transition from one century to another, it was appropriate for a prayerful song to be number one.
Tears from Heaven
I knew a lot of Christians who thought it was a bad song. The song was pushed off the number one spot for New Year 1999/2000 by Westlife with “I have a dream”. I think it is debatable whether that was better!
One other prime example of the Christian Attempt At Number One was Heartbeat’s “Tears from Heaven” in 1987. The band in retrospect think they and their Christian supporters were naïve – not realising that lobbying radio stations to play the single might just annoy those being lobbied. The song peaked at 32.
I think that is the key. If a song is good (and has reasonable distribution) it will be recommended by word of mouth and by good reviews. Lobbying or petitioning or starting vociferous Facebook groups can have a negative effect – not just on a secular world but on potential Christian purchasers. People don’t like being told what to do. “History Maker” may or may not be a good song, but if you think it is then you’ve probably already got it (it was first released on an album in 2002 and in 2003 it was made available as a free download) – you won’t be waiting until the time period prescribed on the Facebook page (will you?).