Saturday, January 27, 2007

Encountering My "Personal Jesus"

In the last month I encountered the song “Personal Jesus” in three remarkably distinct formats. The original Depeche Mode version written by Martin Gore of the group remains one of my favorite songs from the period. Despite being a part of the original electronic music movement and something of a satire of televangelism, the song still represents Jesus in a Christian manner, though the mode of accessing him is certainly not.

A few weeks ago, I purchased American IV: The Man Comes Around which is one of Johnny Cash’s last recording sessions. He covers broad genres of music from the late twentieth century on the American cds, and one of the songs that may surprise country aficionados is “Personal Jesus.” Cash’s baritone captures both the longing for a savior of a lost man and the genuine (smarmy) appeal of the televangelist as though he is the preacher on the other end of the line. The pastor’s plea heard through the line, “reach out and touch faith” almost begs the caller to reach out and save him.

Not long after purchasing, American IV, I broke down and bought The Complete Depeche Mode – 644 songs for under $200 on iTunes is not such a bad deal. One of the selling points to the collection is that it included singles and remixes of Depeche Mode songs. After listening to some of the remixes, I don’t know how we managed to dance in the 80’s. The songs didn’t even last four minutes –we were net able to even get warmed up. Many of the remixes last seven to ten minutes and make the original song sound like a dirge.

There are several remixes of “Personal Jesus” found in The Complete Depeche Mode. The acoustic version comes across almost as hauntingly as the Johnny Cash cover, but the boys of Depeche Mode need to stick to their electronic work. Some of the titles to the remixes pay appropriate homage to the song: “Kazan Cathedral Mix,” “Holier Than Thou Approach,” and “Telephone Stomp Mix” all by their title respect the original tune. Each of them, of course, has its own driving beat and I could still dance to them – but I think the memories going through my head would be more high school, so this 40-year-old better be careful what moves he makes.

My personal neighbors, if the speakers have been loud enough, have heard enough “Personal Jesus” in the last few days that I’m certain their souls are well saved. That which I lack in musical skill, I make up for in musical appreciation. I have replayed, skipped through, and switched back and forth through the many different arrangements of the song. I have spent enough time with “Jesus” that I should have made a decision by now, but I’m still examining which version I want to be my “Personal Jesus.”
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