Where our intrepid editorial team take an askance look at the weird and wonderful world of music and media.

Talking to Vanessa Bell Armstong recently, I got an insight into the beginnings of one of America's foremost gospel groups - and a glimpse of the kind of drive it takes to reach the top! "I knew the Winans since little boys," she told me. "I'm a little older than they are. When I was singing with Mattie Clark they thought I was a big star then, and they used to call me all the time and say 'could you listen to our songs, we wrote a new song...have you got anything to do?' and I'd say no, and they'd say 'well, listen then...' I would go down in the basement and get the phone, and listen to 'em on his piano singing...he would sing so long that a lot of times I would put the phone down and go and do what I had to do and come back and he would still be singing - he was determined, boy, they was determined little guys..."

Media howler of the month award must go to CCM, the American Christian music magazine, in a news item on British gospel group Nu Colours. Never very hot on coverage of black gospel. CCM did a news piece on the Colours following their visit to Nashville in April, and spelled out their background by giving a brief history of The London Community Gospel Choir. Bet you didn't know that Foreigner featured LCGC on its late-'80s smash. "I Want To Know What Love Is." Someone ring Bazil Meade and tell him what the choir was up to in their leisure time. Of course, the choir in question was the thoroughly American New Jersey Mass Choir.

Christian Terrorism anyone? Top songstress Sandi Patti found out that her popularity was not universal when her booking and marketing office was firebombed recently to the tune of some $650,000 damage. A group claimed responsibility in a bizarre statement to a local newspaper one day after the fire. "The Equal Religious Coalition announces on the early morning hours of April 17, 1990 we set fire to the Sandi Patti Studios" the caller stated. "We believe religion is not for sale. As a group we vow to fight the likes of Mrs Patti and we will continue to do so in our own way." Patti, who is now receiving 24-hour police protection, is understandably shaken up. Why does this item appear in a humorous column? Firstly, the ERC don't deserve serious coverage; secondly, it sounds like taking them seriously could prove fatal.

Is Britain Ready For This? Dept.: The Petra/McDowell "Why Wait?" package (see news story) is backed in the States by promotional T-Shirts. The front in bold black and red, states, "I'M NOT DOING IT." The back list reasons why, including "God's plan is best...it's a thrill that could kill...I'd rather bare my soul than my bottom...Real men don't act like animals...What am I missing out on? Pregnancy? Guilt? Hurt? Disease?" Tell it like it is Josh. Can we expect to see these shirts on our high streets and in our churches in 1991?

The old myths die the hardest. Yet another American pastor has made a public statement to the effect that listening to contemporary Christian music leads to moral dissolution, bankruptcy, blindness etc. Bill Gothard has published a booklet supporting his highly original thesis, which includes the testimonies of 44 young people who claim that the aforesaid music has led them to a life of sin. When another American, Al Menconi, stated that 18 years of ministry had led him to a very different conclusion about the effects of Christian music, and stated that he could get hundreds, maybe thousands of testimonies to back up his claim, Gothard responded "I don't believe it! I don't believe you can produce any legitimate positive witnesses concerning contemporary Christian music." He went on to say that he wanted the names and phone numbers of people who had the audacity to claim Christian music especially Christian rock, was a positive influence on their life. Menconi has responded to the challenge and is busy collecting testimonies (and phone numbers) to present to Gothard on 15 June.

Heavy rockers Bloodgood claim a first with their live concert video, which will be closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. Could this be their way of making up to all their fans who have gone deaf listening to their live-shows in the past?

It's the real thing...BeBe Winans isn't above using his vocal chords to plug secular product; the Winans' tonsils can currently be heard Stateside on a Coca Cola advert...Meanwhile folk veteran Johnny Cash has entered a deal with a North American bank where life-size cardboard cut-outs of the singer stand beside their cash dispensers; that's what we call cashing in on the family name.

And finally, YO! Forefront, the US Christian rap label, is planning what they proudly bill as a first for Christian music, a Christmas rap album. The album will feature rappers DC Talk, ETW (End Time Warriors) and True MC. The title? You guessed it...'YO! HO-HO!' CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.