Neil Brennan of Nottingham tells how a track by Gethsemane Rose impacted his life.
Good biblical number is 12.12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, the 12 days of Christmas (oops, how did that one get in there!). It's also a significant figure for me for the most poignant of all reasons. Mostly within one tragic, traumatic, 12-month period, 12 young males I either knew closely or was loosely acquainted with died in one form of road accident or another.
Such is the machismic bravado of impetuous youth that they met their collective fate crashing stolen cars into trees, jumping out of taxis to avoid payment of fares and riding motorbikes into lamp posts. Loveable rogues to a man (or boy in most cases), one such victim was a fresh-faced kid barely into his teens - Jimmy.
No sooner had I acquired a copy of Gethsemane Rose's dazzling debut album Tattered 'N Torn', "Jimmy's Luck" took on a special, deeply personal meaning. With the greatest respect to the band, I don't even consider it to be one of the album's strongest tracks. Whisper it quietly but I actually liked the playing/production better in its previous life on their Taste Of Things To Come' demo!
One swift lesson I learned from that early Cross Rhythms acclaimed tape though was that others shared my liking for it. I was invited to give a talk on contemporary Christian music to the largely unsaved crowd at a local YPF. It's token HM fan took an immediate shine to "Jimmy's Luck" and despite the inner warnings of my cautious nature, I acceded to a request about borrowing the Gethsemane Rose cassette. Suffice to say, almost a full 12 (there's that number again!) months later, I've had neither sight nor sound of it since. Not that I'm one to name names or anything, but I strongly advise all and sundry never to trust anyone at St Margaret's Church youth group on Aspley Lane, Nottingham with their treasures!
In June I was involved in some small way at a Gethsemane Rose outreach gig, here in my own home city of Nottingham. Its target group, most appropriately, included the bikers among the regular throng at an established local secular rock venue. "Jimmy's Luck", that telling anthem about bikers' hedonism, went down a storm.
Bikes have played a bit part in my life for as long as I can remember. The production of pushbikes provided my family with food on the table for a whole generation, thanks to our late parents being employed at cycle manufacturing giants, Raleigh. However, it's been bikes of the motorised variety which have had the most lasting impression - and for the benefit of this richly edifying experience, I'm deeply indebted to a family called the Pratleys, who my own tribe had great pleasure living opposite for over 20 years.
Growing up on a pretty average council estate, I was blessed by a better than average upbringing, thanks in a part to the Pratleys. Because of their absolute obsession with motorbikes, especially old British ones, the Pratleys were the source of the most spectacular scenes in my infant life.
Weekends were something else, watching a procession of ageless Scotts and Barnets going through their graceful paces. In those pre-Japanese dominated days of the late 1960s and early 70s, the sights, sounds and smells of such multi award-winning machines filled our streets... and most of the surrounding ones as well. Today's environmental lobby would have been in fits at the fumes these things chucked out, their only Japanese connection being the Hiroshima-style clouds trailing behind them! What a brilliant spectacle for us snotty-nosed kids, blissfully unaware as we then were of something called the ozone layer.
As for the Pratley home, you could hardly recognize its insides as a place of human habitation. It was nothing short of a treasure trove, the true bikers complete shrine. (NB Identifying a newborn member of the Pratley clan was easy, for while the earliest two utterances of other babes were "mama" and "dada", theirs were invariably "Triumph" and "Norton"!)
Their youngest son Nigel has been a mate of mine since the day he first stripped a Yamaha from the inside of his playpen (such foreign "toys" then seen as kids stuff to families bred on "real" bikes like the Pratleys).
It's a friendship which I'm delighted to report has endured to this day, having spanned four decades - and a truer, more loyal and endearing friend I will never find (Him excluding!). At that Gethsemane Rose gig "Jimmy's Luck" made a real impact. My prayer is that the words will continue to be remembered by a whole host of Nigels. The gig was a benefit night in aid of Headway, the national head injuries charity which many accident-stricken bikers have been helped by. The concert also had the backing and support of the Christian Motorcycling Association, the bible-bashing bikers. To the heavy metal loving, Harley adoring set, the CMA play a vital role for the Lord. They can bring credible, compassionate witness to a sceptical, scathing, sometimes downright Satanic crowd.
It's a witness crying out for our wholehearted prayer support, for while there are many vehicles on which to carry the gospel, few (if any) carry it with such awesome splendour as an anointed Harley!
Like the activities of the CMA, the lyrics of Gethsemane Rose convey a crucial message for Christ. For future generations of Jimmy's, their eternal fates may well just rest on positive responses to face-smackingly up front songs like this one.
Lyrics and music by Ben Mears
Jimmy was a rich boy, diamonds and pearls
He couldn't get a job, but he got all the girls
Jimmy's Harley was so cool
Jimmy never went to school
Breaking every rule he knew
Jimmy's got a rose tattoo
Now Mr Death is ringing his bell
He doesn't know God so he's going to hell
Jimmy, he was a good boy
Jimmy, always had a new toy
Jimmy, you're gonna learn someday
Hit some ice on a roundabout
Jimmy's luck has just ran out
Jimmy hit the road on his motorbike
'cause Jimmy knows what Jimmy likes
Riding to the rising sun
Just like a bullet from a gun
He took the corner much too fast
Jimmy skidded, Jimmy crashed
He knew they'd come for him some day
They're taking Jimmy away
Jimmy hit the road and the road hit Jimmy
© 1993 White Metal Songs Reprinted with permissionThe 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.