A Voice Louder Than Rock & Roll; co-written by Dale A. Berryhill is more a religious testimonial than a biography. Quaye came from a family of musicians, following his father’s footsteps, including all his missteps into drugs and infidelity. London, mid-1960s, Caleb dropped out of school and became a ‘tea boy’ for a Denmark Street music publisher. Because of his skills playing guitar, writing music and ability to record, he found himself recording demos for many artist, including Reg Dwight, better known later as Elton John. They became friends and although Caleb’s time in the Elton John Band was short, Caleb played at the beginning of Elton’s career and at Elton’s peak. As an Elton John fan this is what I was most interested in. Unfortunately, Quaye was high on drugs and doesn’t seem to remember much of those times. I was hoping to read about his insights on playing guitar, the creative art of writing songs, and work done in the recording studios. There was only one chapter about his time with the big band Elton had from 1975-1977 covering the albums “Rock of The Westies” and “Blue Moves“, but little is said about them. Quaye had song credits on them, but I get the feeling music isn’t very important to him anymore. Instead, Quaye sees this as a turning point. His drug use was out of control, and soon he would lose his job, his wife, and all his money. Chester Thompson (Drummer for Genesis) invited him to church and Jesus did the rest. That’s when he put his life back together. The book deals with Quaye’s redemption and how he was able to rebuild his life, including reconnecting with his father.
Excerpts From The Book
On the Elton John album, for example, as exciting as those sessions were, the fact is that I only played on four tracks on that album, and I wasn’t there when the others were recorded. In that case, we all listened to the finished product because it was such a great album and because we knew it was going to be Elton’s jumping-off point, but for most of the albums I’ve played on, the only time I’ve heard them is when we were recording them. It’s sort of weird, but the fact is that your eyes are always focused on the next project.
This holds true for the artists themselves, not just the session musicians. It’s widely known that Elton tends to write the songs, play his piano part, and then go into another room and watch soccer until it’s time to do his vocals. Once he’s done this for all the tracks, he leaves, letting the producer and the rest of the band finish their parts, add backing vocals, and layering on other instruments. He comes back in for a final playback, but you can bet he doesn’t play his own albums when he’s sitting around at home.
Early in his career, Elton said that writing popular songs was like licking a stamp, putting it on an envelope and sending it off. Davey Johnstone, Elton’s lead guitar player; has stated that he doesn’t remember how to play any of the songs from the earlier albums unless he practices them to perform in concert. Likewise, Davey tells of the time in 1974 when he had to teach John Lennon the chords to Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky (With Diamonds)” so he could play on Elton’s cover of the song. As shocking as that is, you have to remember that Lennon had written that song in 1966, by which time The Beatles had stopped touring, so Lennon had quite possibly never played the song after it was recorded.
Rock & roll could not save me. My friends and family could not save me. Most Importantly, I could not save myself. I couldn’t even run my own life without messing everything up and squandering everything I had. I couldn’t do it on my own..
In fact, I saw that my whole generation had been wrong. We had all placed an emphasis on being independent-of handling life “on our own.” We had all believed that each person is able to decide what is right or wrong for himself or herself. My generation didn’t need the church, or our parents, or the government, or college administrators, or the police telling us what to do. We could make our own decisions.
Well, now that my generation had had its way for thirty years, I couldn’t name one way in which we have left society better off than it was before. Had we stopped crime, or poverty, or war? Had we cured racism or stopped the sexual exploitation of women? No, almost every social problem of the past was worse than it used to be, and my generation had surely contributed to the worsening situation by insisting that everyone could make the right decisions on their own.
I remember when the sexual revolution started in the 1960s. The mantra of that movement was that “mature, consenting adults” could make responsible decisions on their own. Court decisions such as the legalization of abortion were based on the idea that people were smart enough to make the right decisions for themselves. But if that is true, why are so many abortions-about 1.4 million-performed every year in a country in which birth control is inexpensive and widely available? Does that sound like a lot of mature people making intelligent choices?
No, the fact is that people will often make the wrong decisions when left on their own. God was showing me how true this had been in my own life. Like everyone else, I liked to think I was in control, but I wasn’t. What God showed me as I lay there completely changed rny view of myself and my relationship to the world and to God.
At every church I visit, I always have it arranged to play for the youth group. Where I used to play raucous rock & roll to kids who were lost, and rebellious, now I play songs of hope to teenagers who are searching their way to adulthood. After I play and speak, we discuss their very real concerns about life. Inevitably I end up staying afterward to talk individually with some of the young people struggling with especially difficult circumstances. Where before I exploited the angst of teenagers to sell records, now I actually help them work through their problems and find away in the darkness with the light of Jesus Christ as their guide.
You may think that getting a gold record is glamorous, but let me tell you, it will never make you feel as good as when a hurting young person hugs you with tears in his or her eyes because you’ve shown them love that they’ve never gotten at home. All the gold records in the world won’t give you the lump in your throat you’ll get when you receive a hand written note–complete with misspellings and poor grammar-from a child you spoke to six months before who has decided to stay in school and who has found a family in the Body of Christ.
You see, this book isn’t really about Elton John, and it’s not even really about me. This book is about you. It’s about where you’re going in life and where you stand with God. This book wasn’t written to give me a chance to talk about myself; it was written as a warning to you about the emptiness of the rebellious life and the glory that God offers as an antidote to that emptiness.
One of those fans is the legendary Eric Clapton. During a television (interview) with David Letterman some years ago, the host asked the legendary blues rocker, “So what’s it like to be the best guitar player in the world?” Clapton replied, “I’m not. Caleb Quaye is!”