"Rock and Boat (Boat of Peter)" [live video]
October 9, 2010 at 11:47 am
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/5797863 for an audio mp3 version, posted 10/30/10
It was August in 1980. I had moved out on my own in a room at a roach-filled boarding house in downtown Framingham. It was very discouraging and my faith was shaken. I would struggle over the next few years. But there was a great interlude where I reconnected with my faith and wrote two songs at the same time, songs that I treasure. One was “I See His Face” and the other was this song. I think I was partially influenced by a song on the radio, “Sailing” by Christopher Cross; you can probably hear that in the intro. But I took this in another direction. I didn’t just want the swaying feel of the “boat” on the ocean, I also wanted the hardness, sureness and excitement implied by the word “rock”, both the object AND rock music. It was going to be about a Rock AND a Boat - hence, the title!
This idea came from a sense of what the Church is. St. Paul presents the Church as something we believe IN, in the same way we believe in Christ, an ‘object of faith’. This means we don’t have to be overly discouraged by the failings and humanness of the leaders or members. Jesus guaranteed the truth in the Church by the power of His Spirit, which is very reassuring in an ever-changing world with its storms and waves.
A main influence for the song was the famous prophetic dream of St. John Bosco. [A famous painting depicting it is below.] Writing in the 19th century, he foresaw that there would be a Council about the mid 20th century that would unloose a horrible storm within the Church and thus the world. He saw that the storm would not subside until the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, had firmly retied the “Barque” or Boat of Peter to the twin pillars of the Bread of Life and the Motherhood of Mary (given to us by Christ from the Cross). You can see this in the first verse: “Though it may seem so stormy now so as to smash it into the sea, up it rises the Boat of Peter it is sailing.”
Obviously the prediction about Vatican II was pretty amazing. I was convinced that John Paul II was the Pope to fulfill the recovery part of this; he had already written a beautifully Biblical re-centering of Marian Devotion at that point and he was obviously reviving and making Eucharistic devotion relevant. I think time has confirmed the truth of my opinion. He went on to pretty firmly tie the boat to the pillars, I think.
Further, I saw all this from a personal level: the Church had literally saved my life when I was a teen in a storm and I had seen its rock-like Apostolic truth save so many others: “it seemed too much for most to believe, but it’s something I can’t afford not to” A lot of people in this prejudicial culture just can’t see this, but I’m sure grateful and I’m hoping others can be saved from the storm of destruction.
When we first started doing this, I used an ancient flanger foot-shaped pedal that sounded a lot like Queen. It sounded like waves! We did the song in the first Covenant House show, the time we slept in the Chapel. Eventually, the more competent hands of Greg stepped in and we made it a two electric combo. The version we present here displays Greg fully and you may notice the nice applause he got coming out of the lead. I really love that part where Dave Bourque on bass and I form a back and forth rhythm-bed under Greg; we then roll over to that power chord part and then segue into the last full-throated unison anthem. This video was from the 2004 Reunion and, like some other LW kids, young Dave Babish shows his chops sitting in on drums. (This does get cut off at the end, but I think it’s worth posting as is.) The thing about this song is I think it actually accomplishes the goal of conveying the feeling I wanted to convey. I am rejoicing in gratitude for the gift the Church represents for so many and this song seems to sing that out with great joy!