Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 5: Don’t Wait for the Movie

I want to thank all of you who are following along with this series. It’s going to end up being 12 or 13 parts, which makes it quite the time commitment on your part, so I want you to know how grateful I am.

If I could ask one additional thing from you as you read this series, it would be to listen to these Whiteheart albums and songs with an open mind. For many of you, this was the style of music that you grew up with. For others, these early albums were well before your time. Either way, it’s always best to listen to music in the context in which it was created. While it might not be your preferred style or genre of music, there is a lot to appreciate even with these albums that are 4 decades old.

Again, thanks for reading and listening. It means more than you know. Now, let’s talk about “Don’t Wait for the Movie”!


whiteheart

This was the band-altering pivot point for Whiteheart. After a very successful tour for Hotline, lead singer Scott Douglas quit the band. He quit because he was soon to be charged with multiple counts of sexual assault. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. It’s an incredibly sad story, with lives shattered, so I don’t want to give the impression that how this affected the band was the most important aspect. It wasn’t. But it was a huge controversy for a young band that was starting to find their footing and really take off. They weren’t even sure if they were going to continue after Douglas quit.

After much prayer and discussion, they decided to keep going. Which meant they needed to find a new singer. In what is now a story of legendary status for Whiteheart fans, the band didn’t need to look far for their new singer. Rick Florian had been working as part of the crew for the band. He would help run wires, set up the stage, and everything else that a roadie would do. He would also lip sync and dance around on the stage during sound check. The band members hoped that his voice would match his stage presence, so they gave him an audition. After multiple rounds of auditioning, he got the job. And just like that, Whiteheart was reborn.

The other lineup change for Don’t Wait for the Movie was finding a new drummer to replace David Huff. Joining the band was Chris McHugh. He would stay with the band for the next 3 albums, and then play on their 1992 album, Tales of Wonder.

With the lineup solidified, the band entered the studio and created their most assured, intense, and cohesive album yet. Most Whiteheart fans will point to this album as the moment the band truly hit its stride. There was no more straddling the fence between adult contemporary and rock and roll. Whiteheart was now fully on the rock and roll side of the fence. The opening title track makes that abundantly clear with its pounding drums, pulsing keyboards, and distortion-soaked guitars.

For the next nearly 46 minutes, Whiteheart leans into their newfound commitment to a more aggressive sound. With tracks like the rhythmically intense “The Beat of a Different Drum” or the borderline hard rock number, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Christian”, the band makes it clear there is no looking back for them.

That’s not to say the entire album is turned up to 11. There are still plenty of ballads, including the massive hit, “Fly Eagle Fly” which landed the band their first number one song of the year on the AC Christian charts. Other notable ballads or mid-tempo songs on the album are “Maybe Today” and the powerful closer, “How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven)”.

From beginning to end, Don’t Wait for the Movie sounds better and rocks harder than anything that had come before from the band. It is a massive lead forward in sound, professionalism, and cultural impact. (CCM Magazine named it one of the Top 100 Christian albums of all time.) Rick Florian gave the band a true rock and roll front man and his voice defined their sound moving forward. The songwriting was sharper than ever before, with the heavy lifting done by Billy Smiley, Mark Gersmehl, and Gordon Kennedy. Vocally, the band truly set itself apart from other bands with Florian handling lead but Gersmehl and Kennedy taking their turns at lead for a number of songs.

For some, this album will sound dated by today’s standards. Yes, it sounds like it was made in the mid-80’s. Frankly, I’m not sure how that is a bad thing. All music has some elements of the time in which it was created. Whiteheart leaned heavily into the sounds and styles of the day and created their most successful album to date. Listen to it with that era of music in mind and you will find plenty of love.

P.S. Contrary to some terribly uninformed critics, the song “Convertibles” is not meant to be taken literally. The fact that this even has to be said makes me sad for humanity. Also, Smiley and Gersmehl provided the horn section (trumpet and trombone) at the end of the song, again showcasing how talented these guys were.

Phill Lytle
Follow me
Series Navigation<< Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 4: HotlineWhiteheart Retrospective – Part 6: Emergency Broadcast >>

Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

3 thoughts on “Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 5: Don’t Wait for the Movie

  • June 26, 2024 at 9:23 am
    Permalink

    Thanks for this labor of love, and for contributing to the history of Christian music.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2024 at 7:36 am
    Permalink

    Followed this band since their first album, and still a go to listen for me to this day. I will never forget the excitement of them touring Australia for their “Don’t Wait For the Movie” tour, and picking a tiny central western town in New South Wales called Wellington to perform. I spent all night screen printing a sign on a bedsheet advertising the show to put on my Kombi the day’s before the show in the main street. About 30 people showed up (we were a very small town…) and they put on a great show. During the song “The Beat of a Different Drum” , during the drum solo , one of the drums used fell off the stand , and whoever it was (I suspect Billy Smiley) continued on the solo with just one drum. Never forget it. To my great regret, I never engaged with them after the concert. One of my all time favourite bands that I listen to still.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2024 at 9:50 am
      Permalink

      Thanks for sharing. What a great story!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.