Book: Delirious - Martin Smith (LTTM)
Last modified: 08 Feb 2011
Author: Dave Wood & Jono Davies
Date: 07 Feb 2011
When you look back at what Delirious? achieved during nearly two decades as the UK's most successful Christian band, it's hard not to be impressed. This was a band who set the standard for modern worship music, managing to redefine what Christian music could, and should, sound like. Lead singer Martin Smith has now put pen to paper to record his story in the form of a book. But Martin's book, given the somewhat lengthy title 'Delirious: My Journey with the Band, A Growing Family and an Army of History Makers', is not just an autobiography retelling the Delirious? years from start to finish. It's a book that allows Martin to give his views on the events that shaped his life.
Inspirational from the word go, Matt Redman's foreword talks about taking "a risk of faith" and jumping out of the comfort zone. Then right from the introduction we get a hint of a topic Martin regularly refers to in this book. "The time is coming when there will be more God-songs on the radio. We need to stop looking over the fence at the 'promised' land. So much of what we have been calling out for is here already." The subject of the Christian music world colliding with the secular world, be that radio, charts or even on tour, is one that crops up regularly.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The book opens with a chapter about India. You might think chapter one would tell the story of how things began, but no, Martin tells us the deeply personal and emotional tale of Farin, a young girl who touched his heart on a trip to India. "Knowing that even our suitcases - not including the stuff inside them - cost more than a year's wages for some of these people was enough to wipe the smiles off our faces", writes Martin. It's clearly an experience that left him a changed man, bringing a new perspective on the world.
Switching back to the very beginning, Martin tells us about his childhood and before long the first signs of his future career emerge. "Overnight I learned three chords, and the next week I led the other six members of the youth group in singing. There was no big fuss about it. It was just what you did: You stepped up when you were needed." He later moves on to perform a song in front of his whole school - a place where he admits he wasn't overly successful, having left school with "just four O-levels, including pottery". But that didn't stop him landing a trainee's job in a studio, being tape operator while Paul McCartney was recording some songs.
A few years later, when Martin first goes to Tim Jupp's church (later to be Delirious keyboardist) he admits with some candor that he's more interested in getting to know the pastor's daughter Anna better. Before long Anna and Martin fall in love and get married, and it's at that time that the band starts to form. As every good d: fan knows, Cutting Edge youth events quickly grew from a handful of people to a thriving youth movement. Then comes the near fatal car crash, the photo provided in this book is traumatic enough, leaving Martin in hospital considering his future. It turns out to be the trigger to the five friends going full time as a band, giving birth to Delirious?
There are honest accounts of their early naivety, "We were crazy to think that White Ribbon Day would ever get in the charts, but at the time we felt invincible, like we could take on whatever system stood before us. We honestly thought it would be a number one." The openness doesn't stop there. "Honestly, part of us wanted to be rock stars. I think that this may have clouded the movement a little. This desire might have got in the way... I do wonder whether we changed a bit too fast... The mainstream music world appealed to us, we couldn’t deny it. But we were determined not to give into it completely" And there it is, the debate that caused so much controversy for some whilst breaking down barriers with others. Making music that reached out to the secular world split the fans opinions. Mezzamorphis saw them head in one direction whilst, "Glo was our attempt to reconnect with our church base again, and Audio Lessonover? was a reaction to feeling a little uncomfortable wedging ourselves back into the role of 'Christian band singing for the church.'" Martin must be given full credit for not being ashamed to admit that the band didn't always get it right. He pulls no punches as he discusses Audio Lessonover: "Starting with 'Waiting for the Summer' didn’t work, and releasing it as a single was worse". Other revelations in the book would, perhaps, have been better left unwritten: "There we were, our hands in the air, Daniel [Bedingfield] in his underpants. Strange but memorable." You'll need to read the book yourself to understand the full context of that interesting piece of imagery.
When it comes to the things that stand out from all the other memories, two things clearly left their mark on Martin. One is performing to a crowd of 400,000 people in India. "In all my years of playing, that one night was the ultimate moment for me. All the pieces of my life came together, and I felt as alive as I ever have been. It made those Bon Jovi gigs pale by comparison, and my head was full of the simple thought that this was why I’d been born." The other highlight is clearly the project that Martin and Anna felt compelled to instigate. CompassionArt, a charity which raised money to fight poverty, has fond memories for him as he persuaded some of the biggest names in Christian music to lend their songwriting talents to a charity album. "Not only had we managed to coordinate the schedules of twelve very busy artists, but we had managed to get them to agree to seeing absolutely no money from the experience. And, to top it all off, their respective record labels, publishers, managers, and agents had released them and agreed to waive their usual fees. This was a development I never thought was possible, but it happened. I was stunned."
Of course nothing lasts forever, and as you might expect, Martin spends some of the final chapters discussing how and why the band came to an end. "When I heard God say that my time with the band was over, my six children played a large part in the decision... It wasn’t complicated. I just needed to be home. They all just needed their dad. They needed their dad to show that he loved and valued their mum, too, and that family came first." Hard to find fault in that, but one surprising admission comes in the hint that he almost wishes they'd finished sooner. "Looking back I wonder whether we should have ended when Stew left", he confides of the moment drummer Stew Smith left the band. Martin goes on to describe how he has been 'discovering space' since leaving the band, "If I hadn’t stopped when I did, who knows what might have been lost?"
Don't expect any shocking revelations with Martin dishing the dirt on how terrible his band mates were - he's not that kind of guy, they weren't that kind of band, and this isn't that kind of book. But as you read this collection of thoughts on everything from the band, to the state of worship music today and the financial side of it too, you get a sense of a deeper thinker. The book is not hesitant in describing times of personal tragedy, covering both the highs and the lows with honesty and openness, laying the facts out and revealing the vulnerable side of this man who stood on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Whilst it answers a lot of questions from the band's history, it does at times skim over some of the things that maybe fans would like to see Martin go into more detail over. That said, he covers every album and every issue, and a lot more beside. A fascinating read that every Delirious? fan will enjoy, giving an insight into the man who inspired us to be History Makers.