Christian rock band rediscovered after 40 years
Published on 5 February, 2016
It is every aging rocker's dream come true. A church minister, a computer programmer, a property valuer and a mortgage advisor of pensionable age are enjoying newfound fame after a Christian rock album they made as young rockers has become a collector's item - and has been re-released.
"We're all retired, or close to it, and now we find ourselves on a record label's listings right beside The Who, The Stones and Nirvana," said Rev Doug McRoberts, who played lead guitar on the 1974 recording.
"Back in the 1970s, I was lead guitarist with a hard rock band called White Light. We were finalists in Melody Maker's national rock contest in 1972, no less - and we issued a vinyl LP 'Parable' before becoming adults and going off to more conventional careers."
White Light, back in 1974 dreaming of hitting the big time.
Drummer Alex Smith (65) bass player Dave McRoberts (62) Keyboard player David Murdoch (65) and lead guitarist Doug McRoberts (66) pictured in Pollokshield Parish Church in Glasgow holding their rare and valuable 'Parable’. Photo: John Young of YoungMedia.co.uk
Now Doug and his fellow band members are amazed to find their music back in demand.
The recording came to the attention of Guerssen record company after music blogger Hans Pakora listed it as an ultra-rare collector's item and a vinyl LP exchanged hands in the United States for $950.
Mr McRoberts who for many years was a minister in Malta said: "It was a huge surprise. We never thought this would happen. Who would think that one of the first things to happen after we retire is for our music to be re-issued?"
Drummer Alex Smith agreed: "We're still smiling. Totally weird. But in a good way!"
The band was White Light, a quartet of committed Christians who were determined to spread the Gospel through rock music. Doug, now 66 from Inverness, and his brother, bass player Dave McRoberts, 62 from Newton Mearns, teamed up with drummer Alex Smith, 65, from Glasgow, and keyboardist David Murdoch, 65, from West Kilbride, to take the Christian message to rock venues and clubs.
"Our whole reason for existing was to get the message out," Doug says. "We weren't in it for the money. It was always about spreading the message of God's love."
The album — Parable — was recorded in Paisley and issued on the Scotia Records label. Just 2,000 copies of the LP went on the market.
White Light was a band that broke new ground, explains the liner notes for the remastered album: "Uncompromising. Committed. Complete rock. And with a vision to be the best.
"Their musical influences range from The Who and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to Deep Purple and even Black Sabbath – this is no ordinary Christian band. Their live performances across the country featured heavy metal sounds, feedback howling, phased lighting effects and commitment to the real enjoyment of Rock – but also to something deeper. Each performance tells a story – or rediscovery, of faith, of resurrection."
Back in 1974, Doug was an assistant minister in East Kilbride. After the band split in 1975, he went on to a career in communications before returning to ministry at Keith in Moray. From there he went to Malta where he helped create the Out of Africa into Malta refugee project.
Dave McRoberts became a bank employee and mortgage advisor. He's also a long-serving elder at Pollokshields Parish Church and a well-known curler who has represented Scotland.
Alex Smith pursued a career in computer programming. David Murdoch became a commercial property valuer. On Sundays he plays the organ at West Kilbride Church, Ayrshire.
The four went their own way, but they never stopped playing music. That stood them in good stead in 2005 when they were asked to perform at KeithChaosLive, a 12-hour charity rock festival headlined by chart toppers The Bluetones.
"Three practice sessions were all it took to convince us we could do this. It's like riding a bike," says Doug who still owns six guitars. "We did five numbers including the rock classics Spirit in the Sky and The Seeker as well as our own songs Now I Realise and Mighty Big God.
"It wasn't exactly the Scottish equivalent of Status Quo launching Live Aid and it was weird to be rocking onstage with a couple of our children who are now in their own bands out there in the audience – but it was great to play with the guys again."
The event seemed to spur even more interest in White Light. The band had created a limited CD version of Parable for the gig, which eventually sold out as orders poured in from as far afield as Australia, Finland, Russia and the USA.
Now their music is being heard again by a new generation of spiritual seekers and rockers. So could White Light come together to play again?
"We all enjoyed coming together for that gig in Keith," Doug says. "If the occasion was right, we'd probably be up for it."