The disturbed wisdom of the two times seven albums
Larry Norman's releasing schedule at one time included a number of 14 titles (two series of seven albums). These 14 albums appear to be Larry Norman's central body of work, though it was never finished. The 14 titles were hidden on the "Something New Under The Son" inner sleeve with all of their first characters in one long string:
The numbers reflect the amount of songs on each release, as originally intended by Larry Norman. The characters refer to the following titles:
WNAWLMOJAALLRAR = We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus And A Lot Less Rock
And Roll (1967)
SNUTS = Something New Under The Son (1977)
The years are from a hand written cover (with additional details about the 2 times 7 albums cycles) and reflect the recording years, not the release years, though they are not completely accurate. Album #1 was released as "I Love You" by People.
It's possible that Larry Norman came up with the ideas for two cycles of seven albums around 1975 and maybe he came up with the first cycle of seven albums first and added the second cycle later. The back cover of "In Another Land" reads: "Death is conquered though you slumber - Seven is the perfect number". This could be the first indication of the first cycle, of which "In Another Land" was the seventh album. The original issues of "Only Visiting This Planet" and "So Long Ago The Garden" do not show the numbers 5 and 6, but the reissues on Phydeaux (from 1978 and 1980) do mention these numbers (the references can also be found on later issues of these albums). Here are scans of the details of these three albums, known as "The Trilogy" (click on a detail to see full album images):
There are no references to the first cycle on albums #1-4, except for some possible minimal references, such as the 1988 cassette of "Bootleg", which has number 004 (ARF-004). Norman's CD's sometimes have numbers which correspond with the first cycle as well, like Solid Rock SRD-005 ("Only Visiting This Planet"), Solid Rock SRD-006 ("So Long Ago The Garden"), Solid Rock SRD-007 ("In Another Land") and Solid Rock SRD-008 ("Something New Under The Son"). This can't be coincidental, though it should be noted that various other numbers were used for these releases as well.
There's no mention of 'album #8' on the US version of "Something New Under The Son" but it says: "This is just the beginning... phase 2" ('phase 2' is striked through). The insert of the UK versions does mention 'album #8' and repeats 'phase two' (not striked through). Phase 2 is the second cycle of albums, #8-14, also named as such on page 2 of the annotated lyrics booklet that belongs to "Something New Under The Son".
Albums #9-14 have never been released and probably only very few songs have been recorded. The albums were scheduled for 1978 - 1984. The first mention of the second cycle is in the song "Leaving The Past Behind" from "Something New Under The Son", where Larry Norman sings: "Island in the sky is number nine". This song also refers to "City Of The Lost Angels" ("But I'll see you in the city of the lost angels") and it has more references, like the lines "Well, my circle is completed" and "I got to start another circle". The title, the opening lines ("I'm putting on my walking shoes / Please help me find my hat / It's time that I was leaving / got no time for looking back") and more, may suggest that Larry Norman was responding to Word's refusal to release "Something New Under The Son" in 1977. The song declares his intention to leave the past behind and to move on into a different direction (from the annotation: "Pilgrim leaves old friends and acquaintances behind..."). If true, this song was possibly recorded later than most of the other songs on "Something New Under The Son". Could even be early 1978 (see also the lyrics of the song "Stop This Flight", probably originally recorded in 1978). Fact is that "Leaving The Past Behind" is missing from the "Rough Mix" tape, which could be an indication. It was the "Rough Mix" tape where Word based its refusal to release "Something New Under The Son" on. Generally speaking, I think Larry Norman decided to (or was seriously considering to) turn his back on the gospel music industry in 1978.
Of course, it could also be that "Leaving The Past Behind" was recorded with the other material for "Something New Under The Son" in 1976 or 1977 (and for some unknown reason excluded from the "Rough Mix" tapes) and that all references to Word are incorrect. The lyrics may just tell the pilgrim's story, without a second layer. It could also refer to Larry Norman's relational troubles with Pamela, though that appears a little less likely as the change sung about appears to be a little more general and radical than that (the subject of Norman's relationship failure was explicitly sung about in "I Feel Like Dying").
Than it could also be that the references to the second cycle were added later, as Larry Norman often edited his lyrics, with parts appearing and disappearing. Since the album was released in 1981, who knows what was done to the recordings in the meantime?
The years 1977-78 were not the easiest years in Larry Norman's life, apart from the successful but exhausting world tour (c. June - December 1977): Word didn't want to release his new songs (c. May 1977), his marriage was falling apart and then there was the plane accident from April 15, 1978. In his book "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music", Gregory Alan Thornbury wrote, addressing the plane accident: "For Larry, personally, his golden era as a successful recording artist ended not with a creeping sense of malaise but with a bang. Literally." (Page 163). In the meantime Solid Rock was having some difficult times as well. It must have been the combination of things which led to a confusing situation, in the very first place for Larry Norman himself.
All things considered, "Leaving The Past Behind" may still be the earliest indication of the second cycle. Further mention of the second cycle came on the before mentioned hand written cover (prob. from June 1978) and the inner sleeve of "Something New Under The Son" (released in 1981), and also in the "Something New Under The Son" lyrics booklet ("The Annotated Edition"; 1981*), all mentioning all the titles from the second cycle. Larry Norman must have been serious about it.
Larry Norman's 1980 releases ("Roll Away The Stone", "The Israel Tapes" and "So Long Ago The Garden") came with an inner sleeve mentioning a number of forthcoming albums. The albums of the second cycle were not mentioned, which is remarkable. Titles mentioned include "Streams Of White Light", part 2 and 3, "Orphans From Eden", "Voyage Of The Vigilant", "Ose Enco" and "Brothers At Last". At the time I guess Larry Norman was closer to releasing these titles than albums #9-14 from the second cycle. The annotated booklet mentions albums which are available and other 'coming next' on the back; this last section lists "Island In The Sky".
Some songs of albums #9-14 were recorded and several were released as well, but in most cases these were later versions, often done live. It's not easy to connect the songs to the albums; information, if available, often contradicts. What seems to be possible, is reflected in the following listing (it remains under construction!):