Newsboys - A Retrospective

The Newsboys continue to grow in grace.
It's the ultimate irony. They're called the Newsboys yet they've never been captured by any headline or label. After all, how do you bottle the essence of a band that's had everything from a lead singer in gold and red suits to a drummer strapped in a contraption that takes him upside down while he continues to pump out a beat on his drum kit? How do you tell the story of spirited young men from Down Under who returned to the land of opportunity despite warnings from their record company not to bother after the flop of their first album?

The reality is that the Newsboys have never really fit neatly within any package. In fact sometimes they didn't fit at all. They certainly didn't in the once quiet seaside town of Mooloolaba in Queensland, Australia in 1986.

The band jammed in a claustrophobic garage lined with egg cartons and pieces of foam. Neighbors made it clear they would rather they not jam at all - not in the garage, not in the street, just not at all. This not-so-sweet message was made crystal clear via the sugar which was dumped in the gas tank of the family car of lead singer Peter Furler. It was the first of many car troubles to come.

The Newsboys have never been interested in doing things to please people. They'd rather serve God. And if that means trying to reach the lost in a smoke-filled pub, which is more accustomed to hearing the world's music from Midnight Oil and INXS, then so be it. Playing good music was the key to surviving.

Band members supported their fledgling musical beginnings with everything from selling lamingtons, Australian snack cakes, to doing plastering work for local construction companies. Anything to rustle up some money - whether it be to buy new equipment, or just fuel to get to the next gig.

Their determination to share their faith with a world desperately lacking hope is underscored by the story of how they came to the U.S. Arriving in New York on New Year's Eve, 1987, only to find the recording studio closed for the holiday, they were fingerprinted by suspicious cops before being allowed to stay in the studio over the weekend, because they had nowhere else to go.

Manager Wes Campbell and brother Steve, the Newsboys' road manager, had discovered the Newsboys while Wes was a youth pastor in Surfer's Paradise on Queensland's Gold Coast. The Campbell's ran an outreach club called Genesis, a local hang out for people hungry for new musical talent. A Sunshine Coast band called Judah was scheduled to play one weekend but could not make it. They suggested Steve give these kids down the road a try, but cautioned they could not guarantee they were any good. The band, who lived for gigs, quickly took up the offer. In those days, Genesis offered bands $200 to play or the use of a decent sound system followed by dinner at Hungry Jacks (Burger King) afterwards. The Newsboys were the only band who ever opted for the sound system rather than the money.

"That was their spirit," Campbell says, explaining how the guys have always been more interested in investing in a good show for fans than building big bank balances. It's a pity they didn't invest in better vehicles though. On their way to the gig, their van broke down and had to be towed in. But they still managed to make a dramatic entrance, jumping through the windows of the church to launch a show like no other. Campbell soon saw the potential in the Newsboys, their passion not just for the music but also for the message. "They just stole our hearts," he says.

Nine albums and thousands of shows later, the Newsboys still reach deeper for a closer relationship with the Author of that Love. They have not lost the call that first motivated them to leave their family and homeland, the call to make a difference in their world, to be bearers of Good News in a world so often marred by the bad.

And while more than a decade on the road is a long time in anyone's books, the Newsboys believe their musical journey is still in its beginnings with the best yet to come. "It's been a long term plan for us," Campbell says of the journey. While a lot of hard work and determination have paved the way for the Newsboys, they are first to tell you that none of it would have happened were it not for the grace of God. "Still a work in progress?"

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