Estus W. Pirkle – If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

February 6, 2016

pirkle iftywwhd front

MPLP – 2368 1968

The crown jewel of crazy spoken word Christian albums.

Why? I’ve got several dozens of records like this. So many, in fact, that they’ve grown to have their own section of my collection. I’m just about ready to split that section into a section of what’s going to happen when the communists take over records.

Why is this one so special? Never mind that it’s currently going for a pretty penny on record auction sites. It’s the reason it is that makes it so special. It’s not only record that spawned the equally batshit crazy Ron Ormand film of the same name (go Google it. We’ll wait.).  It’s also the record from which Negativland sampled from to create the classic track from their best-selling LP Escape From Noise, Christianity Is Stupid, immortalizing Rev. Pirkle forever. In it, Pirkle can be heard entoning ‘Christianity is stupid! Communism is good! Give up!’ over and over, backed by a martial industrial, metallic beat. It got a lot of airplay on college radio. Maybe it’s the first thing you heard by them. It’s probably the closest the band’s ever had to a hit record until the U2/Casey Kasem debacle. I know I put it on a lot of mix tapes for friends for many years in the 80s.

To be fair, the record itself takes a while to heat up. Pirkle is an energetic speaker. I imagine someone had to take him out with a dart gun to get him to stop a sermon. He just goes on non-stop like a trailer park meth-head. The first half of the LP is concerned with the Book of Jeremiah and attempts to connect modern, backslidden Christians with passages from that part of the bible before getting to what happens when the evil communists take over America. It’s not until side two that things really pick up, with Pirkle telling a lot of John Birch-type horror stories about some of the (possibly conflated) things that communists did to Christians when they took over various countries. It’s pretty unsettling – made all the more hysterical by Pirkle’s chatterbox delivery.
It isn’t until well into the last half of the second side that he gets into the passage so famously sampled in the Negativland track. And it’s easy to see why they – perhaps Don Joyce – found it so humorous and ripe for appropriation. Pirkle lists the litany of atrocities in the first person. It doesn’t take much work with a razor blade or audio editor to have him admitting to some pretty horrible war crimes. It’s pretty dang hilarious, actually.

Estus Pirkle put out a few more LPs and lived to around 2005. There’s no telling what he made of today’s radicalized religious climate. No doubt he would’ve been pretty much a fish out of water what with gay rights and today’s attitudes with reproductive rights and society’s total abandonment of scriptural living. I don’t know if he ever ventured into the multimedia world again. He probably lived long enough to see his forays into the film world met with scorn and ridicule (Ron Ormand also filmed his epic sermon The Burning Hell). I once made a half-assed attempt to secure copies of Footmen by writing his still-existing church, inquiring about copies (imagining a basement filled with of boxes of records) – but to no avail.

But now you can have it! Not mine, mind you, but you can now listen to it, in glorious 1968 mono. Some words on the rip. The audio quality is a bit less than stellar. Either the pressing or the master doesn’t sound that great. There’s some audible distortion that’s in the record. It’s not due to the condition – it appears virtually unplayed – but it the grooves have the glassine appearance of a record that’s been cut in such a way as to maximize the play time per side. I’ve tried to rip it in the best way possible but to my ears, it doesn’t sound so great. I don’t think it detracts from its nuttiness, though.

Here it is:
Give up

Boilerplate on rips and the sharing thereof:
As you may have noticed, I’ve been ripping some rare records from my own collection that – as far as I know – no one has posted elsewhere. They’re there for your entertainment. If you would like to host them on your own blog, download them yourself and upload them to the host of your choice – but please respect my hard work and accredit this blog..  I am more than willing to share them that way. If you’d like to host some of these files and reprint my reviews, kindly ask me.




  1. Holy shit! What a find! Thanks!!!

  2. Wow, thanks a mucho for this. Had no idea this record existed – always thought negativland sampled the film. (But then again, I never got around to watching the film.)

    • The story that I had heard is that someone from Negativland, I think Richard Lyons, found the record at a church and ‘borrowed’ it. I think I remember Mark Hosler telling me that or perhaps it was part of his hilarious oral history of Negativland presentation I saw him at.
      It’s been on my list for eons but it finally fell into my claws the other day.

  3. […] a few really cool records fortuitously falling into my hands lately – namely the notorious If Footmen Tire You.. record, which I played a generous chunk of mixed with other […]

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