Jesus Christ Superstar

I bet when most people think of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the musical written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, they only think of that over the top, overplayed, and kind of annoying chorus to the title song, which is otherwise a really great song (which you’ll remember if you hear it: “Every time I look at you I don’t understand, why you let the things you do get so out of hand…”). It was played frequently on the radio in the 1970s, but that annoying chorus is what sticks in your mind. The other radio hit was “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” which is a pretty nice song, but the thing is, everything else on the 1970 double album is BETTER. It’s a great album, and I can’t really express how much I like it still without sounding a little insane. So I’ll leave it at that.

There have been a lot of records and versions of JCS over the years, including musical revivals (you might be able to catch one now, in fact, or in the near future), including a pretty insane movie version, but I will always be partial to this original recording– it’s the record with a dark brown cover, no pictures. You can probably find it in thrift stores pretty easily, and I should try to find a clean version of it because the one I have is scratchy and has a few skips, which breaks my heart.

There are too many good songs to mention, and it’s impossible to even know the names of the songs, because they run together, stop and start on a dime, and there are various versions of some of the main themes. After starting with the title song, there’s “What’s the Buzz,” “Everything’s Alright,” and “This Jesus Must Die,”–  really the whole first side is amazing. “Damned For All Time,” is another standout, and one everyone might remember, “Herod’s Song,” was pretty shocking to a young kid. My brother and I loved this record, and I think we got a lot of the Bible story from it, but also loved it as 1970s rock– Ian Gillan from Deep Purple was singing the Jesus part, and there are a lot of musicians of that era playing. The nice thing is, it’s still a Broadway show musical, so it’s somehow more listenable to me than a lot of heavy metal, but there are those heavy metal elements– it’s really surprising– suddenly a guitar will cut through the strings, and then there is a soul chorus, and then a horn section.

It just starts out so great, after a the overture and title song, there is the “39 Lashes” theme with an awesome guitar riff backed by an orchestra, then a classic Moog synthesizer comes in, then another guitar part that sounds so present in the recording that you want to look over in your room to see if a long haired guy with platform shoes is sitting there on his amp. Then out of nowhere a Hammond organ, and it sounds like Deep Purple for awhile, then it’s back to Broadway.

4 Responses to “Jesus Christ Superstar”

  1. 1 RumAli
    July 31, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    I was just actually listening to Carl Anderson when I read your post. What synchronicity. That first song has some incredible organ playing/organ sound that is just not used anymore. I, too, really enjoy the first handful songs, but I was introduced to this music through the movie. I liked it so much I forced people to watch it.

  2. August 3, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    I would have loved to see the Broadway version with Ben Vereen as Judas! One day at the office, Doug R. and I got out all the verious versions we could find, including a DVD of the movie and compared them all. I would like to spend all my days doing stuff like that.

  3. August 6, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Seriously, this is a truly great record – I feel the same way about it. There’s every reason in the world that this should have been one of the absolute worst pieces of dire trash ever made, but somehow, it’s just really amazing. I never owned a copy though, I just used to get it out of the library, and listen to it CONSTANTLY. I never was very religious at all, so it wasn’t the religious aspect of it that appealed to me, in fact it appealed to me in spite of that. But I think it really did kind of shape my idea of the whole “Jesus story”, which, its take on the Jesus Story, with some sympathy given to Judas, I would think had to have been somewhat controversial. I didn’t realize that it was Deep Purple’s singer singing as Jesus, either, that’s pretty cool. The music just *totally* totally rocks on it (there’s a great cover of 39 Lashes by the heavy stoner-rock band Acid King that’s pretty true to the original here..), and the lyrics are *really* well written and interesting and amusing as well as enlightening. I’ve actually been looking for a copy of this in thrift stores and used record stores for freakin AGES but usually I find just the cover, or incredibly scratched up copies with no libretto with it.. Some day I’ll find a good copy though. Easily one of the best records of the 70s, I think.

  4. August 6, 2007 at 11:30 am

    oh, by the way, the record of the movie version’s music *is* one of the absolute worst pieces of dire trash ever made, by comparison. Well, IMHO anyway.. In the context of the movie it’s .. eh.. tolerable. What a goofy movie it is..

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