"Nothing could convince me that any show that has sold two and one-half million copies of its album before the opening night is anything like all bad," wrote The New York Times' Clive Barnes on October 13, 1971 upon the New York debut of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar. Indeed, the original Jesus Christ Superstar album was a sensation long before it ever hit Broadway's Mark Hellinger Theatre. A true hybrid of rock and theater, it was introduced as a record but destined for the world's stages. The once-controversial rock opera has since inspired countless international productions, three Broadway revivals, film and television adaptations, concert tours, and well over 100 recordings from around the world. Now, the original 1970 album is celebrating its belated 50th anniversary with a reissue to be available in a variety of formats. On September 17, UMe will revisit Jesus Christ Superstar as a 3CD expanded box set; 2LP standard and deluxe editions; and a 2CD edition. All versions have been newly remastered by Miles Showell and Nick Davis at Abbey Road Studios.
Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar was the pair's third musical together after 1965's The Likes of Us and 1968's Joseph and Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But those two shows hadn't achieved much success with The Likes of Us going wholly unproduced and only several smaller productions of Joseph, a musical version of the Biblical tale. An album of the latter was recorded by Decca, however, which was a step in the right direction. The two soldiered on and returned to the Bible for their next show which would be a musical dramatization of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. But they were unable to secure a backer for a staging so it was decided to record an album of the show first.
The 1970 concept album composed, orchestrated, and co-produced by Lloyd Webber with lyrics and co-production by Rice starred Deep Purple's Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas Iscariot, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, and Manfred Mann's Mike d'Abo as King Herod. It featured equally impressive talent among its musicians (Chris Spedding, Mike Vickers, Wings' Henry McCullough) and supporting vocalists (P.P. Arnold, Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan). Gillan recalled Superstar with fondness to Phil Sutcliffe in MOJO, describing it as "top-notch stuff" and a "career highlight." He even described being greeted on a 1980s tour of the USSR by fans who had "certainly never heard of Deep Purple, but they knew all about Jesus Christ Superstar!"
But while classic status has long since been attained, Superstar initially earned the ire of many religious groups, and was a frequent target of protesters. Even the BBC got into the act, initially banning the double-album set on grounds of being "sacrilegious." In the U.S., the album hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1971, with Murray Head's single of the title song reaching No. 14 Pop and Yvonne Elliman's "I Don't' Know How to Love Him" not far behind at No. 28. Helen Reddy's simultaneous cover of the ballad made it all the way to No. 13.
The first authorized concert production of the musical arrived in the U.S. on July 11, 1971, with Elliman reprising the role of Mary Magdalene opposite Jeff Fenholt's Jesus and Carl Anderson's Judas. The 1971 Broadway staging featured typically idiosyncratic direction by Hair's Tom O'Horgan and a star-making performance from Ben Vereen as Judas. Fenholt and Elliman again took part, as did Barry Dennen, the concept album's Pilate. The Broadway show ran for a healthy 711 performances. The 1973 U.K. staging bested that, however, with director Jim Sharman's production (starring Paul Nicholas as Jesus and David Bowie pal Dana Gillespie as Mary) lasting a then-record-breaking eight years in the West End. Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen all took part in Norman Jewison's 1973 film version, which cast Ted Neeley as Jesus, a role he would revisit in the ensuing years.
Around the time of a 2012 CD reissue, Lloyd Webber indicated that the original master tapes - and with them, the possibility of unreleased material - had been lost. That reissue was sourced from a copy of the original master tapes found in Lloyd Webber's personal archive. The new 50th anniversary reissue is presumably happening thanks to some recent audio discoveries. All versions are newly remastered and the 3CD box set will feature a disc of 15 bonus tracks (nine previously unheard), said to be an impossibility in 2012.
The bonus disc in the slipcased 10 x 10" box features guide vocals of "Blood Money" and "King Herod's Song," and scat vocals and an unreleased instrumental of "This Jesus Must Die" as well as the original single edit of Yvonne Elliman's "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (a top 30 Billboard Pop/top 15 AC hit) and Tim Rice commentary on the song. It also boasts a two-part 1970 interview with Lloyd Webber and Rice and various other single edits and demos. Nick Davis has mixed the unreleased tracks. The box also features a 100-page oral history book edited and compiled by journalist Lois Wilson featuring new interviews with key personnel as well as essays by Matt Berry and CHIC legend Nile Rodgers. The slipcase features the U.S. brown cover, with the U.K. "psychedelic" cover within.
The 2CD and half-speed mastered, 180-gram 2LP versions have the remastered original album only. Two 2LP editions are available: a standard version with the U.S. art and a 12-page booklet, and a deluxe edition exclusive to uDiscoverMusic.com which features a fold-out sleeve and artwork replicating the first U.K. pressing and a 12 x 12" print.
If you're interested in revisiting this piece of musical theatre and classic rock history, all of the remastered editions of Jesus Christ Superstar arrive from UMe on September 17. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar (MCA MKPS 2011/2, MAPS 207 5/6, 1970 - reissued UMe, 2021)
3CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Link TBD
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Link TBD
2LP Standard: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Link TBD
2LP Exclusive: uDiscoverMusic.com
- Heaven On Their Minds
- What's The Buzz? / Strange Thing Mystifying
- Everything's Alright
- This Jesus Must Die
- What's The Buzz / Strange Thing Mystifying
- Simon Zealotes / Poor Jerusalem
- Pilate's Dream
- The Temple
- This Jesus Must Die
- I Don't Know How To Love Him
- Damned For All Time / Blood Money
- The Last Supper
- Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)
- The Arrest
- Peter's Denial
- Pilate and Christ
- King Herod's Song
- Judas's Death
- Trial Before Pilate (Including The 39 Lashes)
- John Nineteen: Forty-One
CD 3: Bonus Tracks
- Ascending Chords
- Blood Money (Guide Vocal)
- Herod's Song (Guide Vocal)
- I Don't Know How to Love Him (Tim Rice and Murray Head Vocal)
- I Don't Know How to Love Him (Murray Head Vocal)
- This Jesus Must Die (Scat Vocal 1)
- What a Party
- This Jesus Must Die (Scat Vocal 2/Unreleased Instrumental)
- Heaven on Their Minds (Instrumental)
- I Don't Know How to Love Him (Single Edit) (Decca (U.S.) single 32785, 1971)
- (Too Much) Heaven on Their Minds (German MCA single MCS 3468, 1971)
- Strange Thing (Mystifying) (German MCA single MCS 3468, 1971)
- 1970 Open End Interview with the Creators of Jesus Christ Superstar (includes Superstar, Heaven On Their Minds, and I Don't Know How to Love Him)
- 1970 Open End Interview with the Creators of Jesus Christ Superstar (includes Gethsemane, King Herod's Song, and Superstar)
- John Nineteen: Forty-One (B-side of MCA (U.K.) single MKS 5019, 1971)
David Bradley says
It's too bad they can't include the version of John 1941 that was on the b-side of the single which was DRASTICALLY different than the version on the LP.
Carlos Nash says
There's some confusion about the third disc. uDiscover's German site (https://store.udiscover-music.de/p51-i0600753933022/andrew-lloyd-webber/jesus-christ-superstar-50th-anniversary-edition-3cd-boxset-/index.html) has the following tracklist for the third disc.
Damned For All Time / Blood Money - Guide Vocal
King Herod's Song (Try It And See) - Guide Vocal
I Don't Know How To Love Him - Tim Rice And Murray Head Vocals
I Don't Know How To Love Him - Murray Head Vocals
This Jesus Must Die - Scat Vocals 1
What A Party
This Jesus Must Die - Scat Vocals 2
Heaven On Their Minds - Instrumental
I Don't Know How To Love Him
(Too Much) Heaven On Their Minds - German Single
Strange Thing (Mystifying)
John Nineteen Forty-One - Remastered 2021
Joe Marchese says
Thanks, Carlos. This track listing seems more accurate than the one currently posted on the US Universal sites. We will look into this ASAP and update accordingly!
Is that the version of John 1941 on the bonus disc the one that David Bradley was referring to?
Carlos Nash says
I would assume so since it was the b-side to the Superstar single on 45 rpm. The last remastering of that track was in 2001 for the Now & Forever boxset.
Just to make sure I’m reading correctly… the 2-CD version matches the 2012 remaster, except for possibly the artwork? If that’s the case, no way can I justify the cost to get the bonus material, as I have the remaster already.
Joe Marchese says
No, sorry for any confusion. While the source hasn’t been indicated - whereas in 2012, ALW made a point of saying the source was a personal archive copy of the tape - this edition has been newly remastered at Abbey Road.
Alan Gaunt says
The single version of Everything's Alright was a radio edit with Murray Head's and Ian Gillian's vocals edited out. So it's basically the one verse repeated a couple of times.
Mitchell Press says
What I need right here and now!
Mitchell Press says
Now if somewhere there lies a clear copy of the motion picture score... That is a muddy mess.
Gibson DelGiudice says
In comes one of the proprietors of the #1 JCS fan community on the Internet to drop some knowledge! (Drop in on Jesus Christ Superstar Zone some time, we're a barrel of nerds.)
Long story short: probably not in our lifetime.
Long story long:
* Per the sheets of music cues and playback recap from the film's production file (which is a thing we have, thanks to Norman Jewison donating it to the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives and us requesting PDFs of all the material that wasn't on microfilm), as much as possible, unless necessitated by the needs of the film (e.g., anything involving new material, be it added lyrics, entirely new songs, or whatever input the director and choreographer needed), they re-used as much of the Brown Album rhythm tracks as possible, with minor overdubs or re-recording of songs that demanded it, and it was largely anything not played on a rock instrument that got replaced by the gauzy Hollywood treatment .A good thing they did it, too, as Andrew Lloyd Webber was fairly pissed that the suits had brought in Andre Previn to "score" the picture instead of trusting him with the orchestrations as on the original album. Adding insult to injury, Previn barely hid his disdain for the score, dismissing it as "shit" in print and saying he'd only taken the picture as a favor to Norman; he even farmed out some of the orchestrations to Angela Morley, who received no screen credit but it is included in several of her bios. (In short: the music department on this picture was a battleground. ALW had to fight for screen credit for orchestrations since he was more or less responsible for what they re-used, and to be included in the Oscar nomination for the score's adaptation.)
* Per conversation with Ted Neeley, the soundtrack album didn't just sound like crap when it came out, the sessions were pretty sloppy too. There was no producer to speak of in the studio when they were prerecording, and indeed none has ever been credited on any issue of the soundtrack (only MCA's then-in-house mastering engineer, Darrell Johnson, and that only on certain releases). In the control room were button pushers, probably union jobbers that might as well have been picked out of a hat for all of their usefulness or lack thereof, who pretty much cued everyone when to sing, committed it to tape, and then considered it done, usually after only one take. (You can tell; there are different acting or singing choices from the ADR post-dubbing phase all over the movie not on the album.)
* Around the film's 40th anniversary, Ted -- and the team who've organized reunion screenings over the past few years or so -- looked into the possibility of remixing and remastering the tapes for a fresh release. They managed to track down where the masters are supposed to be, though without the wheel-grease for extra research we won't know for sure. Assuming they do still exist (we rely here on the knowledge of where documentation says they’re supposed to be), they are split between Universal's storage at Pinewood Studios in London and California, and three reels of them (containing the material from "This Jesus Must Die" through the leper sequence) were unfortunate victims of the much-publicized June 2008 vault fire at Universal. The cost-prohibitive measures of getting the tapes together, preserving them through shipping, and ensuring they survive the treatment that leads to a markedly improved remaster are so cost-prohibitive, and Universal reportedly utterly uninterested in chipping in, that it's highly unlikely we'll ever hear an actual remastered version of the soundtrack, or at least anything better than the current audio quality.
I don't see anything mentioned about the packaging for the 2 CD set. is this standard jewel case, digipack or other? Would be nice for them to have done it in mini LP CD format replicating the leather look of the original LP cover art.
Joe Marchese says
The 2CD set appears to be packaged as a gatefold digipak with a booklet/libretto.
Great! Thank you Joe!