Almost 50 year ago, an album was released that people seemed to either love or hate. I was in the love camp, but a few people I went to church with were definitely on the other side. The album was Jesus Christ Superstar. Now a lot of different versions of it have been released since then, so aficionados refer to the original as “the brown album”.
Jesus Christ Superstar was not the first rock opera — Tommy beat it to the punch — but it beat Tommy in controversy.
It’s easy to see why people liked it. It was great music, possibly Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best, and it had great sideways lyrics from Tim Rice. And let’s not forget that it stars, as Jesus, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple! If you listen to it, you can’t miss his voice! A friend of mine played it for me in 7th grade — I bought my own copy and never looked back. My friends and I knew that thing backwards and forwards!
As far as the other side, there were a number of things that put some people off. It’s been around so long now that it’s hard to imagine how pairing the word “Superstar” with Jesus was pretty risky. So there was that, plus, back then the telling of the Jesus story in rock music was wild stuff!
And not everyone appreciated the artistic license they took with the story. A lot of people felt like it portrayed Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ girlfriend. And of course, the biggest thing is that the resurrection is not shown or referenced. It ends on Friday.
Now that it’s been a Broadway standard for what seems like forever, it’s hard to imagine how edgy it seemed when it first appeared. And actually, there are still those who find it distasteful.
For my money, it’s a great record. And don’t get me started on that logo! I have this shirt:
…and this wallpaper on my Flintstone-era phone:
Here’s an article from about a year ago about its history. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber hated it when it first came to the stage! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/04/01/jesus-christ-superstar-why-jews-christians-and-even-its-composer-hated-it-at-first/?utm_term=.f672ae8e9b16