Episode #77 – Jesus Christ Superstar (Part 1: The Musicians)

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Show Updates:

Lead up to the Album:

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber met Tim Rice in 1965.  Webber was 17 and trying to write for musical theater.  Rice was 20 and trying to make it as a writer of pop songs.
  • On April 21, 1965 wrote a letter to Lloyd-Webber.  He said that he’d heard through a Mr. Desmond Elliott of Arlington Books, that Webber had been looking for a “with it” writer of lyrics for his songs.  Lloyd-Webber contacted him and they arranged a meeting.
  • In Lloyd-Webber’s autobiography he describes Tim Rice as a “six foot something, thin as a rake, blond bombshell of an adonis.”  He also states that he learned Rice’s real ambition was to be a heartthrob rock star.
  • He also states that Rice was working on a lot of stuff and that he imagined that one day it “would be nice to say I had met him before he was world famous . . . “
  • The first collaborated on “The Likes of Us”  a musical which was never able to get a backer and  didn’t end up getting live production until 2005.
  • Alan Doggett, a family friend of the Lloyd Webbers who had worked with them on “The Likes of Us” commissioned them to write a “pop cantata” based on the Old Testament. Two previous “pop cantatas” existed.  The first was “The Daniel Jazz” written by Herbert Chapell in 1963.  The second was Jonah-Man Jazz written by Michael Hurd in 1966.  Both had been published by Novello, a music publisher who would be producing this.
  • The result was NOT Jesus Christ Superstar, but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  It got some recognition as a humorous retelling of the story of Joseph.
  • In 1969 they paired up again and wrote the song “Try it And See” for the Eurovision Song Contest for the artist Lulu.  It did not make it as the UK entry for 1969 though Lulu did sing the song “Boom Bang-a-Bang.”
  • Superstar was the first song they recorded and released as a single written by Judas, questioning Jesus and his legacy from a 20th century perspective, the eventual follow up to “Heaven on Their Minds” which is the opening song by Judas questioning Jesus in his own time.
  • They wanted to get a successful single on the charts so they’d be given the green light to record the entire album that hadn’t yet been written.  This would get them the ability to finally perform the sive show.  They intentionally made this single radio friendly.  It got a ton of release internationally and sold well.
  • They were given the budget for a full symphony orchestra by MCA and were allowed to produce it themselves.  The catch was that MCA wanted to own the worldwide rights to future recordings.
  • They got a terrible deal for the royalties behind the “Superstar” single but they were in no position to turn it down.
  • Murray head recommended the Grease band and other musicians and they got to work recording.
  • The recordings took place at Olympic Studios in the Southwest suburb of Barnes. It was considered to be a top rock studio.  It also had a large room that could fit an entire orchestra so that’s what they used to record the Superstar single.
  • The engineers suggested the band record with a metronome in their headphones.  Lloyd-Webber and the band did not want to do this as they were afraid it would come across too mechanically.  Keith Grant who was engineering was very worried about how they’d be able to overdub a symphony orchestra with no click track.  Webber wanted to take the gamble so that they could have a great rhythm track.
  • The band and the soul singers were recorded first then the orchestra after under the direction of Alan O’Duffy.
  • Apparently the timekeeping issue did become extremely difficult for the orchestra.
  • The first day with the band on the studio was coming and Webber got the band together and had them jam for a half an hour then they’d record a short segment with the band.  That’s how “What’s the Buzz” came together along with the moneylenders sequence.


  • The musicians for Jesus Christ Superstar, the principle rock band at least,  were largely recruited from UK rock bands at the time including The Grease Band, Juicy Lucy, and Wynder K Frog.

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