Episode #78 – Jesus Christ Superstar (Part 2: The Singers)

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Lead up to the Album:

  • They decided a good move would be to get a leading clergyman to endorse the single.  They found Martin Sullivan at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  He wrote, “There are some people who may be shocked by this record. I ask them to listen to it and think again.  It is a desperate cry.  Who are you, Jesus Christ? Is the urgent enquiry and a very proper one at that.”
  • Sullivan also offered up St. Paul’s Cathedral for the premiere if and when Jesus Christ Superstar was finished.
  • The single was released and they did a late night show, David Frost’s Saturday ITV.
  • The Daily Express had gotten quotes that they were looking to cast John Lennon as Jesus.  This was untrue as they hadn’t even gotten a complete script to cast anyone yet.
  • The budget to record the album was £20,000/$25,580 (£318,000/$406,726 in today’s money).
  • Most of the melodies and themes were completed in January.  Side 1 is dated February 21 with side four dated March 4.
  • In December of ‘69 there was a note that Mary Magdelne’s first song should be in 5/4.
  • They began to seek out vocalists.  They wanted a well known name as Jesus.
  • Their first pick for Jesus was Colin Blunstone, the lead singer of the Zombies.  Rod Argent, a member of the Zombies would be involved in the recording.
  • Andrew Lloyd-Webber had been invited to Royal Albert Hall to see Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra.  Malcolm Arnold had been a friend of Lloyd-Webber’s father.
  • Lloyd-Webber says in his biography, after meeting Tony Edwards: “I found the music bland, so I droned on about how daring it was to fuse a rock group with an orchestra.”  He found out that Deep Purple was taking a heavier direction moving forward and he mentioned something about Jesus Christ Superstar to Tony Edwards.
  • Lloyd-Webber says a few months later that he got a call saying Deep Purple had a new singer and asked if he and Tim would like to go listen to him.  We know this is inaccurate as Gillan would have been the singer at the Concerto.
  • They played Gillan’s rough tapes and he heard Gilaln’s scream and thought that he had found his Jesus.  He said after hearing Gillan he went back and rewrote the moment Jesus confronts the moneylenders.
  • When Murray and Gillan were cast Webber began working on solidifying the band.  Since Joe Cocker was on a break he was able to get Alan Spenner an dBruce Rowland for bass and drums.  He spoke to Clapton’s manager to get try to get Eric Clapton on lead guitar but was unable to secure him.  Therefore he reverted to Henry McCulloguh from the Grease Band.  Chris Mercer of Juicy Lucy as the sax and another guitarist, Neil Hubbard, also from Juicy Lucy.
  • Someone played Quatermass for Webber and he was keen to get Peter Robinson into the band as well.  They also took John Gustafson from Quatermass in the role of Simon.
  • Most of the songs came about the first time around except “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”  Originally they’d had Annabel Leventon to play Mary.  She had been in Hair with Murray Head.  They recorded with her and said it was good but wasn’t quite what they were looking for.
  • There was a jazz singer performing at the Pheasantry in Chelsea who Don Norman, who was working as their manager, wanted to pitch as Pilate.  While they weren’t sold on the singer there was another performer that night that caught their eye: Yvonne Elliman.
  • They wanted someone very theatrical to be Pilate and pitched it to Barry Dennen.  Barry’s agent arranged a meeting and he agreed to record the album.
  • Tim was friends with Mike d’Abo who had recently become singer of Manred Mann.  And with that, filling in with some MCA employed artists their casting was complete.


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