Jesus Christ Superstar (album)

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Jesus Christ Superstar
Original UK cover
Studio album by
various artists
Released16 October 1970[1] (UK)
27 October 1970 (US)[2][3]
Recorded10 October 1969 ("Superstar" single)
StudioOlympic, London
LabelDecca/MCA/Decca Broadway
ProducerTim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice chronology
Jesus Christ Superstar
Singles from Jesus Christ Superstar
  1. "Superstar"
    Released: 21 November 1969
  2. "I Don't Know How to Love Him"
    Released: 13 May 1971
Alternative cover
US edition cover, May 1971
Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideC−[5]

Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970 album musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, on which the 1971 rock opera of the same name was based. Initially unable to get backing for a stage production, the composers released it as an album, the success of which led to stage productions. The album musical is a musical dramatisation of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ, beginning with his entry into Jerusalem and ending with the Crucifixion. It was originally banned by the BBC on grounds of being "sacrilegious".[6][7] By 1983, the album had sold over seven million copies worldwide.[8]


Webber and Rice had earlier success with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Then, according to Webber, the Dean of St. Paul's, Martin Sullivan, suggested they do the story of Jesus next. "Tim and I rather resisted it," Webber said, "but then Tim came up with this interesting angle. What if we told the story from Judas Iscariot's perspective?"[9]

Lyrics in the 1964 Bob Dylan song "With God on Our Side" resonated with Rice: "You'll have to decide / Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side."[10] Another inspiration was an ad showing Tom Jones dressed in white with the word SUPERSTAR emblazoned across him.[11]

Rice and Webber wrote the title song, Superstar, first, in July 1969. Webber explained, “It was agreed that we would first sort of ‘send up a flag' to see whether the public would accept our approach to the subject."[12] They spent the next four months producing the single. They wrote the rest of the songs from November 1969 to March 1970.[13]

The album's story is based in large part on the Bible and Fulton J. Sheen's Life of Christ. Rice said, "I used the King James and Catholic versions — whichever was handier — interchangeably. My biggest aid was Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ, in which Bishop Sheen calibrates and compares the Gospels."[12] However, greater emphasis is placed on the interpersonal relationships of the major characters, in particular, Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene, relationships that are not described in depth in the Gospels.

"Herod's Song" is a lyrical rewrite of "Try It and See", previously written by Lloyd Webber and Rice as a proposed British entry into the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest to be sung by Lulu, then recorded and released as a single by Rita Pavone. The writers had also included it (as "Those Saladin Days") in an aborted show about Richard the Lionhearted called Come Back Richard Your Country Needs You.

The melody of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" also predates Jesus Christ Superstar; it was rewritten from a 1968 Lloyd Webber/Rice collaboration titled "Kansas Morning".[14]


The album was recorded from March to July 1970.[13] For the recording, Lloyd Webber and Rice drew personnel from both musical theatre (Murray Head had just left the West End production of Hair) and the British rock scene (Ian Gillan had only recently become the singer of Deep Purple). Many of the primary musicians—guitarists Neil Hubbard and Henry McCullough, bassist Alan Spenner, and drummer Bruce Rowland—came from Joe Cocker's backing group The Grease Band. Saxophonist Chris Mercer had also played with Hubbard in Juicy Lucy.


The first piece of Superstar released was the title song, as a single in November 1969 backed with the instrumental "John Nineteen Forty-One" (see John 19:41). The full album followed almost a year later.

In the U.S., the double album was released on October 27, 1970. Less than three weeks later, on November 16, it achieved gold status ($1 million in sales).[15]

The album topped the U.S. Billboard Top LP's chart in both February and May 1971[16] and ranked number one in the year-end chart ahead of Carole King's massive hit Tapestry.[17] It also served as a launching pad for numerous stage productions on Broadway and in the West End. The original 1970 boxed-set issue of this two-record set was packaged in the U.S. with a special thin brown cardboard outer box ("The Brown Album")[18] which contained the two vinyl records and a 28-page libretto.


Hubert Saal, in Newsweek, called it "nothing short of brilliant — and reverent. Staying well within limits prescribed by the Gospels, the opera galvanizes the story and the scenes of the Passion with its own fresh imagination and vitality."[19] Critic John Rockwell, writing in the Los Angeles Times, thought, " its best, Jesus works. Rice and Weber have managed more effectively than the composers of any previous rock-opera that I know of to characterize individuals in both words and music. And they are helped by an excellent cast."[20] Billboard's critic wrote, "This brilliant musical portrayal of the last seven days of Jesus is destined to become one of the most talked about and provocative albums on the pop scene.[21] Music critic Thomas Willis wrote in the Chicago Tribune, "I am neither a theologian nor a rock critic, but if Jesus Christ Superstar isn't the most important religious music of the year — and one of two or three significant recordings of the decade — I am sadly mistaken."[22] He added, "The ingredients in this unique production are absolutely first rate." Nat Hentoff, in Cosmopolitan, called it "the most remarkable large-scale rock work yet created" and called the singers "superbly cast."[23]

Other critics unfavorably compared it to the Who's Tommy: Variety thought, "Somewhat overstated, the opera lacks the overall impact of Tommy."[24] Mike Jahn, in the Baltimore Sun, went further: "Tommy seemed a labor of love, with good stories well-told...In comparison, Jesus Christ Superstar seems a labor of opportunism with almost no inspiration. In fact, when it isn't dead boring it's embarrassing..."[25]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions written by Tim Rice (lyrics and book) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music).

Side one
2."Heaven on Their Minds"4:23
3."What's the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying"4:13
4."Everything's Alright"4:36
5."This Jesus Must Die"5:11
Side two
2."Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem"4:49
3."Pilate's Dream"1:28
4."The Temple"4:43
5."Everything's Alright (reprise)"0:34
6."I Don't Know How to Love Him"3:41
7."Damned for All Time/Blood Money"4:36
Side three
1."The Last Supper"7:10
2."Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)"5:33
3."The Arrest"3:24
4."Peter's Denial"1:27
5."Pilate and Christ"2:46
6."King Herod's Song"3:02
Side four
1."Judas' Death"4:17
2."Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)"5:13
4."The Crucifixion"4:04
5."John Nineteen Forty-One"2:10


Main players[26]

Supporting players

Other players


Other musicians


  • Alan O'Duffy – chief engineer


  • Original Concept Recording. Jesus Christ Superstar – A Rock Opera. Universal City, California: MCA Records Inc. [USA], (released 24 September 1996). Cat. No. MCAD2-11542 [2 CDs], UPC 008811154226.

2012 remaster[edit]

In 2012, the MCA reissue was remastered personally by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who released the result on his own Really Useful Music imprint under the Decca banner. In his liner notes, Webber states that he was hoping to find some unreleased recording within the original masters, but he found out that only three out of twenty tapes had survived the 2008 Universal Studios fire, and those tapes did not contain any unreleased material. However, it later turned out that he did possess a copy of the complete masters in his own archive, and he worked from that.[27]

2021 expanded reissue[edit]

In 2021, for the 50th anniversary of the original staging, Universal Music Group released an expanded reissue (under its Decca Broadway imprint) consisting of 3 CDs and a hardback book. The first two discs contain a new remaster of the original album, made at Abbey Road Studios by staff engineers Miles Shovell and Nick Davis; the third disc includes demos, rarities, single edits and more, all sourced from Tim Rice's personal archive.[28] The book includes many photos from the era, an extensive chronicle of the making of the album (compiled by writer Lois Wilson from interviews with Webber, Rice, Yvonne Elliman, Murray Head, Ian Gillan and musicians involved in the album), appreciations by English comedian/musician Matt Berry and Chic founder Nile Rodgers, a facsimile of the lyric book included within the original 1970 album and the script for an "open-end interview" (i.e. a pre-recorded interview with music and gaps for radio DJs and presenters to insert their own voices) with Webber and Rice, whose audio part is on the third disc. The artwork for the box set includes both the brown American cover (on the slipcase for the set) and the more colourful British one, on the book itself.

Disc 3 tracklist[edit]

  1. "Ascending Chords" (orchesteral intro, previously unreleased)
  2. "Blood Money" (Tim Rice's guide vocal, previously unreleased)
  3. "Herod's Song" (Tim Rice's guide vocal, previously unreleased)
  4. "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (Tim Rice and Murray Head vocal, previouly unreleased)
  5. "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (Murray Head vocal, previously unreleased)
  6. "This Jesus Must Die" (Scat vocal, previously unreleased)
  7. "What a Party" (deleted song, previously unreleased; sung by Tony Ashton as a host introducing the cast; music later used for "This Jesus Must Die")
  8. "This Jesus Must Die" (Scat vocal 2, previously unreleased)
  9. "Heaven on Their Minds" (instrumental, prevously unreleased)
  10. "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (single edit)
  11. "(Too Much) Heaven on Their Minds" (German single, MCS 3468)
  12. "Strange Thing (Mystifying)" )(German single, MCS 3468)
  13. "Open-End Interview with the Creators of Jesus Christ Superstar - Part One" (includes Superstar, Heaven on Their Minds, I Don't Know How to Love Him)
  14. "Open-End Interview with the Creators of Jesus Christ Superstar - Part Two (includes Gethsemane, Herod's Song, Superstar)
  15. "John Nineteen: Forty One" (B-side of MKS 5019)

Note: the A-side of the original UK Superstar single (MKS 5019) is not included here as it is identical to the album version.


Certifications and sales[edit]

‹See Tfd›‹See Tfd›
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[41] Gold 350,000[40]
France 60,000[42]
Israel 2,500[43]
Italy 100,000[44]
Netherlands (NVPI)[45] Gold 250,000[46]
South Africa (SARI)[47] Gold 12,500[47]
Sweden 90,000[48]
United Kingdom (BPI)[50]
1970 release
Gold 180,000[49]
United States (RIAA)[51] Gold 4,500,000[49]
North America
Worldwide 7,000,000[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bloom, Jerry (2015). The Road of Golden Dust, Deep Purple Story (1st ed.). Wymer Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-908724-23-6.
  2. ^ Walsh, Michael (1997). Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. p. 71. ISBN 0810912759. ...the complete Superstar hit the American market on October 27, 1970.
  3. ^ Nassour, Ellis; Broderick, Richard (1973). Rock Opera; The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar from Record Album to Broadway Show and Motion Picture. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. p. 100. The Broadway opening was set for October 27, to coincide with the initial release of the album in the United States on that date a year before.
  4. ^ Jesus Christ Superstar - Album Overview at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 September 2006.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: J". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via
  6. ^ "... the BBC banned it, they banned this record, because they thought it was sacrilegious."—Ted Neeley, in conversation with Norman Jewison "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Autobiography of Norman Jewison
  8. ^ a b Ochs, Ed (29 January 1983). "Geffen Sizzles While Biz Drizzles: Broadway is Next Stage for Pop's Top Composers". Billboard. Vol. 95, no. 4. p. B-4. ISSN 0006-2510.
  9. ^ "Celebrating 50 years of 'Jesus Christ Superstar': Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice tell Neil McCormick how 'the worst idea in history' became a musical phenomenon". The Daily Telegraph. Sept. 22, 2021.
  10. ^ Winston, Kimberly (30 March 2018). "The 'Splainer: The stormy, surprising history of Jesus Christ Superstar". Washington, D.C.: Religion News Service. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Celebrating 50 years of 'Jesus Christ Superstar': Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice tell Neil McCormick how 'the worst idea in history' became a musical phenomenon". The Daily Telegraph. Sept. 22, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Rock Opera: The creation of Jesus Christ Superstar from record album to Broadway show and motion picture. Ellis Nassour and Richard Broderick. New York: Hawthorn Books. 1973.
  13. ^ a b Superstar sells a million. Poughkeepsie Journal. 29 Nov 1970: 79.
  14. ^ Walsh, Michael (1997). Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. p. 14. ISBN 0810912759. The hit love song from Superstar was a pop number Lloyd Webber and Rice had written earlier and sold to a publisher; its rights were bought back by David Land, then Lloyd Webber and Rice's manager, and it got a new set of lyrics. Thus the pedestrian 'Kansas Morning' became the soaring 'I Don't Know How to Love Him.'
  15. ^ 'Superstar' Turns Gold. The Hartford Courant. 05 Dec 1970: 12.
  16. ^ a b "Allmusic: Jesus Christ Superstar: Charts & Awards: Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  17. ^ a b 1971 Year-end Albums—The Billboard Pop Albums. 25 December 1971. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Jesus Christ Superstar 50 Years On" by Paul Beutel, The Austin Chronicle, 7 October 2019
  19. ^ Pop Testament. Newsweek. Nov 16, 1970: 96-97
  20. ^ Music: Story of Jesus Gets Rock Opera Treatment. Los Angeles Times. 15 Nov 1970: v50.
  21. ^ Album Reviews. Billboard. Nov 14, 1970: 32.
  22. ^ Records: It Could Be the 'Rock' of Ages. Chicago Tribune. 08 Nov 1970: f1.
  23. ^ Cosmopolitan, Feb. 1971: 18
  24. ^ Record Review: Jones, Sly, King, Guthrie, 'Superstar,' Hamilton Top LPs. Variety. Nov 4, 1970: 48.
  25. ^ Sounds Of The Seventies: A Rock Opera Catastrophe. The Sun. 29 Nov 1970: C10.
  26. ^ "Original Concept Recording (1970) – Jesus Christ Superstar, recording information, Jesus Christ Superstar Zone (reference for this and subsequent sections)
  27. ^ Jesus Christ Superstar - Original Concept Recording 2012 remaster, liner notes by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
  28. ^ Liner notes by Tim Rice within the hardback book for the 2021 reissue.
  29. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  30. ^ " – Musical / Andrew Lloyd Webber – Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 5207". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  32. ^ " – Musical / Andrew Lloyd Webber – Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  33. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  34. ^ " – Musical / Andrew Lloyd Webber – Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  35. ^ " – Musical / Andrew Lloyd Webber – Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  36. ^ " – Musical / Andrew Lloyd Webber – Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera". Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  37. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  38. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Album 1971" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. 1972. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  40. ^ "Superstar Gets Gold". Billboard. 29 September 1973. p. 47. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  41. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Original Soundtrack – Jesus Christ Superstar - Ost". Music Canada.
  42. ^ "From the Music Capitols of the World - London" (PDF). Billboard. 6 October 1973. p. 82. Retrieved 11 May 2022 – via World Radio History.
  43. ^ "From the Music Capitols of the World - Tel Aviv" (PDF). Billboard. 4 September 1971. p. 41. Retrieved 11 May 2022 – via World Radio History.
  44. ^ "CBS-Sugar Sees Sweet Picture in Economy Despite Economy Sag". Billboard. 6 July 1974. p. 38. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  45. ^ ""Jesus" Goes Gold" (PDF). Cashbox. 7 December 1974. p. 48 – via American Radio History.
  46. ^ "From The Music Capitols of the World - Amsterdam" (PDF). Billboard. 21 August 1976. p. 50. Retrieved 3 December 2019 – via American Radio History.
  47. ^ a b "'Superstar' SA Gold" (PDF). Cash Box. 10 July 1971. p. 39. Retrieved 11 May 2022 – via World Radio History.
  48. ^ "From The Music Capitols of the World - Stockholm" (PDF). Billboard. 10 June 1972. p. 50. Retrieved 3 December 2019 – via American Radio History.
  49. ^ a b "'Christ' New Champ" (PDF). Billboard. 21 October 1978. p. 76. Retrieved 11 May 2022 – via World Radio History.
  50. ^ "British album certifications – Soundtrack – Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Cast)". British Phonographic Industry.
  51. ^ "American album certifications – Soundtrack – Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Cast)". Recording Industry Association of America.
  52. ^ ""Superstar" Film Israeli Locale". Billboard. 6 May 1972. p. 84. Retrieved 3 December 2019.

External links[edit]