To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1970 concept double album, Jesus Christ Superstar, it has today been announced that a variety of special anniversary edition albums will be released on September 17th. This landmark release, which includes full cooperation from the creators Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, features an array of exclusive demos, commentaries, interviews and much more.
In 1970, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber released Jesus Christ Superstar as a concept double album. It became a massive global best-seller, topping the US Billboard Top LPs chart in both February and May 1971, as well as ranking at number one in the year-end chart. By 1983, the album had sold over 7 million copies worldwide.
However, the journey to international success was far from straightforward. As unknown names in musical theatre, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber were unable to find a producer willing to stage their ambitious idea for a religious-themed rock opera. Eventually, they persuaded MCA records to let them record the score first. Using a full orchestra, and with the outstanding talents of Ian Gillan, Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman and The Grease Band, they created a masterpiece that revolutionised the form of musical theatre.
Within a year of its chart success, stage productions of Jesus Christ Superstar began to appear all over the world, leading to record-breaking runs in the West End, a hit Hollywood film, Tony nominations and Olivier Awards. Its influence and impact have not diminished: in 2018 the NBC live production of the show, starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles, resulted in Emmy Award wins for Rice and Lloyd Webber (thereby making them two of the 16 people in history to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony).
Andrew Lloyd Webber said:
“A musical about Jesus Christ! Back in 1969 the mere thought had theatre producers falling about with laughter. But somehow Tim Rice and I persuaded MCA to record a single. It came at a time when fusion was all the rage. The Rolling Stones had recorded with the London Bach Choir. Deep Purple’s Jon Lord composed a symphony for rock band and orchestra. So I was like a kid in a sweet shop when I was able to combine a rock band, a symphony orchestra and a gospel choir in what was the first track to be recorded, simply titled Superstar. Overriding everything was that we were telling our story in sound – and sound alone. We had none of the visual elements of theatres and film to fall back on. A cast-iron musical and dramatic structure was the key. Dialogue had no place on a record, so music and lyrics had to carry everything. In truth, we were writing a musical radio play. Ultimately, this gave us one enormous advantage. Audiences came to know our recordings so well that no future director or producer could add musical passages for scene changes or tamper with the construction. The score had become set in stone.”
Tim Rice stated “I have nothing but fond memories of the writing and recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. We were incredibly lucky; we had a record company and a management team who were willing to take huge risks. Not just in terms of belief in our idea but also in terms of providing a budget to fulfil our musical vision which brought together a rock band, a full orchestra and not just one but two separate choirs’. He added ‘I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have been part of it all, perhaps more now at 76 than I was at 25”.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Grammy Award-winner Nile Rodgers has commented on the impact of the musical through his career, stating “Jesus Christ Superstar permeated every part of our lives then. It was a cultural explosion, like an earthquake or asteroid crashing…with Tim, he made a genius work in Jesus Christ Superstar, which was as revolutionary to hippies as Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew was to jazz”.
The special anniversary editions are a celebration of the original 1970 concept double album and its continued success spanning 50 years. With the new editions all having been re-mastered at Abbey Road, fans have a great selection to choose from. There is a 10×10” 3-CD Celebration Box Set with exclusive unreleased material, as well as a 100-page hard-back booklet. Inside, fans can dive into interviews between Lloyd Webber and Rice, essays from famous figures including Nile Rodgers and Matt Berry, the 1970 lyric book, memorabilia from Tim Rice’s personal collection and more. Also available are 2-CD Digipak set, 2-LP gatefold edition which have been half-speed mastered, 2-LP gatefold e-commerce edition which comes as a replica of the original 1970 fold-out envelope sleeve. These special anniversary editions are also available in SD/ HD/ MFIT versions in deluxe and standard edition.
A tribute to an international phenomenon, these special 50th anniversary editions are the perfect way to celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Jesus Christ Superstar.