Friday, April 06, 2012

Murray Head, "Superstar"

by Dick Mac

The original Concept Album release of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970 featured a remarkable line-up of singers and musicians.

Ian Gillian of Deep Purple sang the part of Jesus, and Yvonne Elliman a young American singer living in London sang Mary Magdalene. Elliman would go to New York to become a member of the original Broadway production. The supporting cast included one Paul Raven (born Paul Francis Gadd) who went on to become Gary Glitter. The band was comprised of some of London's best studio musicians of the day:

Neil Hubbard, who went on to play guitar for Bryan Ferry; Henry McCulloch, from Spooky Tooth and later the original line-up of Wings played acoustic guitar; Chris Mercer, who played with John Mayall on sax; Peter Robinson who went on to score movies (including a number of 'horror' films) played keyboards; future Fairport Convention drummer, Bruce Rowland; and the amazing Allan Spenner (whose credits include stints with Spooky Tooth, Roxy Music, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker and others) on bass guitar.

The depth of talent in this line-up is readily apparent when listening to the album.

Murray Head as Judas, in particular, bridges the entire production from "opera" to "rock." He infused a soulfulness, and an actor's sensibility that no future Judas would ever duplicate. His renditions of the songs are the best, by far, of all of the versions.

Although Carl Anderson did an excellent job as Judas Iscariot in the Broadway production, subsequent road shows, and the film, Murray Head set the bar very high. His version "Superstar" was a Top 40 hit.

This promotional video is over 40 years old, and although production standards were high, existing technology was not cooperative.

Murray Head performs "Superstar" at Proms in France in 2007.

I hope you and yours enjoy a blessed Passover and Easter, and no matter your religious beliefs, you should really listen to "Jesus Christ Superstar" from beginning to end some day.


1 comment:

Brian M. said...

Still remember the shuddering thrill produced by Head's singing of that first line, "My mind is clearer now." Almost a whisper, yet it conveys so much. Brilliant.