Saturday, November 21, 1970

Nov. 21, 1970: Jesus Christ Superstar studio album released

First posted October 10, 2011. Last updated September 4, 2018.

Jesus Christ Superstar (studio/cast/soundtrack)

Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice (composers)

Studio Album Released: Nov. 21, 1970

First Stage Production: October 12, 1971

Cast Album Released: January 8, 1972

Soundtrack Released: June 30, 1973

Sales (in millions):
US: 0.5 sr, 6.0 c, 1.0 s
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 7.5 sr+c+s

US: 1 3-sr, 31 c, 21 s
UK: 23 s
Canada: 1 3-sr
Australia: 1 10-a

sr Studio Recording
c Cast Album
s Soundtrack
a 1992 Australian cast

Quotable: --

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks:

  1. Overture
  2. Heaven on Their Minds
  3. What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying
  4. Then We Are Decided s
  5. Everything’s Alright
  6. This Jesus Must Die
  7. Hosanna
  8. Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem
  9. Pilate’s Dream
  10. The Temple
  11. Everything’s Alright sr
  12. I Don’t Know How to Love Him
  13. Damned for All Time/Blood Money
  14. The Last Supper
  15. Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)
  16. The Arrest
  17. Peter’s Denial
  18. Pilate and Christ
  19. King Herod’s Song (Try It and See)
  20. Could We Start Again, Please? s
  21. Judas’ Death
  22. Trial Before Pilate (Including the 39 Lashes)
  23. Superstar
  24. Crucifixion
  25. John Nineteen: Forty-One

Songs followed by sr, c, or s indicate that the song was unique to that version of the album.

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Superstar (MURRAY HEAD) (1/31/70) #14 US
  • Superstar (ASSEMBLED MULTITUDE) (2/6/71) #95 US
  • I Don’t Know How to Love Him (HELEN REDDY) (2/20/71) #13 US
  • I Don’t Know How to Love Him/Everything’s Alright (THE KIMBERLYS) (3/20/71) #99 US
  • I Don’t Know How to Love Him (YVONNE ELLIMAN) (4/24/71) #28 US
  • Everything’s Alright (YVONNE ELLIMAN) (9/25/71) #92 US

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.


Jesus Christ Superstar didn’t follow the conventional stage production/cast album/soundtrack format. It started out as a studio album which topped the U.S. charts before being staged in a theatrical context. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, 21, and lyricist Tim Rice, 25, conceived it as a stage work, but when they couldn’t get the funding, they opted “to use an album as the vehicle for introducing the piece.” BE

It “seemed to pick up where the Who’s Tommy…and Hair had left off, and audiences from across the age and cultural spectrum responded. Teenagers who didn’t know from Jesus, opera, or oratorios liked the beat, the hard rock sounds, and the singing and bought the album, as did parents who felt that the record offered a chance to understand some aspects of this youth culture around them, and especially its music – and so did some more forward-thinking clergy and theologians, who saw any opportunity to spread the word about Jesus where it wasn’t previously going as intrinsically good.” BE

The subject matter of Jesus Christ viewed from the point of Judas was “as daring as you could get” WR and “perhaps downright sacrilegious.” BE “It succeeds in all ways.” WR The story focuses on Judas and his “political and interpersonal struggles” WK with Jesus. Judas “is depicted as a conflicted, tragic figure” WK alarmed by Jesus’ lack of planning and “relatively recent claims of his divinity.” WK

“Just as remarkable as its subject matter was the fact that its musical language was full-blown rock music.” BE Hair was “really a pop/show-music pastiche, not rock” WR which distinguished Superstar as a “fairly radical rock/theater hybrid” BE in being the first to “successfully put rock music in a theatrical context.” WR It is also technically an operetta since it is completely sung through without spoken dialogue. WR

“The part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan, lead singer of Deep Purple, and that of Judas by Murray Head…The title song, Superstar, sung by Judas, and I Don't Know How to Love Him, sung by Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Elliman) about her relationship with Jesus, were both big hits.” WK

The success of the studio album opened the door for a stage production. It debuted on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on October 12, 1971. It was met with mixed reviews – even Webber himself criticized it – and closed after 18 months. WK It opened in London in 1972 and ran for eight years, “becoming England's longest-running musical at the time.” WK

In 1973, it was made into a film “directed by Norman Jewison, was shot in Israel and other Middle Eastern locations. Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson were both nominated for 1974 Golden Globe Awards for their portrayals of Jesus and Judas…Though it attracted criticism from some religious groups, the film was generally well received.” WK

Review Sources:


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