“To be clear, the Jesus Christ Superstar album to have is the first one, the Original London Cast recording featuring the likes of Ian Gillan (JC), Murray Head (Judas) and Yvonne Elliman (Mary M) in the vocal department and as hot a band as ever jammed themselves into an orchestra pit. Because it wasn’t just a gimmick. It was 1970 and, in the wake of The Who’s Tommy, it was official, the big deal Rock Opera was in. And what bigger deal could there be than Jesus Christ, the Man, maybe even the Son of God, to which Judas, his best friend, is calling serious bullshit in Heaven on Their Minds, the best single track on the album. ‘You may be purer than most, JC, but come on, man, you know and I know you’re just as human as the rest of us, so relax, drink some more wine and stop winding up the fanatics.’ What’s amazing is how heartfelt it manages to sound, and epic, and man, what a riff — an epic and concise chunk of thoughtful progressive rock, which really did get younger me realizing just how complex a tale those Gospels purport to tell.” (Philip Random)
“London’s Pretty Things were always there in the swinging 60s, in tune with the times, if not in time with them (if that makes any sense), which means that by 1968, they were launching into realms psychedelic and beyond with the epic tale of Sebastian F Sorrow, a full-on integrated cycle of songs that hit the culture many months before the Who’s Tommy would make the notion of a rock opera a genuinely big deal. No, SF Sorrow didn’t sell that well, doesn’t generally get name-checked when the experts are trying to make sense of the age, but for me anyway, it stands up better than Tommy, minute for minute, song for song, maybe because it’s only a one record set, with the high point coming on side two, when SF Sorrow encounters the mysterious Baron Saturday (intended to represent Baron Samedi of Haitian Voodoo notoriety), who ‘borrows his eyes’ for a trip through the underworld, with terrifying consequences.” (Philip Random)
Just because punk rock hit in 1976-77 and changed EVERYTHING in its nasty, ugly-beautiful, inarticulate way, doesn’t mean it all happened overnight. Which meant that even as we were all cutting our hair, shredding our t-shirts, learning to dance pogo, there was still time to light up an occasional doob, put on the headphones and trip out to various big deal concepts. Jeff Wayne‘s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds would have been one of the last of these worth paying attention to, a rock opera interpretation of H.G. Welles’ sci-fi epic, featuring the incongruous talents of David Essex, Phil Lynott, Justin Hayward, Chris Spedding, and oh yeah, Richard Burton. The mostly instrumental Horsell Common + The Heat Ray shows up about half-way through side one and deliciously marks that point that the Martians officially turn nasty.
The Undead (a fake movie band) tear things up with a little ditty about the construction of the perfect satanic rock star. From Phantom of the Paradise (the greatest rock and roll movie ever released in 1974) wherein the Faust legend gets mixed up with the Phantom of the Opera with a healthy dollop of glam rock sleaze thrown in for roughage. If you haven’t seen it, you’re incomplete, or you’re just not from Winnipeg.