According to Tim Rice, JCSS arose from a line in a Bob Dylan song - "I can't tell you, you'll have to decide, did Judas Iscariot have God on his side?" This was Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's third joint project, following on from the less successful "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", and a musical about the life of Doctor Barnado which was never produced.

This is a rock opera in the truest sense, with the entire story being told in song, without a single line of dialogue.

It presents Judas as a concerned friend of Jesus, terrified that the whole Jesus Movement has got out of hand and scared of the possible repercussions on the occupied Jewish nation, if the Roman conquerors take action to supress this potential rebellion. His betrayal of Jesus is shown as a desperate practical action, to protect the Jews from themselves, and he is tortured by concience into suicide

Jesus is portrayed as a reluctant hero, overwhelmed by what he has to do, and exhausted by the pressures placed on him, but resigned to the inevitable fact of his death.

The dislike of fundamental Christians for JCSS probably springs from a combination of its sympathetic stance toward Judas and showing Jesus as a man beset by doubts

The songs are great and the approach engrossing

Actually, to counter Psuedo_Intellectual's write up, The album was NOT originally produced in 1972. It was recreated in 1972. The original was produced in 1970, is widely accepted as the best recording of the album, and was lacking the tracks Could We Start Again Please and Then we are decided.

The Original Cast was:

Murray Head - Judas Iscariot
Ian Gillan - Jesus Christ
Yvonne Elliman - Mary Magdalene
Paul Raven - random priest
Victor Brox - Caiaphas, High Priest
Brian Keith - Annas
John Gustafson - Simon Zealotes
Barry Dennen - Pontius Pilate
Annette Brox - Maid by the Fire
Paul Davies - Peter
Mike d'Abo - King Herod

Musicians:

Bruce Rowland on Drums
Alan Penner on Bass
Henry McCullough on Guitar(s)
Neil Hubbard also on Guitar
Peter Robinson on Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, and Positive Organ
Chris Mercer on Tenor Sax?
and Andrew Lloyd Webber on Piano, Moog Synthesizer, and Organ
Also - several backup drummers and guitarists and symphony.

All tracks are as P_I wrote them, minus "Could We Start Again Please" and "Then We are Decided".
Maybe I can help explain the reservations many Christians have regarding Jesus Christ Superstar by summarizing first the writings from which the play's story is derived, and then the play itself:

The Gospels:
Jesus of Nazareth, the preternaturally self-assured, miracle-working leader of a popular Jewish revival, comes into conflict with the leading religious authorities of his day by his radical proclamation of God's coming kingdom and his claims, expressed both through words and actions, that he is not only the foretold Messiah of prophecy, he is in some sense identical with God himself. His torture, crucifixion and death at the hands of his enemies, treacherously aided by his own disciple Judas Iscariot, scatters his followers and all hope seems lost. But on the third day after his death Jesus rises from the grave as prophesized, finally revealed as Christ, Lord, and Savior. His suffering and death has brought atonement between humanity and God, and won a final victory over evil. The story ends with Jesus commissioning the disciples to spread the news about what has happened, upon which he ascends into Heaven.

Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus of Nazareth, the doubt-ridden leader of a popular Jewish revival, is killed and his movement all but destroyed because his own Messianic delusions lead him to ignore the sensible advice of his disciple, Judas Iscariot. Judas is forced to betray his master to the authorities in order to prevent Jesus' followers from rising up against Roman occupation forces, an event which would spell doom for the Jewish people. Though his motives are worthy Judas is wracked with guilt over his treachery and hangs himself. The play ends with Jesus hanging dead on the cross and his disciples scattered and in hiding.

Those who believe the statements found in the Christian creeds would naturally disagree with any representation of Jesus as something other than what the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles say he is.

But I believe that what really chafes our butts in particular regarding JCSS is the way it has captured the popular imagination as being the "real" Gospel story (see Lumpy Fred’s accusation that our ire is rooted in our own ignorance of the Bible’s contents) whereas in reality it simply ignores those parts of the Bible which contradict the authors’ conviction that Jesus was just another doomed idealist who got carried away by his own hype. No miracles and no resurrection, which makes Jesus' claims ridiculous.

Which is fine. If you think Jesus was a fool, so be it. But please, please don't play it back to us like you're paying him some sort of compliment.

Oh, and some folks think that rock music is Satanic, so they don’t like that part neither.

(On a personal note, I gotta confess that in spite of my objections to it, JCSS is something of a guilty pleasure of mine. The songs are catchy, and when you have the right guy playing Jesus it can be magic.)

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