Rock Operas, Episode III – A different one

And here’s episode III of my rock operas series! This time I bring you something quite different, and I’ll enter Miguel’s territory (musical films) for a while.

Without further delay, here is Jesus Christ Superstar!

You probably all have heard about Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Cats, Sunset Boulevard among other musicals (if you haven’t already, you should definitely check these ones out, especially you Miguel) and of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was his first really big production (maybe if we don’t count Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), with a very good cast. It started off by a studio album in 1970, a rock opera, and then went to Broadway and a film was made in 1973.

As its name says, this recounts, in a somewhat free way the last week of Jesus Christ life. But don’t feel set aback by the theme, as both the album and the movie are very, very good.

The musical starts off with two songs, Overture, which looks like a “making of” of the movie itself and Heaven on Their Minds, sung by Judas Iscariot.

TJesus Christ Superstarhe musical is based very loosely on the Gospels’ account of the last week of Jesus’ life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem, and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus, struggles that are not in the Bible. The resurrection is not included. It therefore largely follows the form of a traditional passion play.

The work’s depiction offers a free interpretation of the psychology of Jesus and the other characters. A large part of the plot focuses on the character of Judas, who is depicted as a tragic figure who is dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus steers his disciples. 20th-century attitudes and sensibilities as well as contemporary slang pervade the lyrics, and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout the depiction of political events. Stage and film productions accordingly feature many intentional anachronisms.

On the album, Ian Gillan, of Deep Purple fame, plays the role of Jesus, but on the subsequent Broadway productions and on the movie, the role is given to this man on the poster, Ted Neeley. Judas is played on the film by the great Carl Anderson as next video’s performance shows.

Hope you liked yet another long post, and be sure to place the songs and the movie on their time, as the songs are a bit dated.

I’ll probably let episode IV in standby, but when it returns you may expect a bit of a shift in direction (we’re going to rock & roll with Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwhistle, see if you can guess who they are – no googling, come on!)

See you!

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Rock Operas, Episode II – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

After two side posts, here I am again with yet another rock opera. As promised, this time I bring you early Genesis (12 years before their hit Invisible Touch and 6 before Turn it on again) and their magnum-opus, their “big lump story of music”, in Peter Gabriel’s words.

The album tells the surreal story of a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent named Rael living in New York City, who is swept underground to face bizarre creatures and nightmarish dangers in order to rescue his brother John.

Their live shows were largely theatrical (check next picture), with Gabriel changing customs (check the last picture – a slipperman) a lot and with a lot of scenario-related props. However, they differed from their contemporaneous bands in that they still focused on presenting very well structured music, rather than only on the show, as Circus’ Ron Ross said:

“Where groups from the Who to ELP [Emerson, Lake and Palmer] impress their fans
visually with walls of amplified thunder-machinery, Genesis’ [sic] set is virtually bare of
electric equipment. Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford’s amps are so well hidden that
their music often appears to emanate from the air itself. No mountains of synthesiser
technology surround Tony Banks. Aside from the panoramic three-part slide screen
and an odd little rock formation at the center of the stage, the most striking “prop” is
Phil Collins’ beautifully complete and well-ordered drum kit. It is almost a sculpture in
itself, but, of course, its function is strictly musical.”

The show would start with Peter Gabriel, dressed like a common pub-rocker, saying these words:

Good evening. We’ve written a big lump of story and music and we’d like to play the whole thing for you tonight. It tells of how a large black cloud descends into Time
Square and straddles out across 42nd Street, turns into a wall and sucks in Manhattan Island. Our hero, named Rael, crawls out of the subways of New York and is sucked
into the wall, to regain consciousness underground. This is the story of Rael.

Then, Tony Banks’ keyboard would sound, just like this:

For me, the best song of the whole 90 minutes is In The Cage, which deals with fear. At this point Rael has awakened trapped in a cave in a state of great fear and sensory agitation.

Probably one of the better know songs from this album is Carpet Crawlers:

Peter Gabriel as a Slipperman

I’m sorry for not explaining better the whole meaning of this, but, in opposition to the first episode the story is not as straightforward, having many dreams and creatures, and hidden meanings… There’s even books written about this, such as the very good  Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Kevin Holm-Udson, from which I took some of the info here posted.

I really hope you liked this small sample of the great music created by Genesis, as I completely love their 70’s work..

Stay tuned for the next episode, Jesus Christ Superstar!

A treat to many of our viewers: Não percam o próximo episódio, porque nós, também não!

EDIT: If you want to read the whole story, here it is.

Rock Operas, Episode I – The Wall

Rock opera. What the hell is a rock opera?

No, it doesn’t have opera singers singing over guitar riffs, bass lines and drum licks. It is rather a rock album that presents a storyline and a base theme spread throughout several songs and or parts in a similar way to an opera. It can be understood as a type of a concept album, of which you may already have heard.

Ok, but why am I bringing this subject? Because several rock operas have been hugely successful, and you have certainly heard some related songs.

I myself enjoy very much a rock opera, as we can hear a theme, both musical and lyrical, in different ways and varied instrumentations, for example. So, I’m going to start a series of posts regarding this matter.

Today’s post is about the most celebrated rock opera ever: The Wall by Pink Floyd! Who hasn’t heard the children choir singing “We don’t need no education” ?

In 1979, Pink Floyd released what would become their greatest worldwide success, an album (and a movie) that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolised by a metaphorical wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink, a character based on Waters, whose father was killed during the Second World War. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother, and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers. Each of these traumas become metaphorical “bricks in the wall”.

The protagonist eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. As his marriage crumbles, he finishes building his wall, completing his isolation from human contact.

Hidden behind his wall, Pink’s crisis escalates, culminating in an hallucinatory on-stage performance where he believes that he is a fascist dictator performing at concerts similar to Neo-Nazi rallies, at which he sets men on fans he considers unworthy. Tormented with guilt, he places himself on trial, his inner judge ordering him to “tear down the wall”, opening Pink to the outside world. The album turns full circle with its closing words “Isn’t this where…”, the first words of the phrase that begins the album, “…we came in?”, with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters’ theme.

On 1980, they had a small tour where they staged the whole album, similar to the movie that was also released (with Bob Geldof as Pink), with a wall being built and destroyed during the performance. Later, when the Berlin Wall was destroyed, Roger Waters (then already outside the Floyd) organized a huge concert with many guests in Berlin. 20 years later, he toured the world again recreating the 1980 concerts. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the awesomeness that is The Wall! Check the whole concert here 😀

Ok, the post is growing long and I still haven’t posted what is considered David Gilmour’s best solo, and one of the best rock solos ever, Comfortably numb (in the recent Roger Waters tour)

Finally, one piece of music that I love from the movie: empty spaces / what shall we do now:

Hope you enjoyed this rather long description of one of the best albums ever, and stay tuned for the next rock opera:

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis