Guilty pleasures, an occasional series. Jesus Christ Superstar.

What day it is today, Friday 2nd April, 2021?
It’s the first Friday after the full moon after the vernal equinox.
Why is that important? Well, to those of the Western Christian faith, this day is Good Friday. For those Christians following the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, Good or Great Friday occurs later in the month because they are still tied in to the Julian calendar, but that I’m sure is another story…

For someone who, at a fairly early age, and as I’ve written elsewhere in this blog, in spite of a Church of England school education, decided that god or God if you will, didn’t exist and that religion was just a creation of those who would Lord it over others; (capital “L” there, see what I did?), I have always had a deep affection for the film Jesus Christ Superstar, well, ever since 1973 at least.

Mind you, I saw the stage musical in the West End in 1972, it knocked my teenage socks off. That was a strange one though, I was, what? 13/14 years old or thereabouts and my grandmother and a whole group of like-minded ladies from a local church group had bought tickets to go up to London and see the show; I was tacked on as an afterthought I think, maybe one of the ladies had been unable to go but I was asked if I’d like to go along, and I said ‘Yes’.

So there I was with the blue rinse brigade on the coach up to town, oh yes, we weren’t slumming it on public transport, a coach had been hired for the occasion. We were deposited at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End and duly filed in and took our seats for the matinee performance. I had no idea what to expect, neither did any of the ladies in our group.

It was music, it was pop music… it was… rock music. Aften an initial fear that the ladies would decide that this wasn’t for them and insist that we leave, I settled down and enjoyed the show. At this remote I don’t remember too much about it but I do remember the crucifixion scene, the stage composed of underlit squares, a bit like the ‘disco dancefloor’ that Saturday Night Fever would features some years later. Paul Nicholas, as Jesus, rose from the stage on an illuminated cube which had a metal, ‘Y’ shaped fixture, the two ‘arms’ of which he held onto, arms outstretched. This had the effect of concentrating vision on the man, not the instrument of execution.

English actor and singer Paul Nicholas plays the crucified messiah in the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, on stage at the Palace Theatre, London, 28th July 1972. (Photo by Leonard Burt/Central Press/Getty Images)

Well, that’s how I remembered it. I had to go trawling t’internet to find a photo to corroborate my memory, which I’m please to say, wasn’t at fault. The image above is a Getty Images ‘preview’, the original is available to purchase for a silly amount of money.

After the show there was much muttering amongst the ladies, I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t quite what they expected but I think they enjoyed the spectacle, I certainly had.

And something stuck with me. A few years later I bought the Music For Pleasure edition of the soundtrack album, highlights from… I played it to death, I knew all the words and would sing along.

The Music For Pleasure release, Jesus Christ Superstar.

As I’ve said, I’m not religious, but I’m fascinated by religions and the god/man interplay.
Why then, to an avowed atheist, did I feel such a connection to this show, this set of songs, this story?
It’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times. The story of an ordinary man asked by a god to do something extraordinary. A man who wants to do the right thing but having seen the course of events is having second thoughts.

And I think I know the answer, it’s the song writing.

From the song ‘Gethsemane’ (I only want to say):

Why should I die?
Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain,
Show me there’s a reason for your wanting me to die,
You’re far too keen on ‘where’ and ‘how’ but not so hot on ‘why’.

It’s a powerful song, a man asking his god to explain why he must do what he fears to do.

I used to joke about doing a one-man version of Jesus Christ Superstar, Christ, I knew all the words… One of Rice and Webber’s finest in my opinion, the songs are so … powerful.

Christ, what more do you need to convince you,
That you’ve made it and you’re easily as strong,
As the filth from Rome who rape our country,
And who’ve terrorized our people for so long?

So here we are again, Easter.
And what is true meaning of Easter, linked to the vernal equinox and the full moon?
Veneration of the goddess of spring, Eastra or Eostre or many other variations?
An empty tomb marking the foundation of the Christian faith?

That crazy, quasi-pagan celebration of… well, what?
Chocolate? Eggs? Rabbits?
Chocolate eggs and rabbits?

Organised religion has given us many things over the years; pogrom, jihad, crusade, war, hatred, intolerance, genocide. On the good side it has left us with many architectural gems but the crowning achievement of organised religion must, in my opinion, surely be the Christians and their hot cross buns.

Forget all that, thou shalt not steal, kill, covet your neighbour’s ox, wife, Ford Mondeo etc. (yes, technically Jewish, not Christian), that stuff is just common sense and good manners.
Turn the other cheek if you must, that is sure to piss-off your smiter. Just be careful how you reconcile that with an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth and all that other lex talionis shenanigans
Hot cross buns, people, hot cross buns, and chocolate.
However you do or don’t celebrate this weekend, Happy Easter.

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