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Rediscovering Superstar

January 10, 2011

It is always a refreshing experience when a musical obsession is rekindled. Never the result of as mundane an activity as putting my iPod on shuffle, it is invariably sparked off by a concatenation of unrelated remarks. Slowly it consumes my thoughts until, before I know it, I can think of nothing else. Suddenly it is almost essential to my survival that I stop everything and give in. Today I rediscovered my love for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece, Jesus Christ Superstar.

This morning, I abandoned my daily ritual of stumbling out of bed and onto the internet, and decided instead  to turn on the television.  Unlike the Americans you hear about who routinely find the image of Jesus on a pancake or in Mexican food, I found the image of Jesus on the screen. I discovered a moment later that it wasn’t Jesus, but the Australian cricketer Ben Hilfenhaus. That, on its own, is hardly stimulus enough for me to throw aside my breakfast and run to my iPod. It did, however, remind me of a conversation that I had in New York last year with B about Daniel Gildenlow, mastermind of Pain of Salvation. Over an unexpectedly discounted meal at a Hibachi restaurant, B and I discovered we shared a love for Webber’s 1970 rock opera with Gildenlow.

With Pain of Salvation’s India tour just around the corner, their music is doing the rounds on my playlist even more than usual. Now we have a concatenation. Hilfenhaus, Jesus, B and Pain of Salvation. Time to hit the play button.

I’m sure every fan has a preferred recording. My first recording was the 1992 Australian Cast Highlights and it is by far my favourite. It is the heaviest rendition, and the most intense. I always knew my love for metal was a direct result of wearing this tape to shreds in my walkman back when I was twelve. What I realised today, as I revisited this recording, is that my love for complex music was also probably born out of this obsession.

When something is as much a part of one’s personality as Jesus Christ Superstar is of mine, it is impossible to see it objectively and in isolation. However, with the benefit of time away from Superstar, I was able to approach it with a passive familiarity. I knew all the songs, but was able to discover things about them as if I was listening to them for the first time. I realised that if I had discovered Superstar today, it would fall squarely in the category of ‘my music’, and I would be just as consumed by it today as I was when I discovered it many years ago. It has everything, and few people in prog circles give it credit for being as influential as it is enjoyable.

I am an obsessive music listener, and I go through very definite phases with bands and music. It usually starts quite a while after the first time I listen to a band. It is followed by an intense two month period where I listen to virtually nothing else, after which the band is incorporated in the amalgam of previous bands that have been part of this ritual.

Jesus Christ Superstar was the first album that was mine, inasmuch as it was not something I picked out of my parents’ music collection. The pattern started here. Every guest to the house was made to watch the DVD; every friend of mine had to receive updates about my relationship with and thoughts on the music. Not much about my approach has changed since then. The only difference is now I’m sharing these updates with strangers on the internet too. It reminds me of Judas’ immortal line from Superstar, ‘If you’d come today you would have reached a whole nation/Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.’

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One Comment
  1. Hilf as JC- lookalike!
    well the Western version anyhow.
    Not sure JC was quite like that!

    Am going to ook up Pain of Salvation
    Is it spelt right?
    Think Paine might be next Aus captain
    And salvations is very mkuch required!

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