Let’s Talk About Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert (dir by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski)

On Sunday night, my family and I ended our Easter Sunday by watching Jesus Christ Superstar Live.  Now, before I say anything else about NBC’s latest live musical production, there are a few things that I should make clear:

In college, there was this girl in my dorm who started the semester as a pagan, spent a month as an evangelical, and then ended the semester as a pagan again.  When she was going through her evangelical phase, she would listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack constantly, with the volume turned up so loud that you could hear it up and down the hallway.  Seriously.  24 hours a day.  7 days a week.  After three days, I was sick of hearing it.  I found myself wondering if anyone had ever been driven to murder over having to listen to Heaven On Their Minds one too many times.  Fortunately, something happened to cause her to once again lose her faith and she went back to listening to Fall Out Boy.

For quite some time afterward, I would instinctively cringe whenever I heard any of the songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.  In fact, it wasn’t until I first came across the 1973 film version that I was able to once again appreciate it as a musical and overlook its association with that annoying pagan.  From the first time I watched it, I really liked that movie and, every time I rewatch it, I like it even more.  When I started watching Sunday’s production, I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to set aside my feelings about both the pagan and the movie and judge the television version on its own merits.

Well, I shouldn’t have worried.  While I still prefer the original film version, Sunday’s television production was wonderfully conceived and executed.  From the first note of music to the final curtain call, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert captured my attention and refused to let it go, keeping me watching even through the lengthy commercial interruptions.  The musicians and the singers sounded great, or at least they did once the audience mics were turned down.  (At the start of the show, the audience was so loud that they threatened to drown out Heaven On Their Minds.)  The production design was simply amazing, combining downtown New York with ancient Judea in a way that reminded us just how timeless the musical’s story truly is.  (The 1973 film opened with a bunch of hippies driving through the desert.  The 2018 production opened with Jesus’s name being spray painted on a wall.  Both openings felt perfect for the story that was being told.)

As for the cast, Brandon Victor Dixon was compellingly intense as Judas and Norm Lewis was properly intimidating as Caiaphas.  The big marquee name was Alice Cooper, who obviously enjoyed playing the production’s burlesque version of Herod.  That said, the entire show was stolen by Ben Daniels, who was wonderfully conflicted as Pilate.  I wasn’t as impressed by Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, or I should say that I apparently wasn’t as impressed with her performance as everyone else on twitter.  (To me, she seemed a bit too peppy, especially in the early numbers.  I know I’m in the minority as far as that goes.)  Finally, in the role of Jesus, John Legend grew on me.  Of course, in the show, Jesus doesn’t really become an interesting character until he sings “Poor Jerusalem” and that was the moment that Legend himself seemed to truly feel comfortable with the role.

It’s probably pointless to compare the 1973 film to the 2018 version but still, I did find it interesting how the live version reimagined the relationship between Jesus and Judas.  In the 1973 version, Jesus is largely aloof for almost the entire film.  Judas seems to be frustrated because he can’t figure out what Jesus is planning to do and Jesus himself never seems to feel that he can allow himself to get truly close to anyone.  In the film, Judas’s anger is the anger of someone who has spent the last few years of his life following a leader and who is now wondering if he’s been wasting his time.  He’s like a Democrat who has just realized that his party is even less interested in reigning in Wall Street than the Republicans.

In the live version, the Jesus/Judas relationship came across as being a bromance gone wrong.  In this version, Judas’s disatisfaction is less political and more jealousy over Jesus being closer to the Magdalene than to him.  When Judas snaps at Jesus in the 2018 version, Jesus actually seems to get personally offended.  The dynamic between Dixon and Legend is definitely different from the one between Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson in the original version.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s one of the wonderful things about theater.  When successfully done, each subsequent production brings something new to an old story.

Jesus Christ Superstar definitely worked.  As far as the current wave of live television musicals is concerned, this was the best one yet.

Music Video of the Day: He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) by Alice Cooper (1986, dir. Jeffrey Ableson)

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986, dir. Tom McLoughlin)

I see director Jeffrey Abelson, writer Keith Williams, and Alice Cooper got that Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) was meant to be funny.

I have a couple of questions right up front.

“And he’s after your soul”??? Umm…since when did Jason want your soul? It may have been 5 years since I watched parts 2-10, Freddy vs. Jason, and the remake, but I’m quite sure Jason was never concerned with souls. The closest he got was hopping into bodies in Jason Goes To Hell. That didn’t have to with souls. That was because he needed a Voorhees womb to get into and then pop-out fully grown seconds later to make his second cameo in his own film.

Also, he “knows your house”??? Jason is Santa Claus now? Cooper took some liberties with this song.

I’m not 100% sure why the kid in this video is named Jason. However, the film does make several jokes about the abandoned idea of having Tommy Jarvis become the new Jason, so I’m going to assume that’s the reason.

Jason is basically a stand-in for people who thumb their noses at these kinds of movies. And just in case you didn’t get that, they include the scene where the caretaker says:

Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment.

at the end of the video.

Seeing as Jason didn’t get good grades, much like his movie counterpart doesn’t have any of the following qualities,…

he has to walk to the theater with his date.

Why does this theater have an entrance that makes me think Pinhead is going to walk through it?

A codpiece? He doesn’t even break anything over it in the video. He does smash a bottle on his forehead though.

I’m glad they included the best scene in the movie. Tommy Jarvis deciding he needs to double-kill Jason, and in the process accidentally resurrecting him as a zombie .

It’s all your fault, Tommy. You could have just set fire to his coffin. You didn’t have to open it and poke at his corpse with a metal rod before trying to burn him.

Thanks to this video, we get to see Tarzan-Jason. I don’t remember that happening in any of the movies.

Yes, it turns out to be Alice Cooper pretending to be Jason. Still, Tarzan-Jason is something I could’ve have gotten behind. I’m guessing Cooper was pretending to be Jason because he just can’t let go of the ending of A New Beginning.

Continuity wasn’t a high priority for these movies. Not for the mask though. That must always have the gash in it no matter how much retconning goes on.

While the Cooper fanboy is scared by the film, Jason and his girlfriend eventually get fed up and wander onto the set of the rest of the music video. A lot of weird stuff is going on here.

Cooper is hanging out with a snake.

Cooper apparently had a cage setup to catch his son. What if they had been standing a little off-center?

Someone with wings rising off a horse. Sure.

They escape…somehow. Also, Jason gets Cooper…somehow.

In the end, the twist is that Jason’s father is Alice Cooper because we weren’t supposed to recognize his speaking voice? I guess that works seeing as I’m sure plenty of people didn’t notice Kane Hodder standing outside the corner’s office in Jason Goes To Hell. I didn’t.

But does that mean that Jason never saw his father before now? I’m going with it being that the films are make-believe like Alice Cooper in makeup. Alice Cooper is a man behind a mask too. Within the video, it’s a side his son never saw before.



cracked rear viewer

This past August, I got to see Alice Cooper perform live in concert (on a triple bill with classic rockers Deep Purple and Edgar Winter!). The Coop’s Grand Giugnol antics, complete with a ten-foot Frankenstein, a murderous danse macabre with a ballerina, the famous guillotine routine, loads of pyro, and the incredible shredding of guitar goddess Nita Strauss, stole the show. Alice has always been the most theatrical of rockers, and the man’s still got it!

In 1975, Alice released his first solo LP without his longtime backing band, “Welcome to My Nightmare”, featuring Cooper classics like “Cold Ethyl”, “Black Widow”, “Only Women Bleed”, and the title track. A videotaped TV special was made to coincide with the album, and horror icon Vincent Price was brought in to play ‘The Curator of The Nightmare’ (Price did narration for ‘Black Widow’ on the record, predating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). If you’ve got…

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Music Video of the Day: (No More) Love At Your Convenience by Alice Cooper (1977, dir. ???)

Oh. Apparently this isn’t the most well-liked Alice Cooper song out there with comments on YouTube saying things like “Pure crap!!!” and “Didn’t Alice claim he was too drunk to even recall recording this song?” I wouldn’t be surprised about the second one seeing as, according to Wikipedia, he hospitalized himself for alcoholism himself after the album tour.

I guess for a short period in the late-70s, Alice Cooper decided to take a break from the usual persona, and try out a character named Maurice Escargot–a drinking PI you can see at the start of the video.

The song may not be good, but I like that it exists. It’s a reminder to me that behind the band named Alice Cooper is a guy who also goes by the name Alice Cooper who plays a persona while in real life he is a golfer and was friends with Glen Campbell. About a month ago, after Campbell passed away, Alice gave a short interview about his relationship with him.

The video is a different matter. I love it.

While two totally different songs, it has that same grainy 1970s looking insanity that makes the video for Elected so good.

Talking about the video in detail would be like talking about the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band–yes, he was in that movie. I’m just gonna show a few thing that caught my eye.

You’ve got The Man Who Laughs (1928).

A very judgmental James Cagney.

Little Red Riding Hood.

Alice Cooper getting flashed.

I have no idea what to make of this guy.

Ah, honey. You didn’t have to bring home a Funkadelic music video with you.

Cosmic Slop by Funkadelic (1973)

I wonder how many more of these every-thing-and-the-kitchen-sink-pre-MTV music videos are out there? I ask since those were popular at the start of MTV. Yet, most of the videos from the 1960s and 1970s that I’ve spotlighted so far, aren’t that type of video.

If you’re interested in the album this song is from, Lace And Whiskey, then there’s an article over on Ultimate Classic Rock.


Music Video of the Day: Elected by Alice Cooper (1972, dir. Hart Perry)

It is prime time to do this music video now because of the election. That’s why you’ll find numerous videos of Alice Cooper performing the song this year. However, even if this wasn’t an election year, this one is not just a fun election related music video to do. It is important considering this was made in 1972. I don’t mean that there weren’t music videos around then. There most certainly were. But this one is different. It probably would have gone completely over my head had I not stumbled upon a quote on the mvdbase entry for this music video.

“Here’s my take on the whole video history thing. I might have to take a little credit for the bit of attention that the ‘Elected’ video has gotten because I always tried to make a very big deal out of making sure this was always mentioned in all of Alice’s biographical material. Music videos (or promo clips as us old timers referred to them before the advent of MTV) have been around before rock ‘n’ roll even reared its ugly head. Most, if not all of these “videos” were of the artist performing a song — maybe with a backdrop if they got fancy. In the 60’s, the Beatles and a few other bands made some videos that were a bit more like the ones we know of today. They were made specifically as promotional vehicles for the current single. The ‘Strawberry fields’ video was very psychedelic and showed the Beatles running around in a park — frontwards and backwards. There were others by the Who and the Stones, etc. as well.
“The thing that stands out about the ‘Elected’ video is that there was no performance or lip-synching which was very unusual. It also was possibly the first video that had a storyline. And, the most subtle yet significant thing, was the editing. The editing was done in a quick, choppy fashion which ultimately came to be what MTV was most cited for. After people noticed MTV was a force to be reckoned with, commercials and TV shows (Miami Vice) started to pattern themselves to look like MTV with this editing style.” [Brian Renfield Nelson, Alice Cooper band member, Sept. 1995, quoted from Alice Cooper Trivia]

He’s right. If you look at 1970’s music videos by ABBA, then you will see some interesting stuff going on. For example there’s quick cuts, a moving camera, it isn’t just them all by themselves the entire time, etc. However, you’ll notice that while ABBA is lip-syncing, no one is doing that in Elected. Also, even though ABBA videos have artsy stuff going on, there isn’t really a story there. You can see more of one in Take A Chance On Me, but that was 1978. Plus, it is still made up largely of a performance. There’s no performance of the song going on in Elected. The song is played over what could be clips from a film, except there’s no time when it cuts back to Alice Cooper playing.

It is a bit of an unfair comparison in quality because Alice Cooper had Hart Perry and ABBA had famed Swedish director Lasse Hallström, but the differences between Elected and the ABBA music videos highlight why it was so revolutionary. It has the band, it is live-action, it uses real sets rather than just a backdrop, it has a storyline, it has no lip-syncing, and it has no re-creation of a performance. I looked through the 129 music videos I have done prior to this, and I couldn’t find a single one that met all those characteristics. I know there must be one out there, but I haven’t hit another one other than Elected. There were a couple that came close like Self Control by Laura Branigan, but even that had her lip-sync a few lines. The same for Pressure and We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel.

Probably the most prominent thing that Hart Perry is known for is being the cinematographer on the documentary Harlan County U.S.A. (1976).

That’s the only member of the crew I could find.

I am not sure if the music video is cut short, but I do know the line about him not caring about people’s problems is missing from the music video as it is posted above.


Music Video of the Day: Feed My Frankenstein by Alice Cooper (1992, dir. Penelope Spheeris)

I thought this would be simple. It’s October, so of course Feed My Frankenstein by Alice Cooper would fit. Also, I find that I get more hits on artists and songs that people know. It was in Wayne’s World (1992). A perfect storm to feature as a music video of the day. I had no idea it would be so difficult to find out who directed it when it should have been obvious.

You would immediately think that Penelope Spheeris directed the music video. I went to the two major databases on music videos–IMVDb and mvdbase–but neither of them had a director listed.

At first glance, it looked like what I remembered from the movie. I pulled out my copy of Wayne’s World and played that sequence side-by-side with the music video. It certainly is the same set, but they actually look quite different.

The next thing that came to mind was that it made sense that she would shoot a little extra material for Alice Cooper so he would have a music video for his song. After all, she directed The Decline of Western Civilization movies and has a personal quote on IMDb that says:

[on why she does documentaries about metal and punk music] “I mean, look, you don’t see me making documentaries on Britney Spears, you know what I mean? Sweetheart of a little girl, you know. Or Madonna. That’s not my thing. I just like this harder edge stuff. That’s just me.”

My next step was to look up whether she did have any credits for directing music videos, and up came some results. She shot at least three music videos for Megadeth. However, that was only a tease because she actually directed the music video for Megadeth’s cover of Alice Cooper’s No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Luckily, the website Songfacts came to my rescue, and said exactly what I thought to begin with when I went in to writing this post. She shot some more footage to create an extended version of that scene from the movie.

I don’t know how that wasn’t in the two biggest music video databases, but there’s the series of steps I went through to find out that piece of information.

Sadly, that’s pretty much all I have on this music video. The difference between the music video and the film, is that you get the full song with all its’ sexual metaphors. The only other thing to mention is that Alice Cooper was originally going to perform School’s Out, but two weeks before filming, Mike Myers was told by the band’s manager Shep Gordon that he would be performing their new song, Feed My Frankenstein. Again, thank you Songfacts for that information too.