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Heaven on their minds

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Heaven on Their Minds: The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar is a documentary about the original London cast of the album (they call it the Brown Album), which has been in on-and-off production for a couple of years now. The last update (March 27) from the producer Megan Park says:

Next, we are meeting Shannon Park and Sean Pollock to discuss resuming (or should I say “resurrecting”) production of Heaven On Their Minds.This documentary about the creation of Jesus Christ Superstar (the original rock opera album) began three years ago and picked up a lot of momentum along the way.

We’ve already interviewed Ian Gillan (Jesus) and have verbal confirmations from the cast and the band. We even have Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice on board if we can prove financing. But the project stalled because we needed money and an editor to cut a Kickstarter video so that we could fly to London to interview the players. And then I moved to Ohio. But now that I’m working with Michelle who is an editor, I think we can get this project started again. Cross your fingers.

There is an interview from October last year with the filmmaker Shannon Park on Yahoo Voices that further delves into motivation, status, and goals of the project:

What made you decide to do a film documentary on your love/passion for the album?

I was searching on the Internet back in 2009, looking for answers to questions I had about the making of the album. I was stunned that nothing exists about it. No interviews, photos, or TV shows about it. How could that be? So many credible people were on that record- no one cared to document this history?

The only thing I had was a book by Ellis Nassour called Rock Opera. I took it from the Brookville public library when I was 17 and have had it all this time. The book was about it’s meteoric flight to the top, but didn’t have the pre-story: how the original album was made.

Of the cast and crew, who haven’t you been able to interview for this documentary?

I have pre interviewed via phone and email almost all of them. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s manager Peter Brown called and we spoke a while. I was told ALW was very interested in my project. I met Tim Rice here in NYC, he assured me he’d love to sit for an interview as soon as proof of funding for the project was made. Of the singers I’ve communicated with Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Brian Keith (O’Shea now), John Gustafson, Victor Brox and Mike d’Abo. I spoke to Pianist J. Peter Robinson and Saxophonist Chris Mercer as well. I filmed Ian Gillan and got a great interview. I have top executives from Decca Records and the album artist and creator, Ernie Cefelu, who gave me permission to use the angels. They all said yes to being in the film.

So far, so good!

But for the life of me, I cannot locate Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. To me, they’re the heart and soul of this project. Their playing was incredible and the film cannot be made without them. I got a cheeky email from Guitarist Henry McCulloch and thought, eureka! But then it went cold and he never responded to me again and I was crestfallen. With the exception of bassist Alan Spenner, who died a while ago, the remaining members are out there and I want them to sit with me and tell me a tale!

Do you believe that this film documentary will create a whole new generation of fans?

It has the potential to awaken a lot of people who are susceptible to superb playing and melodies. It’s infectious music. It emotionally takes you by the soul and whips you around. Musically it is an incredible masterpiece. For instance, the use of different time signatures to build tension in the story, the lush string arrangements with the intricate, and often funky, bass and drum rhythms underneath along with the timeless production quality is a musician’s dream.

It has a strong theater following, but there are also people who love it who are not into musical theater. I actually feel it’s been totally co opted by musical theater when it’s roots are in rock and roll.

I don’t think Deep Purple fans even know one of Ian Gillan’s most incredible vocal performance exists on this album. And that’s a shame.

Shannon, I have a sneaking suspicion you might be slightly mistaken on the account of Deep Purple fans.

Ian Gillan was asked to do the film, and wanted his band members to be paid for the time he was away from them. What do you think about this?

He’s a rock star and his band comes first. He told me there was no negotiating, he wasn’t ever going to do it. The Deep Purple tour had been booked already and Jewison interviewed him as a courtesy. Perhaps if Gillan did request that, it was a way for him to put the screws to the director. See how badly they really wanted him, you know? All conjecture.

While filming, did you sense any bitterness or anger from cast/crew, or was the making of this album pure joy for everyone involved?

All in all, everyone pretty much loved the experience and said so. The wonderful enthusiasm the cast has had toward me and this project has been overwhelming. The passion from the fans encouraging me to keep going has been mind-blowing. People really want to know all about how these two unknown collaborators, who had moderate success with Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat got London’s top shelf rock vocalists and session musicians to make this crazy concept album about JESUS!

Really, how on earth did they pull it off?

Links:

Thanks to Yvonne Osthausen for the info.



13 Comments to “Heaven on their minds”:

  1. 1
    Scott W. says:

    Article quote:
    “I don’t think Deep Purple fans even know one of Ian Gillan’s most incredible vocal performance exists on this album. And that’s a shame”.

    Couldn’t agree more! Gillan was at his peak here! Love the sound of his voice during this period (In Rock). Never bettered! I was lucky to get Gillan to sign the outer box (brown version) for this CD set in 2006.

  2. 2
    Daniel Miller says:

    Gethsemane isn’t just one of Ian Gillan’s most incredible vocal performances; it is one of THE most incredible vocal performances ever recorded.

  3. 3
    GerAssenNetherlands says:

    Ian Gillan = Jesus Christ ! Period, for me no doubt about that.

    Cheers, enjoy life.

  4. 4
    Thilak Gunawardane says:

    carl anderson sang. is a good sound

  5. 5
    Michael Soto says:

    Ian Gillan blows the doors off of the wimpy performance by Ted Neely.

  6. 6
    Drdp says:

    At that time only ONE MAN had the voice of Christ.

  7. 7
    Susie Beasty says:

    Was with the lads in 1970 when Ian had signed the contract. Lyceum Strand with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Happy Days.

  8. 8
    Jeff Summers says:

    This is really interesting. I hope it happens. I love this album, I think
    It is ALW, Rice and Gillans finest hour. Musically it is incredible, lyrically mesmerising, vocally astonishing. I understand from various reports that the original concept album has sold in excess of 20 million copies!! That is by far the most commercially successful product from any of the DP and family projects.

  9. 9
    henrik h says:

    The music and lyrics are really something. I have the sheetmusic and very often plays it. I wish they would release the full score.

  10. 10
    KIDD PURPLE says:

    When first introduced to Fireball by my older brother we also had Jesus Christ Superstar and behold our # 1 singer ! Hooked forever!

  11. 11
    Roberto says:

    Sadly T. Ashton can’t be intreviewd…

  12. 12
    Alan Taylor says:

    Henry McCullough lives in Portstewart, Northern Ireland. I imagine he never responded to the producer’s second email as he fell very seriously ill in 2012 and was actually reported dead on a couple of occasions. I believe he is recovering, slowly. That said, I doubt the project will be made if Shannon’s research doesn’t include the internet – Henry’s condition has been widely reported.

  13. 13
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Who is Carl Anderson? 🙁

    I let people listen to the Gillan version over the years. They were only accustomed to the Ted Neeley version..

    Most of them say they prefer Neeley

    I appreciate both but ofcourse Gillan in that period is a GOD.

    One of them actually remarked : he tries to sound like David Bowie. Me : WTF?!

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