Monday Double Shot: Great Heads

by KATIE TAYLOR

1970’s London concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar — the thing that fooled everyone into thinking Andrew Lloyd Webber was cool. Fronted by metal band Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan as Jesus, the album included many other standout voices, including British actor/singer Murray Head as an splendidly angsty Judas.

Murray Head

Murray Head

Figure 1: Murray Head as Judas, Jesus Christ Superstar.

I’ve always enjoyed imagining Gillan, Head and the amazing band for this album reining in Webber’s more egregious tendencies. You’ll notice that when Webber, now a hugely famous Sir, revived JCS in the ’90s he cast ultra-wholesome Donny Osmond as Jesus and put back the hideous, treacly duet between Peter and Mary Magdalene. Also, the show now ended with a triumphant staged resurrection instead of the ambiguous darkness that more interestingly accompanied the beautiful “Gethsemane” playout in the original production. Since then, Webber has notably quashed a number of efforts to mount another actual rock production.

Head made ripples again in the ’80s with one of the most flamboyant and weird top singles in a decade rife with oddness and flamboyance. Composed by the ABBA team of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, “One Night in Bangkok,” from the concept album for the musical Chess, hit #1 on the Eurocharts and #3 in Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1985.

Figure 2: “One Night in Bangkok”

Two Heads are better than one. Head’s equally talented brother, Anthony Stewart Head, had already enjoyed a lengthy and illustrious show biz career before Joss Whedon picked him up to play Rupert Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996-2003).

Anthony Head

Anthony Stewart Head

Figure 3: Anthony Stewart Head as Giles in the Buffy musical from season 4, “Once More with Feeling.”

Before Buffy, Head turned heads as Dr. Frank N. Furter in the early ’90s West End revival of Rocky Horror Show.

Figure 4: Anthony Head cranks up “Sweet Transvestite,” ca. mid-2000s.

Yet another installment in a career riddled with cult classics, A.S. Head took a star turn in Repo! The Genetic Opera in 2008.

Figure 5: “Legal Assassin,” from Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Talented boys, those Heads!

Bonus shot: Murray Head sings the snot out of “Damned for All Time.”

Previous Double Shot: Ladybird

Your barista is Katie Taylor, a Portland-based writer, opera singer, director and librettist. Contact Katie at mondaydoubleshot@gmail.com.

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