something i noticed in the first couple days of my JCS obsession, but faded from my mind later–Heaven on Their Minds is really brilliant. this line is what i’m referring to in particular:
Listen, Jesus, to the warning I give. Please remember that I want us to live…
it gives away the central conflict of the musical immediately! Judas is concerned with staying alive–he’s focused on their earthly existence and the continuation thereof. Jesus doesn’t put nearly as much importance on their staying alive; he’s worried about heavenly matters and ensuring everyone’s future after they die. and this miscommunication of ideals is the whole problem.
then you get to see Judas seem to echo some of the same concerns, starting with Damned for All Time, but he definitely doesn’t let his fear of being damned interfere with his betrayal of Jesus. even later, during Judas’ Death, he’s not worried about damnation; he emphasizes “I shall be dragged through the slime and the mud”–seemingly synonymous with my reputation will be ruined or this is what I will be remembered for, rather than I’ve ruined my chances at heaven. and he’s only coming to this realization because of what’s happening to Jesus’s body.
whereas Jesus himself doesn’t care about what he’s physically going through, as he trusts in a spiritual redemption to happen soon enough. he dismisses the apostles’ worries, he urges against open rebellion, he only cares when the status of people’s eternal souls are on the line (see: The Temple).
it’s nothing more than a difference of priorities that sets Jesus and Judas into opposition, and Heaven on Their Minds demonstrates that instantly.
Let’s start at the beginning with “Heaven On Their Minds,“ a real masterpiece of economical, character-driven exposition. Right from the top, it gives us everything: it introduces Judas and establishes him as the central dramatic character, an intelligent, perceptive man with (legitimate) concerns; explains his relationship with Jesus and his doubts about Jesus’ approach; and even provides some information about Jesus’ growing ministry.
My mind is clearer now. At last, all too well I can see where we all soon will be. If you strip away The myth from the man You will see where we all soon will be.
Jesus! You’ve started to believe The things they say of you. You really do believe This talk of God is true. And all the good you’ve done Will soon get swept away. You’ve begun to matter more Than the things you say.
Listen Jesus I don’t like what I see. All I ask is that you listen to me. And remember I’ve been your right hand man all along. You have set them all on fire, They think they’ve found the new Messiah And they’ll hurt you when they find they’re wrong.
I remember when this whole thing began. No talk of God then we called you a man And believe me My admiration for you hasn’t died But every word you say today Gets twisted ‘round some other way And they’ll hurt you if they think you’ve lied
Nazareth your famous son Should have stayed a great unknown Like his father carving wood He’d have made good Tables, chairs and oaken chests Would have suited Jesus best He’d have caused nobody harm, No one alarm.
Listen Jesus do you care for your race? Don’t you see we must keep in our place? We are occupied Have you forgotten how put down we are? I am frightened by the crowd For we are getting much too loud And they’ll crush us if we go too far If we go too far.
Listen Jesus to the warning I give Please remember that I want us to live But it’s sad to see Our chances weakening with every hour All your followers are blind Too much heaven on their minds It was beautiful but now it’s sour Yes it’s all gone sour
(vocal ad libs to fade)
And this, in 1970, was the first version of the song, and for that matter the version of the song that existed until the 1996 West End revival, in which a ton of changes were made, to lyrics and orchestrations. (More about that further in this post.)
However, in 1970, it was also not the only version of the song. Having had U.S. airplay of "Superstar” (the first single before the album ever came into being) restricted because of the lyrical content, Tim (“very stupidly,” as he puts it in his autobiography) decided to rewrite significant portions of “Heaven On Their Minds” purely for the single version (give it a listen; you can tell it’s designed to cash in on the success of “Superstar” as a single, especially with the extra Soul Girl-type background vocals tacked on), which Murray Head re-recorded specifically to get this version down. It follows, with the differing lyrics italicized.
JUDAS My mind is clearer now. At last, all too well I can see where we all soon will be. If you strip away The sleep from your eyes You will see where we all soon will be.
Jesus! I started to believe The things they say of you. I really did believe That what they said was true. (Jesus!) And everything I do Will soon be swept away. No one listens anymore To anything today.
Listen Jesus I don’t like what I see. All I ask is that you listen to me. And remember I’ve been your right hand man all along. For the world is catching fire, They’re looking for a new Messiah We are falling, we are going wrong.
SOUL GIRLSHeaven on their mind, heaven on their mind Heaven on their mind, heaven
JUDAS I remember when this whole thing began. We spoke of peace, we would love every man And believe me My admiration for you hasn’t died But every word you say today Gets twisted ‘round some other way They’ll forget you if they think you’ve lied
SOUL GIRLS Heaven on their mind, heaven on their mind Heaven on their mind, heaven
JUDAS Crazy people in control Laughing, weeping, dancing souls You would think that rock 'n’ roll’s All that we do Never time to catch a breath – Fighting, lying, dying, death Death… death… nothing is true!
Listen Jesus do you care for your race? Don’t you see that we’re stuck in this place? We’reonly human Have you forgotten how put down we are? I am frightened by the crowd For we are getting much too loud And they’ll crush us if we go too far If we go too far.
Listen Jesus to the warning I give Please remember that I want us to live But it’s sad to see Our chances weakening with every hour We are impotent and blind Too much heaven on our minds It was beautiful but now it’s sour Yes it’s all gone sour
(vocal ad lib to fade)
As Tim put it, “Even if these and other lines had been a) good and b) not deeply depressing, it was really foolish of me to forget that the airplay that we had achieved with 'Superstar’ was precisely because of the lyrical content, not despite it. MCA did release 'Heaven On Their Minds’ in the States, but very half-heartedly and it sunk without trace.”
Listening to the rewrite, it’s not hard to see why, though I must admit that personally there are some lines in that rewrite I really like, and maybe you’ll like them too?
In the 1996 version, Tim, who liked the “crowd”/“loud” rhyme in “Hosanna,” but hated that he had already used it in “Heaven On Their Minds,” decided to take another stab at that rhyme so it wasn’t over-used in the show, replacing “I am frightened by the crowd / For we are getting much too loud” with “And our conquerors object / To another noisy sect.”
This lasted from the 1996 revival, till (I would say) 2005, when it was still being used on a North American national tour replicating the 2000 video in which it was featured. These days, it’s back to the “crowd”/“loud” rhyme, including in the score currently licensed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company The Really Useful Group.
The 1996 production also premiered an added coda that gave the song a definitive ending for stage purposes, instead of fading out as it does on record, which is as follows:
Listen Jesus to the warning I give Please remember that I want us to live So listen Jesus to the warning I give I just want us to live It’s all gone sour!
It works, I guess, but I could live without it personally. I’ve heard better ways to end the song, for example the heart-rending pleading from Michael Lorant in the live rendition of JCS: A Resurrection.
Feel free to discuss, and insert your own speculation! More to come!!