Friday, January 27, 2006

Jesus Covers the Smiths

Stolen from

The BBC plans to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus this Easter with a procession through the streets of Manchester, featuring musicians from The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, and songs by The Smiths and New Order. Seriously.

The program is called Manchester Passion. A contemporary retelling of the last hours of Jesus’ life, it will combine words from the Bible with contemporary music while reenacting important moments in the gospel story.

A character playing Jesus will sing Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart. ” He’ll then sing New Order’s “Blue Monday” with his betrayer, Judas.

Mary Magdelene, accompanied by a string band, will sing The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)”.

In the most anticipated act of the day, Jesus will sing Smiths classic “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” as he’s being whipped by Roman soldiers. After that, he’ll encounter his Roman prosecutor Pontius Pilate, and the two of them will sing Oasis hit “Wonderwall.”

The public will be invited to sing anthems like the M People’s “Search For a Hero Inside Yourself” after the march. The crowd will carry a huge white cross, and audience participators will be asked to bring along something that symbolizes a personal burden.

The event will end with a resurrected Jesus singing from the top of Manchester’s Town Hall. The song has not yet been revealed.

BBC’s Classical Music Television department is putting on the show. The Church Of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the area both support the event. “We are very pleased to be taking the good news of the gospel onto the streets of Manchester,” Church of England spokeswoman Gillian Oliver told the Guardian. “If anything, something like this can translate the old story into new terms.”

My take: It's a wonderful idea for 1970, but the songs are all wrong. Yeah, I realize that the city of Manchester is really trying hard for that local music tie-in. And yeah, the whole Jesus Rock Opera thing has been done to death, and the notion of Son of Jesus Christ Superstar is a bit dicey. But I'll cut them some slack and assume that maybe it could work with the right songs. But these songs? Let's take a look:

First, Mary Magdalene plumbs the theological depths while warbling The Buzzcocks' punk anthem "Ever Fallen in Love":

You disturb my natural emotions
You make me feel like dirt
And I’m hurt
And if I start a commotion
I’ll only end up losing you

Ah, the poetry and the passion of The Passion. Here, once again, we have the tired Jesus/Mary Magadelene romantic arc, of which there is absolutely zero evidence in the Bible or church tradition. But why tamper with a good love story? There's nothing more pitiable than a woman spurned by a man who must be about His Father's business. She feels like dirt, she's hurt, it doesn't help to flirt, he's always curt, she's tried wearing her most sexy skirt. None of it helps.

Then there's the Jesus/Pontius Pilate duet on Oasis' "Wonderwall."

I said maybe
You're gonna be the one who saves me
And after all
You re my wonderwall

This one is curious, to say the least. Maybe they could work in a little Sinatra/Sammy Davis Jr. shtick:

PP: Jesus, baby, you're my wonderwall.
Jesus: No, Ponty, you're my wonderwall.
PP: No, you are.
Jesus: Stop it, you are.


Finally, we have the Joy Division classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart," sung by Jesus.

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose?
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can’t function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again

It's a great song. But I wonder if the Manchester organizers, brimming with civic pride, actually thought about the life and teachings of Jesus, and whether those words make any sense in that context. And Jesus saw the multitudes, and called them unto himself, and spake unto them: "Love will tear us apart." Huh? Yeah, I'd follow that dude around and risk martyrdom. Why not have Jesus sing instead, oh, say Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." It would make about as much sense.

Taken all together, I could, if I wanted to, work up some passion about this travesty. But it's probably not worth it. What truly amazes me is that the organizers missed the most obvious local tie-in: The Stone Roses singing their 1989 hit "I am the Resurrection." But maybe that would be too blatant. We wouldn't want the adoring Mancunian masses to think too literally about this story.


Anonymous said...

I find this lyric hard to reconcile with a scourging:

In my life
Why do I smile
At people who I’d much rather kick in the eye ?

I have to think Jesus was both a little less passive and a little less agressive than that.

Is it possible I am the Resurrection is the final, unannounced song?

e said...

two words: ugh.

Anonymous said...

although, it is kind of insulting and annoying, i try looking at the good that could come out of it. sure, i would NEVER put something like that together, but someone has and the truth is, most likely, some people will be effected by that.
im sure god isnt in heaven saying, 'oh, god no! don't come to me that way!'

Andy Whitman said...

Thanks for your comments, California.

Sure, God can use anything. But if you can seriously envision someone falling on their knees in repentance after witnessing the profound Jesus/Pontius Pilate duet on "And after all/You're my wonderwall," then you may have more faith, and you certainly have more imagination, than I do.

Anonymous said...

true. that would amaze me, too, if it did happen. and i wouldn't expect that to happen, but it may cause some people to see the life of jesus differently (or possibly for the first time) and he might be on their minds for the next few days, which might cause them to ask questions and/or possibly pray. my imagination could see that happening.

this type of a thing is cheesy as hell, to me. and i would be embarrassed if my church chose to do that and asked me to be in it. but the truth is that they have more of an opportunity to effect peoples lives than i have right now (however much they may have already fucked it up). so i could pray that what is hard to imagine happening might actually happen.

with that said, i don't know if it is proper to comment in this section on your newest blog-thinger, but i am a fan of paste and i read something you wrote a while ago for paste and really loved it. your style is really honest, easy to read and insightful. thanks for the notice on the new issue.