|Day 146: Yvonne Elliman (Everything's Alright)
May 20, 2022
It's a familiar routine: I can't sleep. Like many of us, inevitably, doubt creeps in and consumes my thoughts. That thing at work is going to go poorly. That presentation will be a mess. From my subconscious comes, "close your eyes/close your eyes/and relax/think of nothing tonight."
If I am really wrapped up in insomnia, that lyric and melody will twist me into even more knots. "Oh, really, Fleming," goes that voice in my head, "so you are comparing your trials to Christ's. Wow, what hubris! Also, you pig, are you buying into that misogynistic crap that women exist to anoint you with Myrrh when you are troubled." Yet, in the end, this beautiful song from Jesus Christ Superstar really does speak to the power of love and self-care. In an era of cultural wars, "Everything's Alright," even with the tired cliché of women caring for their men, is a testament to a different time. And I don't just mean Biblical Jerusalem, Israel or Rome.
For teenagers, 1970's Top 40 radio truly felt like the soundtrack of our lives, good or bad. It wasn't just that we were pre-MTV or video games (although I did have Pong). It was, in part, because we didn't seem to be able to escape soundtracks double-dipping as radio hits.
Jesus Christ Superstar may have triggered a resurgence of the soundtrack-as-hit. The musical ended up with multiple hits on Billboard, some through repeated releases, others through multiple artists. Yvonne Elliman's "Everything's Alright" was the least successful of three JCS songs. "Everything's Alright" only reaching #92 (suggesting, frankly, that everything was not alright). "Superstar" bounced up and down the chart between 1969 and 1971, reaching #14 in 1971 at about the same time that Elliman's song was peaking in the 90's. Elsewhere, Elliman's "I Don't Know How To Love Him" competed with a Helen Reddy version of "I Don't Know How To Love Him," and generally lost (Elliman's got to #28; Reddy's to #13).
"Superstar" is a crowd-pleaser of a song with a chorus so catchy that maybe the only surprise is that it couldn't get to #1. However, it seems a shame that "Everything's Alright" got buried by Elliman's own version of "I Don't Know How To Love Him," let alone Helen Reddy's. While both songs have memorable melodies, neither particularly breaks new ground. Elliman's "Everything's Alright" takes out all of Christ's counter-arguments, leaving, in essence, an inspirational mantra to sleep. "I Don't Know How To Love Him" seems more pop music crap, woman struggling to find mutual affection from a man. Which would you rather have blaring from your rinky-tink little transistor radio? "He scares me so/I want him so/I love him so," or "and we want you to sleep well tonight/let the world turn without you tonight."
Mostly this reminds me that I miss the days when radio (i.e. Top 40) was sprinkled with the eclectic range of songs from Broadway musicals, t.v. theme songs, and movie soundtracks. 1971 also provided listeners an Andy Williams' version of the Theme to Love Story, as well as Isaac Hayes' Theme From Shaft (can you dig it?). 1972 gave us Michael Jackson's "Ben" from the rat-induced movie of the same name; "Day By Day" from Godspell; as well as two versions of a freaking commercial jingle, "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing."
In 1973, all hell broke loose. If a Broadway musical can produce multiple hits, whether by the same singer or by different singers, AND some commercial jingle can make money, well then we should be damn sure the old white record executives said, "give me more." In 1973, we are all over the map: Maureen McGovern's "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure; perennial James Bond theme song with Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live And Let Die"; redneck bluegrass in "Duelin' Banjos" from Deliverance; Shaft wanna-be "Superfly" performed by Curtis Mayfield; and finally the unofficial theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the dramatically sounding "Also Sprach Zarathustra."
By 1975 and 1976, you couldn't turn on the radio without thinking you had failed to turn off the t.v. as the t.v. theme song market exploded with the themes to The Rockford Files, SWAT, Baretta, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Welcome Back, Kotter all likely to be on.
Maybe this crossover of music from other media still happens on the Top 40? I suppose "Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper counts, but I will fall back on my comforting lack of interest beyond that to confirm. I do the majority of these blogs in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. At the moment, it is about 5:15AM and "Welcome Back" is stuck in my head, now. It's a fate worse than insomnia.
I just need to keep telling myself, "everything's alright/think of nothing tonight."
Elliman, Yvonne. "Everything's Alright." Jesus Christ Superstar. Decca. 1971. Link here.
<-Day 145: Nick Lowe. "American Squirm."
Day 147: Nine Inch Nails. "Every Day Is Exactly The Same." ->
Unfinished list here.