FROM STAGE MUSICALS TO CHART TOPPERS – SPECIAL FEATURE

 

 

                                                  Jesus Christ superstar3

 

I Don’t Know How to Love Him (A Lloyd-Weber/T Rice) Kate Ceberano and Everything’s Alright (A Lloyd-Weber/T Rice) – Kate Ceberano (with John Farnham and Jon Stevens) – 1992

 

The rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was first staged in London in 1970 and proved to be a revelation for its creators, composer Andrew Lloyd-Weber and lyricist Tim Rice. Since that debut season of the show, it has been continuously staged around the world, with numerous cast versions appearing, and many cover versions of the most popular songs competing for chart honors.

The original cast recording of the Australian season of Jesus Christ Superstar was recorded in 1972, Trevor White (Jesus), Michele Fawdon (Mary Magdalene) and Jon English (Judas) were the stars, ably supported by Stevie Wright, Marcia Hines who would replace Fawdon, John Paul Young, Doug Parkinson, Reg Livermore and Billy Miller, the cast album was produced by Patrick Flynn, conductor for Opera Australia.

 

jesus chrust superstar

The album climbed to #13 and stayed on the charts for an incredible 54 weeks, it was the tenth biggest-selling album of 1972.

One of the pivotal moments in the show is the performance of the song I Don’t Know How To Love Him, a torch ballad sung by the character Mary Magdalene of her unrequited love for Jesus, it requires an emotion-charged performance to capture the anguish, uncertainty, awe and passion that she feels for this man.

Both Helen Reddy and Yvonne Elliman had recorded successful versions of the song, Reddy took it into the charts in 1971 in both the USA (#13) and Australia (#2) and Elliman in the same year (#28 US, #72 Aust), both versions have their fans, but what is also interesting is the actual provenance of this song, which had started life as Kansas Morning when written by Lloyd-Weber and Rice in 1967 for Southern Music.

A clunky title and cheesy lyrics weren’t the only problem, the melody was closely compared to a theme from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, and rumors about possible plagiarism surfaced.  Rice purchased the song from Southern Music for £50, did a rewrite of the lyrics, changed the title of the song and adapted the melody to better complement the rock opera’s libretto, and a hit song was born.

“I don’t know how to love him/ What to do, how to move him/ I’ve been changed, yes really changed/ In these past few days/ When I’ve seen myself/ I seem like someone else…”

Superstar was re-staged in Australia in 1992 with the leads played by John Farnham (Jesus), Kate Ceberano (Mary Magdalene) and Jon Stevens (Judas) ably supported by John Waters, Russell Morris, and Angry Anderson.

 

Jesus Christ Superstar 1992

The cast album was recorded in 1992 at the Metropolis Studios (Melb) with producer David Hirschfelder, former keyboardist for LRB, and Patrick Flynn who had produced the original Australian cast album in 1972, back on board again as musical director.

Kate Ceberano’s version of I Don’t Know How to Love Him which charted at #34 locally, is supremely assured, her ethereal vocals and luminous youthfulness enrich the recording and the promo video.

The orchestration is subtle, strings and piano initially rising to include drums, then bass and woodwinds impart a reverent quality to the lyrics, which were controversial at the time “He’s a man/ He’s just a man/ And I’ve had so many/ Men before/ In very many ways/ He’s just one more.”

 

Everything’s Alright was the second single lifted from the Jesus Christ Superstar cast album and featured John Farnham, Kate Ceberano and Jon Stevens (ex-Noiseworks frontman).

In the song Mary Magdalene tries to calm Jesus with an expensive lotion and encourages him to relax and conserve his energy “Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to/ Things that upset you, oh/ Don’t you know/ Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine/ And we want you to sleep well tonight…”

Dramatic flourishes intersperse the soothing words of Ceberano as first Stevens as Judas criticizes her for wasting money on expensive balms when the poor go hungry, and when Farnham as Jesus criticizes Judas for his unrealistic attitude towards saving the poor of the world. Ceberano’s vocals are nurturing, reassuring, almost maternal, gliding over the bombast and machismo of Stevens and Farnham, the orchestration rises to underscore the male leads and is subtle and restrained as Ceberano delivers her pacifying reassurance.

 

 

This song was a #6 hit and the album went to the top staying on the charts for 22 weeks and becoming the ninth biggest-selling album of the year.

 

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