Monday, November 13, 2017

Who's That? I Can't Explain

You may remember the name Yvonne Elliman – she had her start singing in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Her first single, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” peaked at #28 in the US; unfortunately, Helen Reddy’s cover outpaced the original in the chart wars. Following her tenure with the rock opera and her first solo career, she joined Eric Clapton’s band as a backup vocalist and appeared on five of his releases in the 1970s. The work with Clapton landed her a contract with RSO Records and Elliman scored a number one record with “If I Can’t Have You.”


In addition, Elliman had several other Top 40 hits such as “Love Me,” “Hello Stranger,” and “Love Pains.” During her earlier solo years, Elliman recorded a cover The Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” While not technically the first Who single, as they recorded Zoot Suit as The High Numbers, “I Can’t Explain” was their first release under their new name.

Chided by The Who’s management to write original music, Pete Townshend locked himself in his room listening for lyrical inspiration from an eclectic group of artists. Instrumentally, however, he was drawn to The Kinks. When you compare “I Can’t Explain” to the early Kinks’ records, you can hear the direct influence.


Although a fantastic rendition of this Who classic, Elliman’s 1973 single failed to chart in the US or the UK. The song was featured on her second solo LP, “Food of Love.” By the way, Pete Townshend plays lead guitar on this track. How great is that? The single and album were released in the UK on Deep Purple’s label: Purple Records. In the US, MCA picked up the option for Elliman as she had been under contract to MCA’s Decca Records for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and her self-titled debut album.

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