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Fred Schneider of the B-52s sings Harry Nilsson’s ‘Coconut’ with two different Nineties supergroups
10.05.2017
07:38 am
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People usually look at me skeptically when I put a copy of Fred Schneider’s second Reprise album in their hands and command them to buy it. The reaction used to puzzle me, but now I think I understand: the retail price of a used CD of Just…Fred hovers around $1. While this price point makes us old folks of slender means rise from our Rascal electric scooters and dance in the Kmart aisles, fanning the air with fistfuls of coupons, today’s jaded shoppers read such a heavily discounted sticker as a guarantee of worthlessness. So I am taking a different tack. I hereby command you to purchase the rare white vinyl pressing of Just…Fred, which starts at $49.99 and goes for up to $199.98, so you can truly appreciate its quality.

I’m not kidding. Those who know, know. In a sane world, the Steve Albini-produced masterpiece would have a place on every American mantel, and there would be compulsory shining of its cover once a week. Backing Fred on the momentous solo joint were Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, Six Finger Satellite, and an ad hoc supergroup called Deadly Cupcake, comprising the Didjits’ Rick Sims on guitar, Tar’s Tom Zaluckyj on bass, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Russell Simins on drums. This last band propelled the album’s four-minute cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut,” which reimagined the laid-back novelty hit as a punk complaint.
 

 
Schneider had already recorded “Coconut” for the previous year’s Nilsson tribute album with a completely different supergroup, this one featuring Ivan Julian from Richard Hell & the Voidoids and Tracy Wormworth of the Waitresses. Owing, perhaps, to its relative familiarity in 1995 as the song from the end credits of Reservoir Dogs, “Coconut” was chosen as the tribute album’s single, and Schneider went on Late Night with Conan O’Brien to sing it.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.05.2017
07:38 am
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Harry Nilsson’s demo recordings for the Monkees
04.04.2017
12:01 pm
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The Monkees ran on NBC for the first time in September of 1966. The brainchild of Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the program was a canny attempt to mimic the playful hijinks of the Beatles movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help! in a way that would attract viewers in the American TV system. The experiment was successful, to say the least, leading to two lively seasons of programming, a succession of million-selling albums, the strange and mesmerizing feature release Head, and so on.

Every Monkees fan knows that the four young lads weren’t really allowed to play their own instruments or write their own material, but over time they struggled mightily to garner more creative control. As a “manufactured” band that was constantly attempting to transcend or leave behind the synthetic nature of their origins, the Pre-Fab Four relied to a great extent on hired songwriters—until, increasingly, they didn’t.

In 1966 RCA Records signed a bright young singer-songwriter named Harry Nilsson—who had been doing computer work in a bank on the night shift and hawking his songs around town during the day—and in early 1967 Nilsson submitted some material for use by the Monkees. The two acts were essentially label mates—the label that released the Monkees’ albums, Colgems, was a joint venture of RCA and Screen Gems, which was the television division of Columbia Pictures.
 
So on March 17, 1967, Harry Nilsson recorded several demos for the Monkees. Among them was “Cuddly Toy,” which would find its way onto Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., which was released in November 1967. A month later, Nilsson would release his own debut, Pandemonium Shadow Show

Nilsson’s relationship with the Monkees grew over the years. Davy memorably sang and danced (with choreographer Toni Basil) to his “Daddy’s Song” in Head. Nilsson and Micky Dolenz became close enough that when Nilsson traveled to Ireland to meet his fiancee’s parents, Dolenz joined him for the trip. Dolenz occasionally used Nilsson’s London flat, a notorious residence in rock and roll history in that both Mama Cass and Keith Moon died there (er, not together, however).
 
After the jump, hear Nilsson’s demos for the Monkees…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.04.2017
12:01 pm
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The Meat Puppets’ hilarious cover of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’
01.22.2015
11:25 am
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When the Meat Puppets released their first, eponymous album on CD, they generously included, as often happened during that era, a bunch of bonus tracks, such as, ahem, “Meat Puppets,” which had appeared on the 1981 Light Bulb “emergency cassette” compilation, and “H-Elenore,” which came from the Keats Rides a Harley comp from Happy Squid Records that also featured a track from Gun Club.

Tucked in there without much fanfare was a rendition of Fred Neil’s song, which he first recorded in 1966, of “Everybody’s Talkin’.” The song became far more famous after the release of Midnight Cowboy, which included a cover of the song that helped put Harry Nilsson on the map. That version was a palpable hit, and if you think you can hum the song from memory, it’s probably Nilsson’s version that you know.
 

 
The provenance of the Meat Puppets’ cover of “Everybody’s Talkin’” is unknown, at least by me, but I do know they sometimes played it at concerts during the 1980s. To be candid, they pretty much dismantle the fucker—I suspect satirical intent. You be the judge.

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.22.2015
11:25 am
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‘The Music of Harry Nilsson’: Nilsson ‘live’ but with a slight catch
01.06.2015
02:48 pm
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There isn’t exactly what you’d call “a whole lot” of performance footage of the great Harry Nilsson out there—apparently he didn’t really enjoy performing on television all that much and he never, ever toured—but luckily what does exist tends to be magical. Like a charming clip from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968 where he sang with Tommy Smothers and discussed songwriting, a visit to the Playboy Mansion with Hef and the bunnies, or the Nilsson meets orchestra performance of A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night a team-up with Sinatra arranger Gordon Jenkins broadcast on the BBC in 1973.

But what is undoubtedly the very best example of Harry Nilsson “live” is the BBC In Concert show that was taped in 1971 at the BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherd’s Bush Empire) and first broadcast on New Year’s Day, 1972.

Here’s the thing: although Nilsson is playing live, there’s no audience present save for the technicians. The audience (very briefly) seen here was edited in from another show of the In Concert series! The (intermittent) applause? Canned.

Dig especially the emotional performance here of The Point‘s “Life Line” and an early version of Son Of Schmilsson‘s “Joy” that’s better than the studio version. “Walk Right Back” wouldn’t see release until the Harry Nilsson box set. Comedy nerds will recognize the visual tribute to Ernie Kovacs’ “Nairobi Trio” during “Coconut.”

Set list:
Mr Richland’s Favourite Song / One 0:00
Gotta Get Up 3:48
Walk Right Back / Cathy’s Clown / Let The Good Times Roll 6:28
Life Line 10:37
Think About Your Troubles 15:09
Joy 17:32
Are You Sleeping? 21:03
Without Her 23:23
Coconut 25:31
1941 30:03
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.06.2015
02:48 pm
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‘Son of Dracula’: Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s cult comedy horror rock opera
12.12.2014
03:17 pm
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I had the soundtrack album to Son of Dracula when I was a kid—you could buy it for 99 cents in virtually any cut out bin in America in the 70s. It featured impressive album cover art that opened out from under Harry Nilsson’s cape (see below). It stayed in my record collection, mostly unlistened to, but still pretty cool, for many years. It’s not like Son of Dracula ever achieved “legendary lost film” status in my eyes—I was never that curious about it and it had the reputation that it stank—but when I saw a VHS bootleg for sale one day at the Pasadena Flea Market (there was a huge section of the market devoted solely to rock memorabilia and bootlegs of every stripe back in 90s) I scooped it up.
 

 
Hmmmm… It’s not like I can stand here before you and tell you that it’s great—because it’s definitely not great—but do take Ringo Starr’s comments on Son of Dracula as the gospel truth: 

“It is not the best film ever made, but I’ve seen worse.”

He ought to know, he produced this turkey. Ringo’s also being a bit cagey with that statement because he’s mum on exactly how many worse films he’s seen? One other? Dozens? I’d venture that it’s probably a number Ringo can count on just one hand…. (All you really need to know about how bad Son of Dracula truly is, is that after the film was shot in 1972, Ringo hired Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, Douglas Adams and Bernard McKenna to rewrite the dialogue which they would then dub over what they’d already shot! Although this notion was abandoned—apparently it was recorded—in retrospect it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea… Surely it couldn’t have been any worse or more shambolic than it already was!)
 

 
Son of Dracula stars Nilsson as “Count Downe” a vampire rock musician who is about to be crowned Overlord of the Netherworld when he falls in love with a mortal and has a change of heart. Ringo plays—who else—Merlin the Magician. Son of Dracula contains celebrity cameos from Nilsson’s hard-partying rocker mates Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Keith Moon and his backing band included Peter Frampton, Klaus Voorman and Leon Russell.
 

 
More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.12.2014
03:17 pm
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Harry Nilsson’s ‘Best Friend’: ‘Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ theme was originally about a woman!
05.23.2014
02:26 pm
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Harry Nilsson wrote and performed “Best Friend” the memorable theme tune for The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, the 1969 TV series starring Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz, something that is not as widely known as the famous song itself.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,
He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
People let me tell you bout my best friend,
He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my up, my down, my pride and joy.

People let me tell you ‘bout him he’s so much fun
Whether we’re talkin’ man to man or whether we’re talking son to son.
Cause he’s my best friend.
Yes he’s my best friend.

But here’s the kicker: the original lyrics to probably the single most iconic father and son bonding song of all time, were originally about a woman! That’s right “Girlfriend” as the number was first known was an outtake from his Aerial Ballet album.

Nilsson never released the show’s theme on record, but “Girlfriend” was released on the posthumous Personal Best anthology that came out in 1995.
 

“Girlfriend”
 

Eddie asks about women’s lib, then the theme song.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.23.2014
02:26 pm
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The last known recording of Lennon & McCartney: ‘A Toot and a Snore in ‘74’

 

“You wanna snort, Steve? A toot? It’s goin’ round.”

With the recent reunion of Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney on the Grammy Awards, I was reminded of A Toot and a Snore in ‘74 a bootleg album of the sole recording session that John Lennon and Paul McCartney participated in after the break-up of The Beatles.

Lennon, who was in his “lost weekend” phase of drinking and drugging—and living with May Pang in Los Angeles—was producing Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album at Burbank Studios. On the first night of the sessions, March 28, 1974, Paul and Linda McCartney showed up. Also present were Stevie Wonder, Harry Nilsson, Jesse Ed Davis, May Pang, saxophonist Bobby Keys and record producer Ed Freeman (who had been working with Don McLean in the next door studio).

There was a bit of a “convivial” scene going on, as one might gather from the bootleg’s title. McCartney later remarked that the “session was hazy… for a number of reasons.”

In his 2006 biography, McCartney, Christopher Sandford described the situation:

“The room froze when McCartney walked in, and remained perfectly silent until Lennon said, ‘Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?’ McCartney responded: ‘Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume?’ (Valiant Paul and Sir Jasper were characters played by the two, in a televised Christmas play early in the Beatles’s career). McCartney extended a hand, Lennon shook it, and the mood was pleasant but subdued, cordial but not especially warm, at least initially.”

May Pang’s 1983 book, Loving John offered more detail:

Our first session was scheduled for the day after we moved in and it went beautifully- so beautifully that it only took four hours to lay down the basic rhythm track and vocal to “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.  When the tracks were finished, the musicians did not want to go home, so they hung out, jamming with each other or practicing their own licks. At midnight, however Keith [Moon] and Ringo left. It was time for them to hit the town.

The jam continued for another half hour, then visitors arrived. The visitors were Paul and Linda McCartney.

Paul headed straight for John. “Hello John,” he said eagerly.

John however was a study in casualness.

“How are you Paul?” he replied softly.

“Fine, how about you?”

“Okay.”

“Hi duckie,” Linda said to John, kissing him on the cheek.

“Hello Linda.”

John and Paul made small talk as if they had been speaking on the phone two or three times a day and had spoken a few hours earlier. It was one of the most casual conversations I had ever heard. They couldn’t be the two men who not only had been trading vicious attacks with each other in public but also had squadrons of lawyers poised in battle against each other while they carved up their multimillion-dollar empire. They looked like any old pair of friends having a pleasant low-key reunion.

The small talk continued; then Paul, like a man possessed, suddenly bounced up and headed straight for Ringo’s drum kit and began to bash the drums.

“Let’s play!” he exclaimed. Linda immediately headed for the organ. “Let’s play.” She echoed. They couldn’t be stopped.

John strapped on his guitar and began to play “Midnight Special,” one of the numbers the Beatles used to jam on when they first began to record together. So did Jesse Ed Davis and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, while Harry sang along.

Then we had another visitor, Stevie Wonder, who was also recording at the Record Plant.

“Stevie, Paul is here, and we’re going to jam,” John called out.

“Okay,” said Stevie. He went to the electric piano.

“Let’s record it,” said John.

“Yeah,” Paul agreed. John suddenly became very enthusiastic.

“We need a bass player,” he told the startled producer in the control booth of the studio next to ours. “Paul and I are jammin’ together.”

“I play bass!” the producer exclaimed. He dashed from his session to join ours.

“Fung Yee, I want you to play,” John told me. “Grab a tambourine.” I got up and joined the musicians

“Let it rip,” said John

That was the first time John and Paul had played together since Abbey Road in 1969, and it sounded wonderful. The team of Lennon and McCartney had been reunited with amazing ease. After they’d run down the song, John turned to Paul and said “Could you please tell your organist [Linda] to turn down the volume? I can’t hear Mr. Wonder”

John and Paul played it again, and it sounded even better. They made joyous music together that night. That was the only time John and Paul backed by Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson played together after the break- up.

I’m supposing that May Pang wrote the above from memory, because what’s on the actual tapes is not quite the stellar music a line-up such as this one might be expected to produce: It’s basically just a drunk, coked-up jam session, yet still a drunk, coked-up jam session of great historical significance.

You can read a transcript at Bootleg Zone. To be perfectly honest, it’s easier than listening to it!
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.13.2014
01:16 pm
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Harry Nilsson performing ‘Don’t Leave Me’ on French TV
01.17.2013
05:02 pm
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There’s so precious little TV footage of Harry Nilsson in his prime—Nilsson famously hated touring, performing live or doing much promotion of any sort for such a major artist—that when something “new” gets uncovered, it’s a rare treat indeed. That it’s one of my top favorite Nilsson songs is so much the better.

Below, Nilsson lip-syncs “Don’t Leave Me,” from his 1968 Aerial Ballet album, on French television.
 

 
Bonus: A promotional film for “Everybody’s Talking” shot in Sweden:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Another couple of golden clips from the Fort Knox of music video rarities that is Spike Priggen’s Bedazzled blog.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.17.2013
05:02 pm
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Phil Spector, Nilsson & Cher: A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Every Day)
09.23.2010
03:07 pm
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We’ve had plenty of Cher-related novelties here on Dangerous Minds. And we’ve out share of Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector rarities as well. So why not go for a triple-header? Have a listen to what Harry called “Nilssonny & Cher,” produced by the monomaniacal Phil Spector. Recorded during downtime in the recording of John Lennon’s Rock ‘n Roll album, this is one of those “lost” records that came out for a very short time before disappearing completely, but that is now as easy to hear as pressing play below…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.23.2010
03:07 pm
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‘Who is Harry Nilsson?’ documentary opening in Los Angeles this weekend
09.16.2010
09:23 pm
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This Friday, September 17th, John Schienfeld’s terrific new documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson? (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Sunset 5 for week (and maybe longer). The reviews have been stellar—and in my opinion, justly deserved—for this heartfelt and moving tribute to the great singer-songwriter.

With Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Yoko Ono, Paul Williams, Mickey Dolenz, The Smothers Brothers, and Pythons Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle,
 

 
Above, a BBC In Concert appearance from from Harry Nilsson. Nilsson famously hated performing live and on television, but this 30 minute performance is remarkable, indeed. More from the For the Love of Harry blog:

Harry Nilsson’s finest hour on film. Taped for England’s BBC in 1971, this simple and effective set of performances has everything one could ask for when seeing the rarely seen Nilsson live - solo piano & acoustic renditions, tasteful effects, plenty of close ups, unreleased music and even live overdubbing (both audio & video). Special thanks to our friend Patrick from Germany who supplied us with this excellent - now complete - 34 minute video. This live studio performance finds Harry delivering slower, more moving renditions of some of his best work up to 1971. His somber reading of “Life Line” is simply heartbreaking. Harry performs as a live trio with himself on “Walk Right Back” and “Coconut,” where he uses lip syncing gorillas for visuals. The Citizen Kane rafters clip ending is priceless. Harry introduces two videos from The Point! (“Think About Your Troubles” and “Are You Sleeping”). There just isn’t a better, more visually pleasing representation of Harry Nilsson at work. Download the .avi video file HERE. If you want MP3s of the show (minus the two Point! audio/video files), you can get them HERE.

Songs: Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song/One, Gotta Get Up, Walk Right Back/Cathy’s Clown/Let The Good Times Roll. Life Line; Joy, Without Her. Coconut. 1941

You can watch my interview with director John Schienfeld, here.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.16.2010
09:23 pm
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Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everbody Talkin’ About Him?)
09.08.2010
10:04 pm
Topics:
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A conversation with director John Scheinfeld about his superb documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?).

If you’re under 45-years of age, you might have little idea of who the great singer/songwriter/hellraiser Harry Nilsson was, but surely almost everyone has heard his biggest hits “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack), “Without You” (a Badfinger cover given its devastating emotional impact by Harry’s plaintiff three octave vocal range, later recorded by Mariah Carey) and “Coconut” which was used in dozens of movies (normally during a drinking scene) and in more than one 7UP advertising campaign.

Harry Nilsson was also responsible for co-creating the much-loved children’s TV movie, The Point, a Ringo Starr-narrated fable about a boy named Oblio, born with a round head in a land of pointy-headed people. (”Me and My Arrow” and “Are You Sleeping” are two of the best remembered songs from the project. Scratch someone in their 40s and trust me, they’ll be able to sing both from childhood memories of The Point)

Another important thing to know about Harry Nilsson is that he was the favorite American musician of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, no small achievement, that! After Apple Corps press officer Derek Taylor heard Nilsson’s autobiographical “1941” (from his 1967 RCA debut Pandemonium Shadow Show) siting in the car waiting for his wife, he bought a box of the album and gave it away as presents, including to all four Beatles. The story goes that Lennon listened to the album for 36 straight hours before calling Nilsson in Los Angeles and telling him how much he loved his record. McCartney did the same soon after. Nilsson became a part of the Beatles inner circle, becoming close friends with both John (who would produce his 1974 Pussy Cats album) and Ringo (who was the best man at Nilsson’s second wedding).

The documentary features stellar interviewees such as Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Yoko Ono, Paul Williams, Mickey Dolenz, Ringo Starr, The Smothers Brothers, and Pythons Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle,
 

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.08.2010
10:04 pm
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Who Is Harry Nilsson… (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)
08.22.2010
06:44 pm
Topics:
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image
 
A conversation with director John Scheinfeld about his superb documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?).

If you’re under 45-years of age, you might have little idea of who the great singer/songwriter/hellraiser Harry Nilsson was, but surely almost everyone has heard his biggest hits “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack), “Without You” (a Badfinger cover given its devastating emotional impact by Harry’s plaintiff three octave vocal range, later recorded by Mariah Carey) and “Coconut” which was used in dozens of movies (normally during a drinking scene) and in more than one 7UP advertising campaign.

Harry Nilsson was also responsible for co-creating the much-loved children’s TV movie, The Point, a Ringo Starr-narrated fable about a boy named Oblio, born with a round head in a land of pointy-headed people. (”Me and My Arrow” and “Are You Sleeping” are two of the best remembered songs from the project. Scratch someone in their 40s and trust me, they’ll be able to sing both from childhood memories of The Point)

Another important thing to know about Harry Nilsson is that he was the favorite American musician of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, no small achievement, that! After Apple Corps press officer Derek Taylor heard Nilsson’s autobiographical “1941” (from his 1967 RCA debut Pandemonium Shadow Show) siting in the car waiting for his wife, he bought a box of the album and gave it away as presents, including to all four Beatles. The story goes that Lennon listened to the album for 36 straight hours before calling Nilsson in Los Angeles and telling him how much he loved his record. McCartney did the same soon after. Nilsson became a part of the Beatles inner circle, becoming close friends with both John (who would produce his 1974 Pussy Cats album) and Ringo (who was the best man at Nilsson’s second wedding).

Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) features stellar interviewees such as Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Van Dyke Parks, Yoko Ono, Paul Williams, Mickey Dolenz, Ringo Starr, The Smothers Brothers, and Pythons Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.22.2010
06:44 pm
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