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‘Son of Dracula’: Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s cult comedy horror rock opera
12.12.2014
12:17 pm

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Ringo Starr
Harry Nilsson
Dracula


 
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…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Harry Nilsson’s ‘Best Friend’: ‘Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ theme was originally about a woman!
05.23.2014
11:26 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Harry Nilsson


 
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.

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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!
 

 

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Harry Nilsson performing ‘Don’t Leave Me’ on French TV
01.17.2013
02:02 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Harry Nilsson


 
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.

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Phil Spector, Nilsson & Cher: A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Every Day)
09.23.2010
12:07 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Cher
Phil Spector
Harry Nilsson

image
 
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…
 

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‘Who is Harry Nilsson?’ documentary opening in Los Angeles this weekend
09.16.2010
06:23 pm

Topics:
History
Movies
Music

Tags:
Harry Nilsson
John Schienfeld

image
 
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.

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Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everbody Talkin’ About Him?)
09.08.2010
07:04 pm

Topics:
Heroes
History
Movies
Music

Tags:
Harry Nilsson
John Scheinfeld

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).

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,
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Who Is Harry Nilsson… (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)

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 | Leave a comment