Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Harry Nilsson

As the milestone year that was my 30th birthday slowly draws to a close (in just under 2 months) one of the discoveries that have been an influence on my listening habits this year has been the introduction of Harry Nilsson. For those of you that have no idea who I’m talking about then no matter, you soon will and hopefully by the end of this piece would have flickered onto Spotify or YouTube or even gone and actually bought one of his many records.

Harry Nilsson was a real talent and was welcomed into the inner circle of all the big hitters of the day without question. In 1968 during a press conference for Apple John Lennon and Paul McCartney were both asked for their favourite artist and group currently making records and both without hesitation answered “Nilsson”, and to put this in perspective 1968 was the year of ‘Astral Weeks’ by Van Morrison, ‘Electric Ladyland’ by Jimi Hendrix, ‘Music from the Big Pink’ by The Band and of course ‘The White Album’ by The Beatles themselves. Not to say that Nilsson’s album of that year ('Aerial Ballet') is better than all of those mentioned but instead just proving what a truly inspiring and influential artists on the scene he was at the highest levels. In fact in the mid 70’s when Lennon explored L.A during his fabled ‘Lost Weekend’ it was Harry that joined as his partner in crime and room-mate along with Keith Moon at their apartment (imagine those parties.) His abilities and talents were so appreciated by Lennon that Harry even sat in McCartney's seat as Lennon's first non-YOKO writing collaborator since The Beatles for the song 'Old Dirt Road' for John's 'Walls and Bridges' album.

Harry Nilsson music career really got started when he begun writing for other artists, and with the use of super producers such as Phil Spector using his talents for his own acts and releases managed to help spread his name around the business, even if the general public were still in the dark until his own solo material was released. Some of these records during these early days included ‘Paradise’ for The Ronettes, the classic ‘This Could Be the Night’ by The Modern Folk Quartet (and later covered by Brian Wilson) and even ‘Daddy’s Song’ which was covered by The Monkees in their movie ‘Head’.

Nilsson was a true artist that carved his own way into the industry and although didn’t have as many hits as his contemporaries still had a few standout classics that are universally known around the world even if his name isn’t. They include songs such as 'Without You' the Badfinger track that Harry made into a massive hit (number 1 in both the USA and UK), along with his contribution to the movie 'Midnight Cowboy' with his own take on the Fred Neil song 'Everybody's Talkin' (which went on to win the Grammy no less) are songs that just exist within their own realm and once you are aware of the discography and work will feel a spark of general smugness as they appear throughout Martin Scorsese films and you hear people muttering “is that The Stones?, nah…its Lennon, nope it sounds like *insert random band name here*. Nilsson was a singer with a velvet voice and although year by year tore it to shreds through hard living and loving still produced a true legacy of work that should be appreciated, from the great American songbook covers to his own written work, dive in ears first.

Although he has now left this mortal coil will be listened to and discovered with each new generation. Go and explore the world of Harry Nilsson and if you’re buying mines a Brandy Alexander, cheers.

Here's some to get you going...

*Everybody's Talkin'
*Me And My Arrow
*Without You
*I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City
*Jump Into The Fire
*Remember (Christmas)
*Gotta Get Up
*You're Breakin' My Heart

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