Harry Nilsson – A New Book and the Complete Recordings Box Set

This is the way to explore the essence of Harry Nilsson. I’d love nothing better than to seal myself off from the world for a while and read about, listen to and immerse myself in the artistry and knowledge of Harry Nilsson.

Sony Legacy Recordings has been celebrating Harry Nilsson as the Artist of the Month for July 2013. Tomorrow they will make available his deluxe box set,  Nilsson – The RCA Albums Collection.

The RCA Albums Collection  presents the definitive 14 albums in Nilsson’s RCA Records U.S. discography, from his 1967 début Pandemonium Shadow Show (among whose high points are his takes on the Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That” and “She’s Leaving Home”) to his final album for the label in 1977, Knnillssonn.  Bonus material on those albums add up to 65 tracks, of which 26 are previously unreleased.  Adding to the box set’s historical provenance are three newly-compiled CDs, Nilsson Sessions 1967-1968Nilsson Sessions 1968-1971, and Nilsson Sessions 1971-1974, containing a total of 58 tracks, exactly half of which (29 tracks) are previously unreleased.

The 17 CDs contained in HARRY NILSSON – THE RCA ALBUMS COLLECTION are as follows:

  • CD 1: Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967)
  • CD 2: Aerial Ballet (1968)
  • CD 3: HARRY (1969)
  • CD 4: Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)
  • CD 5: The Point! (1971)
  • CD 6: Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971)
  • CD 7: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
  • CD 8: Son Of Schmilsson (1972)
  • CD 9: A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night (1973)
  • CD 10: Pussy Cats (1974)
  • CD 11: Duit On MON Dei (1975)
  • CD 12: Sandman (1976)
  • CD 13:  . . . That’s The Way It Is (1976)
  • CD 14: KNNILLSSONN (1977)
  • CD 15: NILSSON Sessions 1967–1968
  • CD 16: NILSSON Sessions 1968–1971
  • CD 17: NILSSON Sessions 1971–1974

Nilsson Book

Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter by Alyn Shipton.  Published by Oxford University Press, this is the first ever full-length biography of Nilsson, drawing on interviews with family, friends, and associates, plus material from Nilsson’s unfinished autobiography.

Shipton outlines Nilsson’s fatherless childhood in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, through his teenage years in Los Angeles where he found his legs as a singer-songwriter, ultimately winding up at the epicenter of the music revolution that engulfed the world in the late 1960s.


My Harry Nilsson Memories

Today’s blog post continues the theme of music legends of the 70’s with Harry Nilsson. The 70’s were the most fruitful and embryonic decade for the music industry. The singer/songwriter hatched from the egg of rock music to give us an unparalleled dimension of songs and lyrics.

I happened to catch the PBS Special, Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) last night on WNET‘s THIRTEEN which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. I have been rewarded many times over the decades with valuable music content from this award-winning public television station.


You owe it to yourself to become enchanted by the magic of Harry Nilsson. There are many revelations about Harry Nilsson and his circle of friends that come to light. I learned how close friends he was with Ringo Starr. Ringo was Harry’s best man for his marriage to Una O’Keefe.

I am especially fond of Jimmy Webb‘s remembrances of Harry Nilsson which I have heard Jimmy Webb recant in stories during concerts. Jimmy Webb was THIRTEEN’s in studio guest last night and he regaled us once more with insight about his dear friend.

The Harry Nilsson biopic caused me to think well when did I first hear Harry Nilsson’s genius?  Harry Nilsson had two hits in the first half of 1969, “One” by Three Dog Night (4/69) and “Everybody’s Talkin’ (From Midnight Cowboy)” 5/69 (written by Fred Neil). Little did I realize that Harry Nilsson had already released three albums by this time.

But the first song of Harry Nilsson’s that I heard was “Without Her” by Blood, Sweat & Tears on their masterpiece recording, Child Is The Father To Man. The song track stood out to me when I first borrowed that vinyl LP from my wife Rosemary when we started dating in February/March 1969.

I spend the night in a chair thinking she’ll be there
But she never comes.
And I wake up and wipe the sleep from my eyes.
And I rise to face another day
Without her …

Copyright Emi Blackwood Music Inc., Golden Syrup Music

My favorite animated cartoon musical is  The Point. I was fortunate to see the original broadcast on ABC-TV in 1971. It captivates the music of our heart in vivid imagination. I couldn’t wait to share it with my son when he was growing up and he loves watching to this day 🙂 Interestingly Ringo Starr is the Father/Narrator in the home video release. The music that Harry Nilsson wrote and performed are truly classic statements.

The funniest memory I have about Harry Nilsson occurred one day on the radio. I was a college FM disk jockey at Fairfield University on WVOF-FM 88.5. I was doing my show when I played a set by Harry Nilsson. I had chosen to play, “You’re Breaking My Heart”. I had grabbed the 45 rpm edition not previewing it before I played it. My friend Jeff was getting set up to do the newscast next in the glass booth across from me. Jeff is singing along and we both realize too late its the unedited version.  Next thing you know it hits the airwaves. Jeff’s mouth drops open and he falls off his chair. I never laughed so hard off the air in my life. That moment still makes me laugh when I hear that song 🙂

You’re breakin’ my heart

You’re tearing it apart

So fuck you

© Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing

Mama Told Me Not To Come, Etc. ;)

I was thinking about what to write for today’s music blog post when the song, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” sung by Three Dog Night and written by Randy Newman started playing on the turntable in my mind.

“Mama Told Me Not To Come”, I was surprised to learn was originally written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon and the Animals in 1966. It was released on the album, Eric Is Here, by Eric Burdon and Animals on MGM in 1967.

From 1969-1974, nobody had more Top 10 hits, moved more records, or sold more concert tickets than Three Dog Night!

Three Dog NightWhen I was first dating my wife Rosemary, Three Dog Night was OUR band. I purchased every vinyl LP they recorded. Our song was “One”, their first Top 5 hit in 1969. “One” was written by Harry Nilsson. I learned from Wikipedia that the reason Harry Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the “beep, beep, beep, beep…” tone, writing the song. The busy signal became the opening notes of his version of the song.

I have an interesting personal story to tell you about Randy Newman and Livingston Taylor that happened to me in 1973. I was attending the University of New Haven in West Haven, Ct. in those days. I had made arrangements as a DJ on WNHU-FM to interview Livingston Taylor before the concert. I was asked to conduct the interview with another on-air personality. I warned this person NOT to mention James Taylor during the interview because I had read it infuriated Livingston Taylor to hear those comparisons. That person swore to me he would not do so.

So we get to the locker room and Randy Newman is such a nervous Nellie before the show. He paced that locker room like you wouldn’t believe. He stood off to the side as we interviewed Livingston Taylor. Randy Newman was actually the opening act for Livingston Taylor that night. Don’t you know the asshole I am doing the interview with asks Livingston, “So what’s it like to have a famous brother like James? Livingston looks at him and then me and says, “Sorry, interview is over.” I pushed that stupid idiot DJ off the bench, telling him, “Thanks for screwing this up for the station.” Randy Newman said, “Hey guy, you really blew it for your buddy there.” That was how I met Randy Newman. I recall he played “Mama Told Me Not To Come” that night on a beautiful white Steinway piano.

I mentioned this story years later to Livingston Taylor (who we have seen perform and spoken with many times) and we had a big laugh over that memory.

Jimmy Webb’s Welcome Resurgence

From left to right Waylon Jennings, Willie Nel...
Image via Wikipedia

I have long admired Jimmy Webb as a singer and song writer. You know his songs well. They live in your heart and blossom like flowers whenever you require them. He has written such masterpieces as By The Time I Get To Phonenix, Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Up, Up and Away, MacArthur’s Park, Didn’t We and All I Know.

We recently saw Jimmy Webb perform at Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, CT. It was a delightful evening of songs played on the piano, accompanied by the personal remembrances of Mr. Jimmy Webb. He shared his memories openly about such friends as The Outlaws (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash,Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings) which preceded the song, Highwayman. Jimmy Webb is a very accomplished piano player, which adds a powerful dimension to his on-stage presence. He made Infinity Music Hall feel like his living room. He was very taken with the venue, which always has an engaging ambiance. His stories charmed us as he spoke with warmth and great aplomb about Harry Nilsson, Frank Sinatra and our personal favorite friendship, Richard Harris.

You can hear some of those stories on Jimmy Webb’s recording, Live and at Large.

After an energetic and soulful two hour concert, Jimmy Webb met with his fans in the lobby, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He told me he really liked Santana, which made me smile 🙂

Jimmy Webb has released a new collaboration recording Just Across The River last week. It was recorded over a two day interval in Nashville. The collaborations with esteemed friends includes Billy Joel (Wichita Lineman), Jackson Browne (P.F. Sloan), All I Know (Linda Rondstadt), If You See Me Getting Smaller (Willie Nelson), Galveston (Lucinda Williams), and By The Time I Get to Phoenix (Glen Campbell) just to name a few :). The recording flows evenly as each new texture of Jimmy Webb’s musical tapestry unfolds before our sensibilities. You can learn more about this special collaboration recording, Just Across The River on Jimmy Webb’s Web site.

Its great to see the resurgence in Jimmy Webb’s musical career. He richly deserves the praise he is receiving in the press and music community for this collaborative effort, Just Across The River.

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