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.

Laura Nyro – A Magical Voice

Copyright of the Authorized Laura Nyro Web Site

The artistic magic of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro has called me lately.

I listened with reverence to Laura’s music today on Spotify. I found myself drifting back to the  innocent time of  1968-1970  a midst the rich collection of Top-40 radio hits from such artists as the 5th Dimension (“Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness”), Three Dog Night (“Eli’s Coming”), and Blood, Sweat and Tears (“And When I Die”).

These classic hits were my first exposure to the songwriting genius of Laura Nyro.

I became a greater fan of Laura Nyro’s music through WNEW-FM radio airplay as the disk jockey’s on that station took her to their heart and shared her soulful sound and lyrics with us. I recall that WNEW-FM carried her Christmas concert live from the stage of the Fillmore East and I listened intently to her performance. That was the closest I ever got to attending a Laura Nyro concert.

I played Eli and the Thirteenth Confession  and New York Tendaberry on my phonograph player until the needle fell off 😉

Those albums represent an interesting and special time in my life.

Eli and the Thirteenth Confession
Image via Wikipedia

As I put myself back in touch with Laura Nyro I discover that she lived in Connecticut in Danbury, not too far from where we were living in Norwalk, Ct. I am glad the country setting of Connecticut proved to be a salvation for Laura during her last years.

I read with keen interest and a sense of personal excitement that a documentary about the life of Laura Nyro is being filmed by Earthwork Films. The co-producers are Mario Florio and Patty DiLauria. To learn more about the status of this wonderful film read here:

December’s Boudoir 

It is to be an exploration and celebration of the musical genius of Laura Nyro.

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