Graham Reid | | 1 min read
If Elsewhere could persuade its readers to discover just one over-looked singer-songwriter it would be Harry Nilsson who died almost penniless in '94. As with Leonard Cohen, Nilsson had lost his savings to a bad manager but unlike composed and controlled Cohen, it was too late for Harry to recover.
Years of booze and bitter disappointment had taken their toll and he'd shredded his wonderful voice during alcohol-sodden sessions for his album Pussycats when he tried to out-scream his friend John Lennon who was nominally producing the album.
After Lennon's murder, Nilsson went into a tailspin but cleaned hmself up, worked for gun control but . . .
Nilsson's gifts were wayward: for an American he had a rare mainline into English music hall traditions as much as a feel for Tin Pan Alley (he wrote Cuddly Toy which was a hit for the Monkees), and his lyrics were punctuated by dry (and often self-defeating) humour.
He wrote beautiful ballads and brash and bruising rock songs, but ironically his biggest hits (Without You and Everybody's Talkin' in Midnight Cowboy were penned by other, Badfinger and Fred Neill respectively). That must have hurt.
Nilsson albums have sometimes been reissued but the five-pack of Nilsson Schmilsson, A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, Aerial Ballet, Harry and Son of Schmilsson allow us once again to shine the spotlight on this rare talent.
Most of his hits and near-hits are on these albums (Coconut, Jump into the Fire, Everybody's Talkin', One, I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City which was originally scheduled as the Midnight Cowboy theme . . .) but it is the sheer breadth of his writing which needs to be experienced.
From lullabies and children's songs to soul-baring ballads, quirky toe-tappers and soft-shoe shuffles and into white knuckle rock, Harry Nilsson would do it all. And these five discs in Sony's on-going reissue series are your cheap ticket into the wonderful world of Harry.