Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) - DVD

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) - DVD
Antonio G. Pereira © 2013 Antonio G. Pereira

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)
        Y'know it's funny, Harry Nilsson was somebody who you heard quite a bit in the late '60s/early '70s. His songs being performed by other people (The Monkees, Three Dog Night), composing a movie soundtrack (Skidoo - Harry must have been short on cash at the time. This super gobbler was an L.S.D. inspired tale that starred {among others} Jackie Gleason {That's right folks, the MC and Role Model for the 1969 Teens For Decency Rally, Ralph Kramden himself.}, Graucho Marx {Still listening?}, Donyele Luna {Who the film, 'Mahogany' was based on. You'll catch glimpses of her in The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus, and photographs of her with Brian Jones and Rocky Dijon, in photographer Mike Randolph's book of photographic stills from the film.}, or his voice singing over a television theme (The Courtship of Eddie's Father), or a movie (Midnight Cowboy); but you never actually 'saw him' very much (though he did pop up occasionally if you were paying attention) that is, not until he was making headlines hanging out with John Lennon in Los Angeles in '73/'74.
Harry Nilsson was a very good tune smith, with an ear for melody and with a Pop Music songwriting sensibility. He also possessed an extraordinarily beautiful singing voice. Part Music Hall, part Jazz, part Tin Pan Alley, well versed in these different forms he'd obviously studied and listened to; which made him a contemporary of Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys (after they had scraped the bottom of the barrel with the Surf Music and the poor rewrites of Chuck Berry songs with different lyrics, and Brian had advanced to create the 'Pet Sounds' LP along with the 'Good Vibrations' 45), and Arthur Lee (e.g. the expansive selection of Pop Songs that Arthur Lee began composing for the second version of Love, on the albums 'Four Sail' and 'Out Here'); and of course Phil Spector (who by this time, had become a total recluse).
This documentary collects together some very rare footage of Harry Nilsson's appearances on Television Shows (among them, Hugh Hefner's 'Playboy After Dark' {a great series}, two BBC Specials, 'Beat Club' from German Television), The Grammys, Home Movies and Studio Recording Sessions. There are interviews with people who knew him (from those interviewed, it would appear that his circle of acquaintances was very limited and almost completely white). He led a strange life, and after winning a series of awards at The Grammys for his album 'Nilsson Schmilsson', he began to deteriorate (though putting out two further exceptional albums, 'Nilsson Sings Newman' {covering the songs of Randy Newman} and 'A Little Touch of Schmillson In The Night' {an album of Jazz and Pop standards}), disintegrate and lose his audience (his audience being the people who bought his records, as he didn't perform in public), and in the process unfortunately, during an out of control, drug fueled recording session, lost his beautiful voice too. In retrospect, as L.A. in the 1970s and the entertainment field itself (which included the Film Industry, Music and Television), was engulfed in Cocaine Use, and unwise thoughts of arrogant invincibility were rampant throughout the Industry, Harry ended up a casualty. John Lennon, who was smart enough to get out, spoke at length about what madness was going on in L.A. during this period, in his 1975 television interview with Tom Snyder on the Tomorrow Show on NBC.
Harry Nilsson ends up being a tireless advocate for Gun Control, after his friend John Lennon's life is ended in late 1980, as a result of senseless Gun Violence; and that ends up being Harry Nilsson's final legacy. A brave attempt at sanity, in this (what is at present) cleverly and subliminally (using income selectivity) militaristic, and still dangerously out of control, Gun Happy and Gun Loving culture.

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