“Nilsson Schmilsson, what’s a Schmilsson ?”
“BUZZ Newspaper Article Sep 2014 (#40-Nn)
By: RLSchwinden: aka Oblio
When I was a kid living on Douglas St. on the Northside of Sioux City, my Uncle Jeff lived with us, the year was 1971 & Uncle Jeff wanted to watch a new cartoon movie of the week “The Point” by one (Harry) Nilsson, back in the days of 3, sometimes 4 TV channels, everyone gathered around the (usually) one TV in the house & watched the movie of the week together, & so we did … & I loved it! For awhile I even called myself “Oblio” and so here is the story of “Nilsson”
> Daddy’s Song: 1964 <
Harry Edward Nilsson III (15 Jun 1941 – 15 Jan 1994 Agoura Hills, CA) otherwise known as just “Nilsson” was born in Brooklyn, NYC his Grandparents were Swedish circus performers in the aerial ballet, his father left when Harry was just 3, as a kid Harry moved around a lot, a stay with his Uncle John is where he honed his vocal abilities. As he got older he was a natural when it came to numbers & computers, so Harry ended up working at bank on the night shifts & starting in 1962 worked during the day recording song demos for $5.oo a recording.
Harry started releasing 45 singles in 1963 as “Bo Pete” on the Spindletop/ Mercury Label the songs being “Baa Baa Blacksheep” & “Do You Wanna Have Some Fun” & another “Donna, I Understand b/w Wig Job” under the name “Johnny Niles” which lead to a signing with Tower/ Capitol Records where he released 4 singles starting in 1964. This was the start of Nilsson’s music career, which saw him then release some 36 single 45s & 17 LPs from 1963 to 1980. “Spotlight on Nilsson” was released in 1966 on Tower Records, now billed as Nilsson, however he stayed on @ the night shift at the bank.
>Good Old Desk: 1967<
In Mar 1967 when The MONKEES decided to cover "Cuddly Toy”, released a full month before Nilsson's version, along with "Story Of Rock N Roll" (released by: The TURTLES) & “Mr. Richland's Favorite Song" &"Good Times" Nilsson actually sat in on the recording sessions providing piano & vocals for these tracks & then later, on "Daddy's Song" this gave Nilsson the "Big Break" he had been looking for, as Nilsson was signed to RCA Records in 1967.
The Monkees went on to record many other Nilsson songs such as; "Together" in 1969, a little later Nesmith gone solo covered "Rainmaker" in 1971. Then Dolenz recorded "Daybreak" in 1974 for the film "Son Of Dracula", for Dolenz's 1st solo CD in 1991 he recorded "Moonbeam" & "Remember" & then in 1994 "Me & My Arrow" Dolenz remained a close friend of Harry's until his death. On a solo tour in Jan 1999 Jones performed "Nobody Cares About The Railroad Anymore"
When Nilsson was signed to RCA he began his collaboration with George Tipton from 1967- 1971, creating that "early" Nilsson sound production, 1 of the stipulations in Nilsson's RCA contract was that he have his own office, he answered his own phones, & as a gimmick decided he would never perform live, a decision he later regretted, although he did make TV appearances to promote his albums. Nilsson's 2nd LP (1st for RCA) was "Pandemonium Shadow Show" released in Dec 1967 with a nod to The BEATLES by covering 2 of their songs "You Can't Do That" & "She's Leaving Home" as well as his version of "Cuddly Toy" he appeared on the TV show "It's Happening" in Aug 1968 . His 3rd LP "Aerial Ballet" was released in Nov 1968, the title a reference to his grandparents. Though Nilsson did not have a hit off this LP the band "Three Dog Night" did with the song "One" a #1 Billboard Hit in Oct 1968.He made some TV appearances on "Beat Club" Oct 1968 & "Playboy After Dark" Feb 1969 to promote this release.
> Garbage Can Ballet: 1969 <
Nilsson’s 4th LP was 1 of many shifts he would do in his career, a soundtrack to the Otto Preminger film “Skidoo” in Dec 1968, Nilsson made a cameo as a prison guard. Harry made an appearance on the TV Show “Ghost & Mrs. Muir” in Mar 1969. Then Superstardom arrives in the form of another film & soundtrack, that being the United Artists film “Midnight Cowboy” in May 1969 Nilsson scores a hit with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin” a #6 Billboard Hit in Aug 1969. This same month he releases his LP “Harry” (Aug 1969) with the #34 Hit “I Guess The Lord Must Live In NYC” in Nov 1969, this song was originally submitted by Nilsson for “Midnight Cowboy” the following month Sep 1969 he wrote the theme song “Best Friend” for a new TV show on ABC “Courtship Eddie’s Father”
1970 starts off with a bang when Nilsson wins a Grammy in Jan 1970 for “Midnight Cowboy’s” “Everybody’s Talkin” & Harry ushers in the new decade with yet another twist, as a famous song-writer himself he records an entire LP of another song-writers material (today they are known as tribute CDs) “Nilsson Sings Newman” in Feb 1970, with Randy Newman himself on piano. Nilsson appears on the “Smothers Brothers Summer Show” in Jul 1970 to promote this LP.
> Think About Your Troubles: 1971 <
Another round of success comes in the form of a soundtrack, Nilsson “I was on acid looking out the window at the trees & the houses & it seemed everything had a point” he wrote & recorded the LP & TV film “The Point!” the soundtrack released in Jan 1971 & the TV film was aired in Feb 1971 on ABC by: Murakami-Wolf Productions with Dustin Hoffman providing the narration for the initial airing, later replaced by: Ringo Starr for the VHS release. “Me & My Arrow” becomes a #34 hit in Mar 1971. For some reason Harry remixes his 1st, 2 LPs into the best of: “Aerial Pandemonium Ballet” in 1971.
1971 proves to be Harry’s year as he follows up with his biggest commercial success “Nilsson Schmilsson” released in Nov 1971. In another “remix” move Harry was one of the very few artists to oversee a Quad 8-Track (4 channel stereo) remixing from the master tapes to be somewhat different than LP version, intentionally! (Nesmith also did this).
This LP yielded 3 Top 40 Hits starting with “Without You” a #1 hit in Dec 1971, a Badfinger song from Nov 1970, followed by “Jump Into The Fire” a #27 hit in Mar 1972 & then “Coconut” a #8 hit in Jun 1972. A TV Show was created & aired on the BBC “The Music Of Nilsson” in Jan 1972.
Nilsson’s 8th LP “Son of Schmilsson” is released in Jul 1972, spawning the #23 hit “Spaceman” in Sep 1972. Another twist the song “Joy” was released under the name “Buck Earle” on RCA’s (Green) Country label.
> Nevertheless: 1973 <
After having conquered the “Pop” music charts, Harry makes another switch; he records an LP of old 1920s & 30s songs, titled “A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night” in Jun 1973. Now while Harry did not tour, he did make this TV Special “A Little Touch Of Schmilsion In The Night” @ the CTS Studios, BBC Television Theatre recorded Mar 1973. Here is the setlist:
As Time Goes By
Me and My Gal
It Had To Be You
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now
What’ll I Do
This Is All I Ask
Over The Rainbow
As Time Goes By
In 1973 Yoko kicked John Lennon out & he moved L.A. where he struck up a (drinking) friendship with Nilsson, & from time to time included Ringo Starr, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon & Alice Cooper, when they weren’t getting into trouble they occasionally worked on music. Nilsson’s 3rd soundtrack “Son of Dracula” was released in Apr 1974 (without Dolenz) the single “Daybreak” hit #39 in Apr 1974. The film was put out by Apple Corps starring Nilsson as “Count Downe” with Ringo Starr as “Merlin” & as The Count’s Band; John Bonham, Peter Frampton, Keith Moon & Bobby Keyes.
About this time Nilsson took to including a message inside his LPs to the fans to write the Government to petition to let Lennon stay in the USA (Lennon had some drug charges on his record) Lennon was into “Primal Screaming Therapy” & took Harry along 1 time where Harry ruptured a vocal cord, he hid it from Lennon while jamming with Lennon & McCartney in L.A. sometime in 1974. Lennon & Nilsson did manage to put out an LP “Pussy Cats” this was released in Aug 1974.
> Easier For Me: 1975 <
Taking some time off to rest his voice Nilsson’s 13th LP “Duit on Mon Dei” British slang for “Do It On Monday” was released in Mar 1975, & did make an appearance on the TV show “Midnight Special” in Nov 1975 to promote this LP. With no real hits on the last LP Harry released 2 LPs in 1976 “Sandman” in Jan & “That’s the Way It Is” in Jun 1976. Because Harry did not tour he had plenty of time to record so his 16th LP “Knnillssonn” came out in Jul 1977 followed by another appearance on “Midnight Special” in Nov 1977.
Meanwhile the reformed team of David Jones (singing 7) & Micky Dolenz (singing 2) put together a Broadway musical of “The Point” releasing an LP in 1977 on MCA (UK only) adding 7 other Nilsson songs to expand the storyline of “The Point”
The late 70s saw Harry taking some time off until after a 3 year hiatus he released what he considered to be his best LP yet “Flash Harry” was released in 1980 followed by his 4th soundtrack “Popeye” in Dec 1980 a Paramount Pictures Production. Nilsson was deeply affected by the murder of John Lennon & effectively dropped out of the limelight as a “Retired Musician” & became a member of the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence” & in 1982 he recorded & released a 45 single sold only @ “Beatlefest” titled “With A Bullet” followed by another 45 Single “Loneliness” released in 1984.
Nilsson did manage to make an appearance on 25 Nov 1984 @ The Westin Bonaventure Hotel L.A. CA. probably for a “Beatlefest”
You Can’t Do That
Give Peace a Chance
Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
> How Long Can Disco Go On: 1989 <
In the late 80s as Vinyl effectively ended (for 15 solid years) a CD “All Time Greatest Hits” was released in 1989. Then amazingly in 1990 Nilsson was broke due to a financial adviser who embezzled from him, the guilty party only severed a couple years in prison. Nilsson’s last live appearance was on 1 Sep 1992 with Ringo’s All Starr Band to sing “Without You” The early 90s found Harry over-weight & in poor health & almost completely out of sight.
I started to notice how many artists had been covering Nilsson songs over the past few years or so, for example for his 1st Solo CD, Robin Zander: “CHEAP TRICK” cut a cover of “Jump Into The Fire” in Jul 1993 when I met him in Omaha the following year, I asked him how he came to cover that song & what did Harry have to say about it: Zander “Why? Because I love Harry Nilsson, that’s why. I didn’t get to talk to him about it; I just had to pay him (laughs)”
Harry had a heart-attack in Feb 93, which motivated him to go to work on a new studio CD with Mark Hudson, & working on a retrospective 2 CD collection of his RCA works. Harry died of heart failure 15 Jan 1994 his “Personal Best” 2CD was released in Jan 1995. Earlier this year at our Shop (Mr. Zero’s) a customer asked me for “Schmilsson” as it was a “long running family joke” she wanted to buy the LP to hang on her wall, so this inspired me to write this article.
So it goes … the story of Nilsson Schmilsson
RLSchwinden aka MrZer0
www.MrZeros.Com “BLOG” (for past articles)
1744 Lexington Ave. N.
Roseville, MN. 55113
651. 489. 0207