Tag Archives: Harry Nilsson

Have you ever watched a moonbeam?

“Nilsson Schmilsson,” the wonderful Harry Nilsson album released 50 years ago yesterday, was not on the list of 10 all-time greatest albums I submitted to WXPN radio in Philadelphia for its consideration the other day.

If I had it to do over, I might add it to my list and leave off something certain to be on hundreds of other listeners’ lists.

Nilsson Schmilsson LP jacket, Harry Nilsson, 1971

XPN will be counting down the top 2,021 albums of all time as determined by the poll beginning at 6 a.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 2. That’s 5 a.m. my time …

“Early In The Morning”

“Nilsson Schmilsson” was one of the first few albums I ever owned. I was 14, maybe 15. Loved it then and have loved it ever since. As with all of my earliest LPs, every track and every side is seared into memory from having played them so often.

Side A has always struck me as a bit of a travelogue, starting with “Gotta Get Up” (which everyone now knows from “Russian Doll” on Netflix). It’s followed by “Driving Along” and “Early In The Morning.” You drive from early morning to late night, and then along comes …

“The Moonbeam Song”

This has long been my favorite cut on the record, leisurely reflections and gentle musings about watching the world passing by. Mostly acoustic, that’s Klaus Voormann and John Uribe on acoustic guitar, Herbie Flowers on bass and Nilsson himself on the wee bit of Mellotron.

The trip through Side A doesn’t end well, though, going …


Side B is less interesting, if only because most of its songs are so well known — “Without You,” “Coconut,” “Let The Good Times Roll” and “Jump Into The Fire.”

Listening to it again, I’m reminded that I often picked up the needle after the exciting “Jump Into The Fire” and passed on the last cut, “I’ll Never Leave You,” a slow, poignant love song lost on a kid who was 14, maybe 15.

All rips from my copy of “Nilsson Schmilsson,” which I’ve had for almost 50 years, since not all that long after it was released on Monday, Nov. 1, 1971.

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Filed under November 2021, Sounds

Have a Harry Halloween, everyone

Saw this earlier today on Twitter.

This is another of those records I’ve had forever.

“Nilsson Schmilsson,” its 1971 predecessor, was one of the first few LPs I ever bought. Thinking back, I probably bought it with Christmas money. I know it from front to back. Loved it then, love it now.

So of course when “Son of Schmilsson” came out in the summer of 1972, I bought it right away. Thinking back, I probably bought it with birthday money.

“Son of Schmilsson” fell right into a 15-year-old’s wheelhouse. I was a sophomore-to-be, and this record was sophomoric if nothing else. It’s full of irreverent and rude humor, lapsing into vaguely bad taste well before that notorious belch between songs on Side 2. Oh, yeah, I know this record from front to back, too. We had a lot of fun listening to “Son of Schmilsson” back then.

Listening to it now, though, and knowing how Harry Nilsson’s life unfolded — and of course, unraveled — it’s a little sad.

“It’s a deeply strange record, one which seems to be almost willful self-sabotage in places,” Mr. Andrew Hickey wrote this summer in a fine, must-read breakdown of “Son of Schmilsson” at his blog, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

That pretty much nails it.

So please enjoy the most elegant cut on “Son of Schmilsson,” a song that went unappreciated by a certain 15-year-old in 1972. All those years later, its poignant message hits home.

Long ago, far away / Life was clear / Close your eyes / Remember …

“Remember (Christmas),” Nilsson, from “Son of Schmilsson,” 1972.

Bonus cover!

“Remember,” Randy Newman, from “For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson,” 1995.

The proceeds from this tribute record, which was released after Nilsson’s death in 1994, went to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Nilsson became passionate about the cause after the shooting death of his friend John Lennon in 1980.




Filed under October 2018, Sounds

A matter of convenience

The phone rang a few minutes after noon.

It was my dad, calling from the convenience store, where he’d stopped after going out for lunch.

Come to find out, stopping at the convenience store was the problem.

As Dad pulled up, his foot slipped from the brake to the gas pedal.

(You know where this is going, don’t you?)

Hurtling forward at low speed, Dad took out one of the glass doors, upended a stack of windshield wiper fluid bottles and knocked a concrete trash barrel a few feet west.

Dad wasn’t hurt. Nor was anyone else, thankfully. If you’re 84, as Dad is, and you have an accident, that’s the one to have.

Dad has been driving for 70 years, but he might be done now. His car, a rusty ’92 Ford Taurus bequeathed to him when his older sister died six years ago, likely is totaled. We aren’t going to encourage him to get a different car. We’ll just make do.

Just like that, you gotta deal with …

“Them Changes,” Lionel Hampton and the Inner Circle, from “Them Changes,” 1972. It’s out of print. Our friend Larry over at Funky 16 Corners shared this in his “Vol. 7: Funky Shing-A-Ling” mix and again earlier this year in his “Vol. 79: Positive Vibrations” mix. A longer take is available digitally, but I don’t know when it was recorded.

Dad digs Hamp’s vibes. They’re heard over at Ray’s Corner, the apartment with the loud music, and the place where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away. The vibes in this cut might have sounded a little like that shattered glass falling to the ground at the convenience store.

Speaking of which …

Once everyone had checked on Dad, making sure he was OK, and once the deputy called for a tow truck, Dad headed into the store and bought his lottery tickets.

Wouldn’t it be a great story if today was the day he won?

Nah, that kind of thing only happens in the movies. Or in a song …

“The Lottery Song,” Harry Nilsson, from “Son of Schmilsson,” 1972. The buy link is to a remastered CD with five extra tracks.


Filed under April 2010, Sounds

The other guy

Rockabilly singer Robert Gordon, backed by legendary session guitarist Chris Spedding, played the lounge at our local casino earlier this week. I went to see Spedding, not Gordon. He did not disappoint.

I came to know Spedding as a session man in the early ’70s, when he played guitar and bouzouki on Harry Nilsson’s “Nilsson Schmilsson” and “Son of Schmilsson” albums, two of my faves.

I came to know Spedding as a solo performer in the mid-’80s, when “Motor Bikin’,” a hit single in the UK in 1975, got some airplay on our indie radio station in Madison, Wisconsin. That airplay came as “Ready Spedding Go,” a compilation of his UK hits, was released in the States.

When he played here, Spedding did a song I’d not heard in a long time — “Guitar Jamboree.” In it, Spedding shows off his considerable skills by playing in the style of almost a dozen different guitarists.

Here’s what Spedding says about “Guitar Jamboree” on his web site:

“That’s just a one-off track that I thought of. … I figured that I ought to give all the people who know me as a guitar player a bit of flash guitar — which I don’t know why they expect flash guitar from me because I’ve never, ever done it, but I get the distinct impression that people expect me to be a flash guitarist. The reason I don’t normally do it is because I find it incredibly boring and unfulfilling. So what I did was to construct ‘Guitar Jamboree,’ an interesting song about lots of interesting things, around a few flash guitar solos.”

Indeed, Spedding is laid back on stage. His guitar does the talking.


Spedding as solo performer:

“Guitar Jamboree,” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. Originally released in the UK on “Chris Spedding,” 1975.

“Hurt By Love” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. Originally released in the UK on “Hurt,” 1977. Chrissie Hynde sings backup vocals on this one.

“Ready Spedding Go” is out of print, but both of these tunes are available on “The Very Best of Chris Spedding,” a 2007 import. The UK album links also are to import CDs.


Spedding as duet performer:

“Hey Little Boy (Little Girl),” Chris Spedding and Chrissie Hynde, from “Brace Yourself! A Tribute To Otis Blackwell,” 1994. Spedding plays on several cuts on this record. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.


Spedding as session man:

“Jump Into The Fire,” Harry Nilsson, from “Nilsson Schmilsson,” 1971. Plenty of flash solos on this familiar one, all as Spedding and Klaus Voorman quietly play rhythm guitar.

“At My Front Door,” Harry Nilsson, from “Son of Schmilsson,” 1972. A rollicking cover of the tune also known as “Crazy Little Mama,” a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts for the El Dorados in 1955. That’s Spedding and Peter Frampton on the electric guitars.

Want to hear more Nilsson? Head over to our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, to hear the rest of Side 2 of “Son of Schmilsson.”


Filed under March 2009, Sounds

Last call for summer

As we sit here, thinking back on the sun-splashed summer months just past, it gets quiet. Deep quiet. You feel like you can reach out and grab a handful of the silence.

Not only is it getting to be the end of the night, but the end of the season, the end of another chapter in the life. The nights are turning cool in our corner of Wisconsin, and all the summer visitors are going home, so they’ll start packing up the outdoor bars after this weekend.

So we head over to the jukebox for a little music that will only intensify that deep quiet, only feed the longing for a few more weeks or days of another summer that blew past too quickly.


“Summer,” War, 1976, from “The Best of War and More,” 1991.

Cliched, perhaps, but still just the right vibe to get us started.


“The Moonbeam Song,” Harry Nilsson, from “Nilsson Schmilsson,” 1971. (The link is to a 2004 expanded version with six extra cuts.)


“Martini 5-0,” The Blue Hawaiians, from “Sway,” 1998.

Just about anything this L.A. surf/tiki/exotica noir band does is suitable for this kind of night. As in “Last Days of Summer,” another cut from the same album. Give it a listen on their MySpace page.


“Blues for the Night Owl,” Ramsey Lewis, from “The Greatest Hits of Ramsey Lewis,” 1973.


“Rememberin’ Stevie,” Buddy Guy, from “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” 1991. (The original CD apparently is out of print, so this link is for a 2005 expanded edition with two cuts that were B sides in the UK.)

This tune, a tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, is one I will forever associate with one particular end-of-the-night experience.

I took this CD along when I joined some pals on a road trip to a college basketball game. It had just come out, so it had to be late 1991 or early 1992 — not all that long after Stevie Ray’s death in a helicopter crash on a southern Wisconsin hillside in August 1990.

It was a 2-hour drive each way, and it got to be a long night. We were driving home, and we’d been shooting the breeze. But once we got to this cut, the last on the CD, it didn’t take too long before all four of us were listening in silence.

When it ended, I vividly remember one of my pals breaking the long silence.

“Whew!” he said, exhaling deeply.

“Man!” another of the fellas said.

Perhaps you, too, will have the same reaction if you play it late at night, as summer winds to a close.

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Filed under September 2007, Sounds