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Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

November 16, 2016


Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson


[Album 489/1001]

When did you first hear about Harry Nilsson?

Was it during the pre-The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth conversation between the unlikely pairing of Bing Crosby & David Bowie?

Me too!


(at 1:00)

Bing: “Do you ever listen to any of the older fellas?”
Bowie: “Yeah, sure. I like John Lennon. And the other one with the (strokes imaginary beard), Harry Nilsson.”
Bing: “Oh you go back that far, huh?”


A little self-deprecation goes a long way in my books.

Therefore, by dismissively naming his album Nilsson Schmilsson, even before I heard a note, Harry was off to a terrific start.

And that momentum continued through side one. The staccato chords in Gotta Get Up, the Beatle-y guitars/bleak lyrics juxtaposition in Driving Along, The Moonbeam Song‘s Brian Wilson-esque vocal harmonies; no wonder David Bowie name-checked him on Bing Crosby’s Christmas Special!

Things get a bit more polarizing on side two.220px-harry_nilsson_-_nilsson_schmilsson

While Without You may have been quite moving at the time, it now feels like a song that’s been irreversibly taken out of its original context. Though likely intended as a heartfelt ballad, it is now more likely to appear in commercials &/or romantic comedy parodies.

Then there’s the matter of Coconut, a track that I’d imagine listeners either view as an album peak or as an irritating novelty.

But listeners should return to consensus with the penultimate track, Jump Into The Fire: a 7-minute gem, regardless of whom you ask!


Verbalize The Positive

I appreciate how J @ Resurrection Songs always makes thoughtful contributions to discussions on this site & several other sites in the blogging community. And he writes great tunes too!

From → 1970s

  1. First time for me was hearing Alice Cooper talking about his old drinking club the Hollywood Vampires. And in a fitting tribute, he covered a bit of “Coconut” on his Hollywood Vampires tribute album.

    • I could listen to Alice talk all day – I imagine that he’d take Coconut in a new direction!

  2. One of my favourite albums! I discovered Nilsson via Coconut and his version of Everybody’s Talkin’… probably in the mid 90’s. Incredible talent… incredibly troubled, too.

    Schmilsson is one of his best. Certainly his most successful… the album that also brought about his downfall in some respects. Man, I could talk about it for hours. Often have. It was a perfect pop record… as you mention, there’s a few different styles on here that recall the best work of other artists, but it all remains very much Harry. A range of emotions and, while Without You is definitely lost somewhat, it’s an incredible performance (single take… following a stint in the boozers, apparently).

    I’m gonna shut up now, but there’s a really great documentary about him from a few years back (Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin Bout Him?)) that I can’t recommend highly enough. It covers this album and the fall out of it’s success.

    I’d also recommend his other stuff too. Certainly the pre-Schmilsson stuff, though his work after it is occasionally brilliant too (even when his voice was shot to shit).

    • Terrific comment J – I love when I unknowingly stumble across one of my friend’s all-timers!

      That doc intrigues me, hadn’t known that about Without You, neat to hear the behind the scenes stories instead of just the songs without any of the real context.
      More Nilsson has been duly added to the ‘to be explored’ list!

      • Couldn’t recommend it highly enough, Geoff. I know it was on Netflix a while back, so worth having a look on there if you have it.

        In terms of his other stuff, I could give you a steer if required. Such a great, and varied, catalogue… his early stuff is really pretty outstanding. Melodies and hooks… self-harmonising galore. Really wonderful stuff. A single, bright, and determined creative mind.

        … plus, there’s the glorious Popeye demos to uncover.

      • We’ve got the netflix – I’ll see if it’s there when I’m on later!

      • Fingers crossed!

  3. I confess to not having heard a lot of Nilsson, but your post akes me want to hear more!

    Fun fact: I own a CD single of that Bowie/Crosby track.

    Also, I love how you’re Verbalizing The Positive! What a great idea. I am way behind in my readings. How did this come about?

  4. Not heard much Nilsson. Funnily enough I checked out Nikki Sixx’ new song yesterday and it was a cover of Without You. So the context is spoiled even more! It wasn’t a commercial and I don’t think it was meant as a a parody but it was absolute guff.

  5. Jenn permalink

    We’ve been quoting the Dave Foley version of that video for so many years that it just seemed really strange that Bing didn’t say “close enough for jazz” in there somewhere.

  6. An album that I was in love with at the time*… one of those, so well known, that it’s impossible to find any objectivity; only the stories it soundtracked.

    * In the absence of any available human beings.

    • I’m saving several of those ‘zero-trace of objectivity’ for my final 10 of the project!
      Speaking of loved albums in lieu of unavailable human beings – I’m currently reading Mara Wilson (no relation to Brian)’s book ‘where am I now?’ and she had a great line about, “feeling like the pet sounds to everyone else’s surfing safari” – very relatable!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory (2000) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. Willie Nelson – Stardust (1978) | 1001albumsin10years
  3. Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975) | 1001albumsin10years
  4. Randy Newman – Good Old Boys (1974) | 1001albumsin10years
  5. The Monkees – Headquarters (1967) | 1001albumsin10years
  6. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993) | 1001albumsin10years
  7. The Byrds – Younger than Yesterday (1967) | 1001albumsin10years
  8. Anita Baker – Rapture (1986) | 1001albumsin10years
  9. Circle Jerks – Group Sex (1980) | 1001albumsin10years
  10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976) | 1001albumsin10years
  11. Wilco – Being There (1996) | 1001albumsin10years
  12. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986) | 1001albumsin10years
  13. Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue (1977) | 1001albumsin10years
  14. 1971 | 1001albumsin10years
  15. 1985 | 1001albumsin10years

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