Tag Archives: Harry Nilsson

Book Review: “Harry and Me: Memories of Harry Nilsson by the fans and musicians that loved him the most” by David Roberts and Neil Watson

Reviewed by Amy Hughes

Harry and Me

As a casual listener or a dedicated Harryhead, this loving tribute to the man (and the band) known the world over as Nilsson is as seriously put together as one could hope for.

Harry & Me (This Day In Music Books, 2021) brings us into the atmosphere that inhabits any great tribute from a fan perspective: well-designed with attention to detail, numerous interviews, thoughtful analysis and quotes from the subject himself. And for a Nilsson aficionado, I can’t emphasize enough this is a must-add to your collection.

While this isn’t a straight up biography, what it does fulfill is the outpouring of positive vibes (truly no other phrase fits) that are brought forward about Nilsson. What is especially eye-opening is the diversity in fans, colleagues and contributors’ passages: from those that played with him, helped his career musically, cared about his work and his family and ultimately after his passing, continue to spread the word and not let his legacy stall at his death.

After John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave an official endorsement in 1968, Nilsson’s profile rose stratospherically. While making notices for his songwriting (The Monkees ‘Cuddly Toy’ and Three Dog Night’s ‘One’), his voice became his calling card, rapturously recalled by dozens of fans in these pages. Chief among the highlights was his interpretation of ‘Without You,’ written by Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans. Not one single person in this book comes away not untouched by Nilsson’s emotive, soaring delivery and the tragic sad story associated with it’s writers.

Nilsson also gained notice with his cover of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ from ‘Midnight Cowboy.’ While these songs could have cemented his reputation early on, Nilsson continued to deliver (and as Roberts and Watson gathered for the book) either in collaboration (with Randy Newman) or the revelation on how rock legends Aerosmith got their name.

An informative and recurring feature is Watson and contributor Mark Richardson’s amusing and helpful analysis of Nilsson releases: from ‘Nilsson – Early Years’ to ‘Losst and Founnd,’ both bring their personal memories and picks for tracks… measured in pints of beer!

Another feature is ‘Harry On’ sprinkled throughout in Nilsson’s own words from various interviews given over his career. One can see his laidback, self-deprecating humor, his utter lack of celebrity-ism even when fans who in their own words describe meeting Nilsson at any given time in his life: his home, the recording studio and at fan gatherings. These sorts of insights serve as a reinforcement that despite the sound bite culture of today, we should appreciate Nilsson and soak in at length the down-to-earth person he was.

More than a few fans and colleagues recall his tireless perfection in production and his notorious aversion to live performances. Most of these interviews focus on the ‘what ifs’ had Nilsson thought it worth his while and many fans were overjoyed if they happened to see him in at an informal function or private party where he felt comfortable singing and playing the piano for a small audience.

As far as the ‘discovery’ of Nilsson, the stories that are woven in ‘Harry & Me’ are almost nearly the same: fans and industry insiders speaking in the book found Nilsson on their own and genuinely felt (and continue to feel) an almost cosmic connection. Many were also able to come upon his work through older siblings, chance meetings in record stores with like-minded listeners, pen pals or simply from buying anything and everything they could find. Whether it was ‘The Point!’ (beautifully narrated by Nilsson), ‘Nilsson Schmilsson’ (an undeniable classic) or ‘A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night,’ he affected many demographics and geographics throughout his career.

One could argue though that his career into the mainstream sense suffered greatly with his well-known alcohol consumption. Too many stories abound with the negativity surrounding his drunken escapades and the nadir that became ‘Pussy Cats.’ While there was some good that came from his friendship with Lennon, the direction of his life and music changed after this release. There were several outstanding career moments (stage adaptations of ‘The Point!,’ the ‘Popeye’ movie soundtrack and attendance at fan fests), as Lennon’s death re-charged him as an anti-gun advocate.

Nilsson continued off and on with releases that Roberts and Watson duly note while also bringing in the downturn in his life after a trusted advisor embezzled his production company funds. Many close friends and fans attempted to help him during this part of his life and it’s noted with great sadness that this may have been the long goodbye that Nilsson never fully acknowledged to the public.

As the book winds down and touches with great emotion on his death in 1994, the collective of fans began a push to get Nilsson inducted in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. While this movement has been an ongoing, heartfelt love letter, it has yet to happen and it’s worth noting that many of his musician friends and collaborators keep the message alive and ongoing.

The overall arc of Nilsson’s contribution to pop music is never without question. ‘Harry & Me’ has brought together the people who truly serve the greater purpose. Someone who had much to deliver on behalf of Nilsson was his son Zak. With a poignancy that can only be seen from the date of publication, this book is dedicated by Roberts to him after his passing from cancer in March of 2021.

In the hopes that ‘Harry & Me’ generates continued beloved insight into Nilsson – with it’s dozens of little-seen images, thought-provoking interviews with supporters and volumes of Nilsson narrative…

I give this book 5 out of 4 beetles (as Nilsson is unofficially a ‘Fifth Beatle!’)

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Most Famous Musician You’ve Never Heard Of” by Andy Cahan

The most famous musician youve never heard of Andy CahanThe title of this book couldn’t be more appropriate! How many of you have actually heard of Andy Cahan? I know he’s been making the rounds on social media this past year promoting his book The Most Famous Musician You’ve Never Hear Of, which he wrote and self-published in 2020, but prior to that…did any fans know him? And does it matter if the fans knew who he was when he was known to everyone in the rock n roll industry in the 60s and 70s?

Andy “Panda” Cahan has worked with everyone…I wouldn’t even know where to start naming names…and he does such a great job of it on his own throughout this 344 page autobiography that reads like a Who’s Who directory of the rock n’ roll industry! Just look at the list on the cover (Hendrix, Ringo, Nilsson, The Turtles, Little Richard, Dr. John, Ray Bolger, Grace Slick) or page through the 10 page index in the back of the book. And the stories…oh, the stories. He tells them with such enthusiasm as if they just happened last week and also provides a pictorial history to go with them It’s as if he had a photographer following him around for 3 decades! If you want to read a more extensive, but still not complete, list of who he’s worked with, go to his Amazon page and click on the book cover to preview the first 10 pages of the book.

This isn’t a deep book. This is a fun book to read. Published in a softcover 8.5″ x 11″ format, it’s large enough to be a coffee table book, but a bit awkward for reading in a bar (yeah, I took it into a cigar bar to read!). This is a book you’ll want to just kick back and read while slouched in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee. The print is rather on the large size, but I believe the book was packaged to help enhance the photos that go along with the short but sweet stories on every page. As the cover says, “A Rock and Roll Scrapbook…”

For those diehard Beatles fans who are wondering why I haven’t listed this book as OT (off-topic), every Beatle gets a nod in Andy’s book and he even had the pleasure of working with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. You’ll even read his tale of spending the evening at May Pang’s apartment. Always the gentleman (well, 90% of the time), Andy doesn’t kiss and tell, so it’s up to us guess what happened. Oh la la…

So, here’s the not so good news about this book: Andy Cahan really should have had a professional editor and formatter go over this book before self-publishing it. Though, I honestly believe he could have gotten an actual publisher behind it. Still, you’re going to come away from this book feeling like you know “Panda” and he’s an old friend that you can’t wait to meet up with again and hear more stories! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

P.S. – If Andy hasn’t friended you on Facebook yet to sell you an autographed copy of his book, you can find him at www.facebook.com/andy.cahan. You just simply send him $60 through FB or PayPal and he’ll mail you a copy. It’s all on the up & up and cheaper than Amazon!

 

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Book Review & Giveaway: “John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980” by Paul Du Noyer

John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is written by Paul Du Noyer – a rock journalist from Liverpool. I picked up this book off the 75% off rack at Barnes & Noble. When I realized it was only going to cost me $1.98, I went back and bought the other three copies to give away to my readers. (But then again, maybe after reading my review you might not want a copy!)

The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is now in it’s 4th edition. I’m not sure why it takes four tries and 20 years to get a book about John Lennon’s songs right, but obviously it wasn’t to fix the few minor typos throughout. Yet, despite my head scratching moment of confusion over the reprinting, I did find this book really well written and informative.

Du Noyer tells John’s life story while telling what motivated John to write each of his solo albums and songs. Like many other Beatles experts, he believes that when it came to John’s music, he wore his heart on his sleeve. John only knew how to write about his own life experiences…no made up story lines. So I’m happy to report that Du Noyer does include John’s lost weekend years in this book along with his time with May Pang. But I’m also sad to report that the author believes that the lost weekend was also a very dark, drunken time in John’s life where he pined endlessly for 18 months for Yoko to take him back.

Still a great book for those who want to delve deeper into Lennon’s music and the meaning and story behind the albums and songs. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: I have three copies of this book to give to three of my readers. Just leave a comment below and you’re entered. It’s that simple. Rules: Only one entry per person. I will pick the winners next Sunday morning (September 3, 2017) and announce them in my blog.

 

 

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