Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Quiet Beatle and the American Beatle

Last October, when I wrote about the superb documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?, I ended the post by highlighting a cheeky anecdote from Nilsson's (after)life that involved George:
My favorite Beatles-related story actually comes from Nilsson's funeral in 1994. George Harrison was in attendance and apparently started talking about Nilsson's music at one point. He pegged "You're Breakin' My Heart" as his favorite song. According to someone else who was there, this inspired George and others to perform an a-capella rendition of the song - complete with its frank, ear-catching punch line - right next to Nilsson's grave. What a moment perfectly suited to its honoree: sad, salty and sweet.
As it turns out, George's opinion may not have been free of bias: listed in the liner notes of Son of Schmilsson as "George Harrysong," the Quiet Beatle in fact played slide guitar on "You're Breakin' My Heart." I recently discovered this tid-bit after buying a copy of Son. There's more. Both Ringo ("Richie Snare") and longtime Beatles associate Klaus Voorman are all over the album. Additionally, the famous cover shot of Nilsson playacting as a Dracula-type was taken at Friar Park, George's sprawling abode in Oxfordshire.
Let me add that the colorful and varied Son of Schmilsson is a first-rate album, displaying both polished, commercial songwriting and plenty of Nilsson's trademark wit and eccentricity. Despite what producer Richard Perry has said over the years, it's a worthy successor to Nilsson Schmilsson; it's just weirder. I actually find it to be the more purely enjoyable listening experience, thanks in part to "You're Breakin' My Heart," which you can listen to below. Shamelessly profane but also buoyantly so, "Heart" is like "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" updated for the brash, big-talkin' Seventies. Its love/hate sentiments are universal.
(If the video is removed, go here. For more Daily Beatle posts about Nilsson, go here.)

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