by Jon Hunt
True connoisseurs of 60s and 70s pop music know: even above your Brian Wilsons and your John Lennons, even holier than your Loves and your Pink Floyds, the best and cultiest singer/songwriter genius was Harry Nilsson .
Beloved by the Beatles *and* the Monkees (Lennon cited him as his “favorite band”), Nilsson had a few brushes with fame, but his story is ultimately a tragic one. Starting out as a guy writing songs for other people (the Monkees did his semi-sinister “Cuddly Toy”), it wasn’t long before he was plying his remarkable tenor around Hollywood, making a couple of beloved-but-poor-selling albums (Pandemonium Shadow Show and Aerial Ballet) and making the rounds amongst the hipster cognoscenti.
Eventually the world caught on: his cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” from Midnight Cowboy became the first of a few massive hits. He followed up with a cover of Badfinger’s “Without You” which propelled him to legendary status. The novelty hit “Coconut” (you’ve heard it, even if you don’t think you have) proved him to be a novelty tale-spinner of remarkable talent.
Along the way he produced an animated film (the remarkable The Point, still beloved by children worldwide), a terrible vampire movie (the super-cult Son of Dracula), a number of TV specials and a hot half-dozen killer albums, including the smash hit NilssonSchmilsson. But like many troubled artists, Nilsson turned to alcohol and his career slowly spiraled downwards, ending entirely when his best pal Lennon was shot.
But over the years, a Nilsson cult has emerged, worshipping (rightly) the man’s tremendous wit and songwriting gifts. Local musicians Kai Anders, Kyle O’Brien and Joshua Parlanti have taken this to the ultimate extreme, forming Dream On Nilsson to re-arrange and keep alive the man’s music, transforming it into (if this is even possible) even wittier and even more idiosyncratic shapes. They Kickstartered a debut album, and now l’etoile is proud to present the first song from that — their magnificent rearrangement of “Gotta Get Up,” the kickoff track from Nilsson Schmilsson. As you’ll see, they’re working with some remarkable gifts of arrangement and singing themselves. Poster above for the release party, and out soon on SRI Records!