It can be said that as vinyl collectors and fans of the late, great Harry Nilsson, we’ve become a bit obsessive here at TVD HQ, which happens to house 2 complete sets of Harry’s discography, 1 open for spinning and a second still sealed in original shrink for who knows what.
And it’s with this shared love for Harry’s records that our friends at The Royal Potato Family have assembled, This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 1), a “20-track collection that celebrates the artistry and songs of the legendary singer-songwriter.” With contributions from Langhorne Slim, Dawn Landes, Rasputina, Marco Benevento, and Tracy Bonham among a host of others, it’s fair to assume we’ll need to pick up 2 copies—1 for spinning and 1 to keep sealed for who knows what.
This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 1) arrives on store shelves today, 2/4, and to celebrate its arrival, we’ve assembled a bit of insight from the artists themselves as to how they came to participate in the project and why.
Oh, and yup, we’ve got a limited edition yellow copy of This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 1) to award one of you.
“Nilsson is a great musical role-model as he was unique and prolific. It sounds like he followed his own ideas, so the end result could be odd, but always pleasing, like it sounds normal and right, but actually, it’s pretty weird. All qualities to aspire to.
I did ‘Sweethaven’ from the movie Popeye. The song is an uplifting anthem, but the words are kind of cranky. The lyrics are hilarious—not quite what you think you hear. I’m proud to have sung a whole village. I love working with the album’s producer Kenny Seigal. The recording process was so fun and loose.”
—Melora Creager, Rasputina
“At some point when I was a kid I heard ‘Sittin On The Dock Of The Bay.’ There are times in life when one’s Rock N Roll soul is ignited, shaken awake, turned on, and it’s go time. ‘Go’ is not a tangible destination. It’s not an exit off of I-95 or an outward place at all. It’s a seed planted before birth deep inside of every music lover that when watered by something special, something great, it begins to grow, it bears fruit and it becomes mighty.
Much like my experience with Otis Redding’s ‘Dock Of The Bay,’ I heard Harry Nilsson’s ‘Coconut’ in the back seat of a grown-up’s car. I was transfixed. My musical eye wide open. My dulled senses sharpened. I became, at once, more awake and alive than before.
In these instances of musical awakening, a craving is born. A thirst that is satisfied only by more. Who is this strange beautiful human singing? When did he sing this? What else has he sang? And so on. Herein lies the life altering and, for some of us, life saving journey for the feeling. The quest for the real raw dirty deal. The truth, the beauty, the music that feeds our souls. I’m immensely grateful for all of the artists that have kept me hungry. Nilsson is certainly one of them and ‘Early In The Morning’ is one of my favorites. Every time I hear it, it’s ‘Go’ time again.”
“I’ve been a Nilsson fan forever. I remember seeing The Point as a 10-year-old kid and feeling bewitched. There’s something magical about the way he can cover dark and serious stuff in such a playful way.
I think that’s what attracted me initially to this song ‘You’re Breakin My Heart.’ It’s a breakup song that’s fun and confrontational at the same time, like Nilsson’s outfit on the cover of Son of Schmillson.”
“Hearing ‘The Point’ was a real life changing moment for me. ‘Are You Sleeping’ is one my favorite tunes from that record. So was ‘Me and My Arrow.’ Between the two songs we couldn’t decide which one to record so we decided to do ‘Are You Sleeping’ in the style of ‘Me and My Arrow.’
Goodness, I wish Harry Nilsson was still alive. And if he was I’d wish that we could have one night out on the town to have some drinks, hang with some friends, sing and play piano, and stay out till the sun came up. I have a feeling that I might go missing for a few days if that happened, but I know I’d have some good stories to tell.”
“I first discovered Harry Nilsson years ago as an extension of an ongoing Beatles obsession, but his place has since petrified as a staple. My favorite album is A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night where he’s singing standards over Gordon Jenkins arrangements. As incredible a songwriter as he is, it’s his voice that sends me.
‘Rainmaker’ was also covered by Bobbie Gentry, another super badass, so it’s with complete humility that I submit our version to the ether. It was very fun to make, though!”
—Sam Cohen, Yellowbirds
“As far as producing classic pop music is concerned, attempting to do a tribute to all of Harry Nilsson’s best work could be seen kind of like setting out to learn one of Tchaikovsky’s preludes. I know Harry’s tunes seem like they go down easy when listening to them, but making music sound ‘easy’ is actually a complex art form when put into practice.
In the studio, from what I could gather, Harry didn’t slave over his own vocal performances just for the fun of it. I think he worked that hard because he was realizing the potential of his vocal abilities. I really believe that gifted artists are always compelled to rise to the occasion of their gifts, (which is really the occasion of their lives.)
All that being said, I genuinely love the results we got. These aren’t recordings in competition with Harry’s originals, but fresh interpretations of Harry’s songs done by a whole new generation of artists using his body of work as the muse.”
—Kenny Siegal, Johnny Society and This Is The Town producer
“When asked to do a Harry cover, it was beyond obvious that we should recreate the iconic Goodfellas helicopter scene via ‘Jump Into the Fire.’ Hopefully Ray Liotta has a sense of humor and doesn’t sue us.
The thing about Harry Nilsson for me is that he was his own man. He didn’t sound like anyone else. For a guy with one of the most luscious and sensitive male voices ever recorded, there was so much rage, pain, hysteria, mania, and lunacy behind that voice.
We could never come close, but I hope we did his little paranoid coked-up rager justice. Thanks for the high notes, Harry!”
—Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie
This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 1) full track list is:
1. Langhorne Slim – Early In The Morning
2. Dawn Landes – You’re Breakin’ My Heart
3. Low Cut Connie – Jump Into The Fire
4. Jenny O – 1941
5. The Mommyheads – Me and My Arrow
6. Annie Nilsson – Gotta Get Up
7. Blueberry – Poli High
8. Willy Mason – Think About Your Troubles
9. Yellowbirds – Rainmaker (Nilsson /Martin)
10. Johanna Warren – Without Her
11. The Wiyos – Nobody Cares About The Railroads Anymore
12. Rasputina – Sweethaven
13. Church of Betty – Without You
14. Marco Benevento – Are You Sleeping?
15. Tracy Bonham – Everybody’s Talkin’ (Fred Neil)
16. Stellacutta – Everything’s Got ‘Em
17. Brian Dewan – Coconut
18. Johnny Society – Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song
19. Mamie Minch – Don’t Forget Me
20. Josh Kaufman – I Said Goodbye to Me
Enter to win This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson (Volume 1) on limited edition yellow vinyl by telling us in the comments below what Nilsson track you’d like to hear covered, be it on This is the Town or another from Harry’s discography. We’ll choose one winner with a North American mailing address one week from today, 2/11.
If you don’t win our copy, you can get your hands on 1 (or 2) right here!