Tokyo Damage Report

Harry Nilsson

OK – I got one! Here is a rad guy from NYC. No, he’s not a punker or rapper. He doesn’t have any tattoos. He’s Harry Fucking Nilsson.

 
He’s best known for “The Coconut Song” (put the lime in the coconut, mix it all together), but should be known for writing “Jump In The Fire” 12 years BEFORE METALLICA WROTE IT.
 


 
That alone would be enough to make him official, but the song also  features double drums, a 2-drummer DRUM SOLO, and possibly the fartiest, dirtiest bass tone ever recorded. Stay tuned for the break at 2:23 when the bass detunes, going lower and lower until it makes South Park’s ‘BROWN NOISE.’
 

Check out the cover of the album: a black-and-white photo of homeboy looking hungover and like he just got out of bed to take a dump. The name of the album:NILSSON SCHMILLSON. Fucking brutal!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Here is his secret: he’s an industry guy – a professional song-writer. In the ‘70s, if you were some major label producer and you needed a hit song, you’d hire Nilsson to ghost-write. So his day job, as it were, was writing these very catchy, radio-friendly pop songs for other people. Everything would have to be very conformist, slick and predicatable.
 
When he got home from work, he’d naturally be kind of fed up with the whole thing! So he’d sit down and write the most un-commercial, weird shit. And in gratitude for all the $$$$ that he made them, his major-label buddies would put out these albums. It’s a classic example of the old saying, “The barber always has the messiest haircut.”
 
So if you think about it from that perspective, his NILSSON SCHMILSSON album cover makes sense: the pop star’s job is to be glamorous on stage, but the ghost-writer’s job is to sit in his dark apartment, drink booze, and tinkle on the piano until it’s deadline time. “My life seems lonely and sad compared to pop stars,” Nilsson is saying to us, “But on the other hand, I can be myself, I don’t have to put up this big front of being larger than life and I don’t have to become a cartoon.” Rad!
 
It’s funny but it also has something to teach us about  fame, the un-importance of glamor, and celebrity culture. If more people had learned about the Philosophy of Nillsson, failed rockers and over-the-hill actors would not have to become crack junkies or appear on reality TV.
 
His stuff was not crazy in a really in-your-face way (like Zappa or John Zorn or Behold! The Arctopus). His sense of humor was pretty subtle – like a whole album with steel drums on every song, or a song (‘Easier For Me’) about why he aims for chubby girls, or another album where all he does is sing Randy Neuman songs (?!?).
 
Basically he’s working in the pop idiom, but he’s willfully doing little subtle things that maybe a non-musician wouldn’t even NOTICE, but these little things would be enough to fuck up a pop song and keep it out of the Top 10, so he couldn’t do them at ‘work’. Like the song “You’re Breaking My Heart”: ‘You’re breaking my heart / you’re tearing it apart / so fuck you.’ Or the classics, “Jesus Christ, You’re Tall!” and  “I’d Rather Be Dead (Than Wet My Bed).” These are all done in a total lush, pop-music style of the beatles or beach boys or whatever, all fully professional, except for the fact that they’re fucked.
 
I think this attitude sets him apart from the Doctor Dementoes and Weird Als. He’s not trying to be funny PER SE, he’s trying to write a slick, top-10 hit and then bit-by-bit, mess with it, until it is garunteed to fail. But not in some black-metal, goth-rock "I love failure because life sucks and I want to die!" way . . . he was interested in failure because he wrote so many hits,  it was just too easy for him to succeed!
 
It’s like as if Beyoncé had a side-project where she’d do Wésley Willis covers and everyone was OK with it.
 
 

 
 

 

 In addition to inventing Metallica’s sound, Nilsson also invented acid rap and horrorcore,
as scientifically dead proven by ESHAM doing a Nilsson cover:

 
He also has an album called A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILLSON IN THE NIGHT. Harry, that is, not Esham.
 
So there’s that.
 
Basically Nilsson was like “Fuck you all! I have absolutely no expectations that this will sell. But my ghost-writing makes me so much money, I don’t give a fuck! I can do whatever I want.” He’s so cool, I can even forgive him for hanging out with the Beatles.

 Fairly interesting wikipedia entry HERE.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. François October 27th, 2009 4:21 am

    By a totally weird coincidence, I was listening to Jump in the fire (the Metallica version) at the exact moment I switched to TDR.

    Synchronicity works fine with me today, apparently. Or is it with you ?

  2. admin October 27th, 2009 5:21 pm

    @francois: fuck yes! It’s a message from beyond the grave: Maybe you heard Cliff Burton and Harry Nilsson jamming in heaven!

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