HARRY NILSSON - A Brief Encounter

Many years ago, on a Tuesday in the spring of 1972, I went to the wedding of a booking agent I’d befriended and while there fell into the company of Danny Hutton, one of the three singers with Three Dog Night, whom I’d interviewed in Germany the previous week and discovered to be a genial soul. Somehow or other Hutton, myself and others ended up much later at the Speakeasy Club from where Hutton called his hotel to check if he had any messages. One, evidently, was from Harry Nilsson, who’d arrived in London that very afternoon and was at that moment in situ at his Mayfair flat (the same flat where Mama Cass and, later, Keith Moon died) and wanting for company.
It was very late by this time but I smelled fun and games and accepted Hutton’s invitation to accompany him, along with a couple of girls to whom we’d become attached along the way. Once there Hutton introduced me to Harry who wasn’t best pleased that Hutton had brought a writer along. “I’m not really here,” he told me. I understood. Nevertheless, we availed ourselves of his hospitality, drank hard liquor, flirted with the girls, talked drug-fuelled nonsense and, I distinctly recall, listened to Harry play an upright piano and, with Hutton, sing all manner of songs, standards, Beatles, Randy Newman, all sorts, into the early hours until dawn broke. It was fantastic, probably all the more so in view of the state I was in.
It was about 9am when I left, head spinning, by taxi, to where I then lived in Bayswater. Sleep was out of the question so I took a long bath, had something to eat and, somehow, made it into Melody Maker’s offices by noon, ready to attend the weekly Wednesday conference which that week was chaired by assistant editor Richard Williams. I felt truly awful and didn’t contribute much in the way of ideas for next week's paper but I shrank visibly into my chair when Richard said: “I’ve heard a rumour that Harry Nilsson is in town. Does anyone know anything?” Everyone shook their heads, including me, though it was an effort since it throbbed so bad.
It wasn’t until 20 years later that I could bring myself to tell Richard the truth.


Ed Murphy said...

Just caught a really cool doc on Harry on PBS. I only knew him from a few hits and thru Moonie stories. Fascinating guy. What a talent. It had to be a slippery slope you walked then, Chris. Clearly, to effectively do your job and get exclusives, but also get have stars trust you is a fine line. Obviously you managed it exceptionally well. I guess the desire to have fun helped, lol! Serious though, I respect that you established relationships with the folks you covered. It made you a better reporter, and made for great writing. Unlike the horrific paparazzi /tmz/tabloid trash today. BTW, your posts like this one are the ones I enjoy the most. You give us a feeling of being on the inside without being a gossip hound. Perhaps an ' inside' Lynyrd Skynyrd story to celebrate our Independence Day in the upcoming days??!! Lol. They were one of America's greatest gifts to the world...lol.

Chris Charlesworth said...

Thanks Ed. There was a two part LS story in Odds & Sods which I have just removed from there and given it a category of its own, much deserved too. Quite 'inside' too.

Leftin said...

An interesting little story - thanks. I don't suppose you, um, recorded Nilsson's party-pieces, did you? Nowadays we all carry gadgets instead of little bottles of brandy!

Chris Charlesworth said...

No, wish I had though.

ROCKERXX69 said...

You did not read MM, it was the best music paper. And 1972 was a special one.