HARRY NILSSON – Sandman – (RCA) – 1975


Nilsson is a genius.


That’s a full stop at the end of that line.


That’s not where the one sentence exclamatory lines stop.


Like every genius, Nilsson has put out his shit.


I don’t think you can be a genius unless you have put out shit, unpopular music or something that is clearly uncommercial.


I strongly suspect that an act that has hit after hit and consistent acclaim for a long period of time is just playing to their audience and not trying very hard.


That’s not to say that every “experimental” or “indulgent” album is good.


But the purpose is for the artist to express themselves in their music with them making all the decisions and choices.


That doesn’t mean they have to write the songs or play all the instruments or draw the cover art work to be the auteur.


What they have to do be in the ultimate decision maker in the music itself.


Sounds simple but it doesn’t happen that often.


Commercial considerations, and an ear to what the audience want to hear, are always important.


They probably should be as otherwise without them you would have to much self-indulgent slop, perhaps.


I suspect, true visionaries don’t give a fuck … but they do need someone to foot the bill.


So, true musical freedom comes, perhaps, when you have had some commercial success.


Sure, you can do it without the previous sucess, but who is going to hear you?


Nilsson had the success when he did this – a couple of years earlier he went gold and got a Grammy and, accordingly, had his supporters at his label, RCA records.


All his albums after his success have unconventional songs among them, as did most of his earlier albums, but later he got more wilfully (?) obscure and unconventional.


But that is the genius … his individuality was his but it was also something we (the listeners) could appreciate.


Even more beguiling is the fact that his music sounded pleasant to the ear and commercial but there was a total mindfuck going on.


If you don’t know anything about Nilsson look at some of my other comments on this blog or the links before.


Is this album good?


Yes and no.


End of the declaratory sentences. Some inflammatory sentences may follow however.


Nilsson wrote all the songs here and takes some chances. Gimme anyone who is willing to take a chance and that is a singular “anyone” as you can never do this (well, rarely) in a band.


Every song on this album is interesting but some are interesting failures.


But he takes chances.


Nilsson seems to enjoy his own diversions and biting the hand that feeds him.


This is what Lennon and McCartney would have sounded like as solo artists … if they had balls.


Nilsson’s chance taking is partially alcohol induced. His piano has been drinking and so has he. It’s nothing to admire, perhaps, but its amazing to listen to.


Regardless of his drinking Nilsson still had the knack though. Beautiful pop, great lyrics and an offbeat sense of humour. It’s not a small wonder that Lennon in particular was taken with him. For Nilsson’s part he knew it wasn’t a bad thing, career wise, to be a name linked to an ex-Beatle though ultimately he found a perfect drinking companion as well. Music be damned.


And, I do note, that the cover of some hirsute turd drinking on a beach recalls things we all have done with friends. Rainbow Beach perhaps?


I think the same crab on the back cover sleeve attacked us …


Sorry that was an in-joke with one of my blog followers .. there aren’t that many of so it should be easy to figure out who..


I also note that the inner on the gatefold seems to have Nilsson amongst other passengers on some sort of ye olde worlde sailing ship that is in distress …which is probably appropriate.


Nilsson’s music was becoming more and more olde worlde and out of touch and by this stage Nilsson had crucified his once glorious voice though stupidity and excessive entertainment compulsions.


Still, there are moments of genius.


Tracks (best in italics)


  • I’ll Take a Tango  – Fuck me. What a way to start a pop rock album! Look at the lyric. Is he speaking from the heart or playing with his audience? I think he is deliberately trying to alienate his audience. There is an undeniable beauty in the lyric as he does his faux tango “I can see Valentino and me when I hear the tango” ….

Deep down in my soul I hate rock and roll

And I don’t like the way that them drummers beat on them drums

They always hum along, out of tune

But I can see Valentino and me when I hear a tango.


Electric guitars have gone about as far as electric guitars can go

If you’re talking ’bout loud man, it’s more than I can stand

You can go down the hole with your sweet rock and roll

I’ll take a tango.


I can see me dancing

Oh, I’ll glide across the floor.


You know, down in my soul I hate rock and roll

And I don’t like the way that them drummers beat on them drums

They always hum along, out of tune

But I can see Valentino and me when I hear a tango

Yeah, I can see Valentino and me when I hear a tango

Yeah, I can see Marlon Brando and me when I hear a tango.


I’m not sure if Marlon Brando ever did the tango …but it works …


  • Something True – a very pretty song which, strangely, isn’t up there with the best of Nilsson. But, it is engaging when it’s on  …very engaging.
  • Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left for Everybody – a great little bouncy pop song where the lyric is at total odds with a melody that is more at home with bouncy, happy songs. It’s as if Paul Simon had woken up and taken some depressants (God forbid)
  • The Ivy Covered Walls – a beautiful rumination of quiet defiance against the institutional order of Ivy League universities.
  • Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today – Anyone who likes a drink could understand this song. Clearly this guy has worked in the public service …this is a public service song. If Tom Waits could sing (and I don’t mean that in a bad way ‘cause Waits is a God) he would sound like this.
  • The Flying Saucer Song – wtf … a flying saucer song done as a southern groove …it doesn’t work but it’s hard to dislike.
  • How to Write a Song – song writing is an art. Are you sure?  It may be …though any asshole can do it …if they follow some basic rules. Nilsson sets out the rules for assholes to write music. The faux country rock beat which was popular at the time is pointed and a nice sting in the tail ….
  • Jesus Christ You’re Tall – straight to QCAT my work station work colleague would say, err if you aren’t familiar with that then straight to any anti-discrimination body. This song is clearly not PC but it’s intended not unintended…

            Well we could dribble our way down a courtship

Get married for a little while

I would shoot a little love inside your basket mama and in a little while we’d have a child

He’d be a little boy, he’d be a little boy

But he’ll get taller as the time goes by

He’d be a little boy, he’d be a little boy

But pretty soon he’ll hear the other boys cry

Because they’re saying to him

Jesus they’d say Jesus they’d say Jesus Christ you’re tall


  • Will She Miss Me – Paul McCartney in suicidal mode.

And …


Flawed but compulsive …. I’m keeping it.


Chart Action





1976  #111







I’ll Take a Tango



Something True



Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left for Everybody


Nilsson – Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left For Everybody


The Ivy Covered Walls



Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today



How to Write a Song



Jesus Christ You’re Tall





















back sleeve


About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on franklycollectible@gmail.com though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at http://www.franklycollectible.com Cheers
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5 Responses to HARRY NILSSON – Sandman – (RCA) – 1975

  1. Carl says:

    Marlon’s tango would be the last one in Paris. And that context makes Harry super-twisted!

  2. Lorenzo says:

    Every genius has put out shit. I’m interested to know what was the worst shit Elvis put out then.

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