independent

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Retro Top 10: This week in 1972

Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson

The grandson of Swedish circus performers, and late sixties pal of John Lennon and Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson was one of the finest vocalists and songwriters in pop history, but never quite reached the heights his talent deserved.

'Without You' - once described by Paul McCartney as 'the killer song of all time' - was one of his commercial highpoints. It gave Nilsson a Grammy (for his vocal performance), and spent four weeks on top of the US charts, and five at No. 1 in the UK. More than two decades later it would return to number one courtesy of Mariah Carey.

'Without You' was not composed by Brooklyn-born Nilsson but written by Swansea's Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Welsh rock band Badfinger who recorded it in 1970 for their second album 'No Dice'. In 1971 Nilsson heard 'Without You' at a party and thought it was a Beatles song. His recording was very different from Badfinger's, with its lush orchestration and dramatic production.

'Without You' was the only number one hit for Harry Nilsson who died aged 52 of heart failure at his Californian home on January 15, 1994 - the same day Carey's version of 'Without You' was released in the US.

The lives of the 'Without You' co-writers both ended in tragedy. Pete Ham hanged himself at the age of 27 on April 24, 1975, his suicide note blaming Badfinger's US business manager Stan Polley for financially ruining the band. Tom Evans died in a similar manner, aged 36, on November 19, 1983, after a heated argument on the phone with fellow Badfinger member Joey Molland, partly over 'Without You' songwriting royalties.

* This week's No 2 hit, Don McLean's 'American Pie' - widely regarded as one of pop's great tunes - inexplicably failed to reach No 1 in the UK chart. It fared even worse in Ireland, peaking at 7. McLean's original manuscript of 'American Pie' sold for $1.2 million at a Christie's New York auction on April 7, 2015.

1 Without You - Nilsson

2 American Pie - Don McLean

3 Son of My Father - Chicory Tip

4 Beg, Steal or Borrow  -The New Seekers

5 Blue Is The Colour - Chelsea Football Team

6 Got To Be There - Michael Jackson

7 Mother and Child Reunion - Paul Simon

8 Look Wot You Dun - Slade

9 Alone Again (Naturally) - Gilbert O'Sullivan

10 Meet Me On The Corner - Lindisfarne

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