Friday, July 08, 2011

The Point!

The Point! is a fable and the sixth album by American songwriter and musician Harry Nilsson about a boy named Oblio, the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village, where by law everyone and everything had to have a point.

"I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, 'Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn't, then there's a point to it.'" – Harry Nilsson

There have been, so far, at least three different renditions of The Point!, each featuring songs written by Nilsson to accompany the story. There has been an animated film, an album, and a musical play.


The round-headed Oblio has had to wear a cap since birth to conceal his "pointless" condition from his pointy-headed peers. However, Oblio is accepted in the town despite his nonconformity until one day when the son of an evil Count in the land is unwittingly dishonored by Oblio. The Count's son challenges Oblio to a one-on-one game of Triangle Toss (where participants catch the triangle on their heads), which Oblio wins. In a fit of rage, the Count (who wants his son to rule the land one day) confronts the King, who is a good King, to reaffirm the law of the land, which states that those who are pointless must be banished from the kingdom and into the Pointless Forest. A jury reluctantly convicts both Oblio and his dog Arrow (who helped him win the Triangle Toss), leaving the king no choice but to send the pair away.

Oblio and Arrow are sent to the Pointless Forest, but soon discover that even the Pointless Forest has a point. They meet curious creatures like giant bees, a "pointed man" pointing in all directions who proclaims "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all", a man made of rock who helps Oblio see that everyone has a point (as in reason) though it might not be readily displayed.

Oblio and Arrow spend the night in the Pointless Forest, then awaken to a large stone hand with the finger pointing to their "destination". They take the road indicated by the hand and make their way back to the Land of Point, where they receive a heroes' welcome from the land's citizens, and the King. Oblio begins to tell his story but is interrupted by the furious Count, who is then silenced by the King.

Oblio tells the King and the people of the land that everything has a point, including the Pointless Forest, and himself. Unable to stand hearing what he believes is nonsense any longer, the Count pulls off Oblio's cap, but is taken aback when he sees a point on top of Oblio's bare head.

Upon this revelation, the points of everyone else in the land disappeared, and pointed buildings became round.

Animated film

The film version of The Point! first aired February 2, 1971, at 7:30pm on the ABC television network as an ABC Movie of the Week. The film was directed by Fred Wolf and produced by Murakami-Wolf Films in association with Nilsson House Music. In this version, there is a framing device of a father telling his son the fable as a bedtime story. In its initial airing, the voice of the father was provided by Dustin Hoffman, but for contractual reasons later airings of the film could not use Hoffman's voice and it had to be re-recorded. The initial re-recording was done by actor Alan Barzman. The VHS and DVD releases feature Ringo Starr as the father. Another version, seen on cable television in the '80s and '90s, featured narration by Alan Thicke. The voice of the son, and of Oblio, was provided by Mike Lookinland, an actor best known as young Bobby Brady on the television series The Brady Bunch.

Voice Cast

* Ringo Starr as Narrator/Father (home video release)
* Dustin Hoffman as Narrator/Father (first telecast)
* Alan Barzman as Narrator/Father (second telecast)
* Alan Thicke as Narrator/Father (third telecast)
* Paul Frees as Oblio's Father/Pointed Man's Right Head/King/Leaf Man/Villagers
* Lennie Weinrib as Count
* Bill Martin as Rock Man
* Buddy Foster as Count's Son
* Joan Gerber as Oblio's Mother
* Mike Lookinland as Oblio


The Nilsson album called The Point! features the same songs as the film, and the same basic fable. However, the framing device of the father and son is discarded, and Nilsson himself tells the story directly to the listener, providing all the characters' voices as well as the narration.

A comic storyboard was included with the vinyl record when it was first released, enabling the listener to be more engaged in the story.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Harry Nilsson.
Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Everything's Got 'Em" 2:25
2. "The Town" (Narration) 1:31
3. "Me and My Arrow" 2:04
4. "The Game" (Narration) 1:49
5. "Poli High" 2:41
6. "The Trial and Banishment" (Narration) 2:11
7. "Think About Your Troubles" 2:49
Side two
No. Title Length
8. "The Pointed Man" (Narration) 2:42
9. "Life Line" 2:21
10. "The Birds" (Narration) 1:58
11. "P.O.V. Waltz" 2:12
12. "The Clearing in the Woods" (Narration) 1:53
13. "Are You Sleeping?" 2:17
14. "Oblio's Return" (Narration) 3:08

Musical play

In 1975, Esquire Jauchem, Artistic Director of the Boston Repertory Theater, approached Harry Nilsson about creating a stage musical of "The Point!" Although Nilsson said he had been asked many times and had always turned down the request, this time he granted his permission. Esquire Jauchem adapted and directed the production which starred 18-year-old David Morse (who went on to star in St. Elsewhere and many other roles) as Oblio.

The production was extremely successful with the press and the Boston audience. Harry Nilsson, along with his wife Una, attended the opening and wore a sign to the party following the performance which read "I loved it!". The show also received positive reviews from critics:

"Extraordinarily attractive...joyous and imaginative songs" – Eliot Norton, Boston Herald-American

"Fantasy comes to life ....and it's a very different production, using techniques and devices you don't see on stage every day – Associated Press

The same production later toured to the Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence where it was again extremely well received by audiences and the critics.

In 1977, a stage adaptation of The Point! was presented at the Mermaid Theatre in London. Featured in the cast were Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, both former members of the band The Monkees and long-time friends of Nilsson. In order to accommodate the expansion of The Point! to a full-length musical, other Nilsson songs from various points in his career were incorporated. An original cast album was released in the United Kingdom by MCA.

In 1991, Nilsson gave Esquire Jauchem permission to present his adaptation of The Point! in a Hollywood workshop. It was nominated as musical of the year and once again it received very good reviews:

"Imaginatively adapted...blends broad acting, balloon characters, Bunraku style puppetry, fog effects, strobe lighting and choreography by former Martha Graham troupe member Janet Eilber" – Time

"A well rounded POINT....the multilayered odyssey, with its jazz riffs and dreamy musical segues, satiric references to censorship, lawyers and politics, succeeds as an allegory....Nilsson's fabulous, quirkly songs" – L.A. Times

London credits


* Davy Jones as Oblio
* Micky Dolenz as Count's Kid and The Leafman
* Colin Bennett as The Count
* David Claridge as Arrow
* Veronica Clifford as Oblio's Mum, Balloon Lady
* Noel Howlett as The King
* Julia Lewis as Oblio's Girlfriend
* Clovissa Newcombe as Count's Lady, The Pointed Man
* Mark Penfold as The Pointed Man
* Felix Rice as The Rockman
* Chrissy Roberts as Balloon Lady
* Denny Ryder as The Pointed Man
* Roy Sampson as Oblio's Dad
* Gary Taylor as Balloon Man, New Bird

Backing vocals were provided by Anna Macleod, Richard Barnes, and Jean Gilbert.


* Directed by Colin Bennett
* Original adaptation by Ron Pember and Bernard Miles
* Designed by Peter Whiteman
* Lighting by Peter Sutton
* Choreography by Gillian Gregory
* Musical director Mike McNaught

Track listing, original cast recording

All titles were written by Harry Nilsson, except "Thursday" (Nilsson, Danny Kortchmar).

1. Overture – Orchestra
2. "Everything's Got 'Em" – Company
3. "Me and My Arrow" – Davy Jones
4. "Poli High" – Company
5. "Remember" – Veronica Clifford
6. "To Be a King" – Noel Howlett and Company
7. "He's Leaving Here This Morning (Bath)" – Micky Dolenz, Colin Bennett, Clovissa Newcombe
8. "Think About Your Troubles" – Davy Jones and Company
9. "Blanket For a Sail" – Davy Jones
10. "Life Line" – Davy Jones'
11. "Thursday (Here's Why I Did Not Go to Work Today)" – Felix Rice
12. "It's a Jungle Out There" – Micky Dolenz
13. "P.O.V. Waltz" – Davy Jones and Company
14. "Are You Sleeping? (Song Title)" – Davy Jones and Company
15. "Gotta Get Up" – Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz
16. Reprise Overture – Orchestra

Pop-culture references

* The chorus of the title track on Blackalicious' 2002 album Blazing Arrow uses a sample of the chorus of "Me And My Arrow" (from the 1971 album) as a centerpiece.

* A cover of the song "Think About Your Troubles" was recorded by Belly for the album: Safe and Sound: A Benefit in Response to the Brookline Clinic Violence (1996).

* The song "Me and My Arrow" was used in television commercials in the United States promoting the Plymouth Arrow during the 1970s. When Plymouth approached Nilsson about licensing the tune, Nilsson told them they could use the song in exchange for a Mercedes. Negotiation stalled, but eventually, Plymouth agreed and purchased the car.

* The board game "Balderdash" featured this movie on one of the trivia questions. Players were given the name of the movie and had to guess what is was about.

* The album Songs From The Point features cover versions of the entire album, recorded by assorted prominent artists, mostly from the Indie area.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

"If I Fell"

"If I Fell" is a song by The Beatles which first appeared on the 1964 UK album A Hard Day's Night and the US compilation album Something New. It was written primarily by John Lennon, with help from Paul McCartney.


The song is notable for its unusual structure, which includes an unrepeated introductory section (introduced as an afterthought as of take 11) followed by sequential verse sections, each having a slightly expanded form, but with no obvious chorus or bridge section. The song also features a two-part harmony, sung by Lennon and McCartney together into a single microphone at their suggestion, and intricate chord changes. The key changes from D flat major to D major between the introduction (a series of descending barre chords) and the main song, which uses mainly open chords, including an unusual D ninth.

Recording and performance

Lennon played acoustic guitar and sang, McCartney played bass and sang, George Harrison plucked out single notes on electric guitar, and Ringo Starr played drums.

There is an alternate take of the song in which McCartney's voice strains and cracks at the end of a line, which first appeared on the Love Songs compilation double-LP, by an archivist's error when returning to the master tapes in Capitol's vault. Since then, this version has appeared in many places and is often heard on oldies stations in some markets. This version is the stereo version now found in The Capitol Albums box set. In the mono version, Paul's voice strains, but does not crack.

The stereo mix of the song (found on the Hard Day's Night LP and Something New) features a double-tracked opening by John. This was also Kurt Cobain's favourite Beatles song, and was played by Nirvana whenever there were technical problems at their concerts.

"If I Fell" was a part of The Beatles repertoire during The Beatles' US and Canadian tour in 1964. The group typically performed the song faster than the studio version, and Lennon and McCartney often sang it with barely suppressed laughter. On more than one occasion it was introduced as "If I Fell Over."

Single releases

* UK: In the UK it was released on 4 December 1964 as A-side (b/w "Tell Me Why") on Parlophone DP 562
* USA: It was also the B-side of the US single "And I Love Her" (Capitol 5235)
* Norway: The song was released as a single in Norway, where it hit number one.

Cover versions

Maroon 5 performed an acoustic version of the song on their 1.22.03.Acoustic album. Evan Rachel Wood sang the song in the Across the Universe film. Sammy Kershaw performed a cover on the Come Together Tribute CD. Dominican band Caña Brava performed a merengue version on their 1994 album The Best of the Best. Jason Castro performed an acoustic version of the song on Season 7 of American Idol. The Rutles' song "With A Girl Like You" is based on this song. Reba McEntire has also performed a version of the song.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

John Tavener

Sir John Tavener (born 28 January 1944) is a British composer, knighted in 2000 for his services to music.


Tavener was born on 28 January 1944 in Wembley, London, England, and is a direct descendant of the 16th century composer John Taverner. He was educated at Highgate School (where a fellow pupil was John Rutter) and at the Royal Academy of Music, where his tutors included Sir Lennox Berkeley. He first came to prominence in 1968 with his dramatic cantata The Whale, based on the Old Testament story of Jonah. It was premièred at the London Sinfonietta's début concert and later recorded by Apple Records. The following year he began teaching at Trinity College of Music, London. Other works released by Apple included his Celtic Requiem. In 1977, he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodox theology and Orthodox liturgical traditions became a major influence on his work. He was particularly drawn to its mysticism, studying and setting to music the writings of Church Fathers such as St John Chrysostom.

One of Tavener's most popular and frequently performed works is his short unaccompanied four-part choral setting of William Blake's The Lamb, written for his nephew, Simon, on his third birthday one afternoon in 1982. This simple, homophonic piece is usually performed as a Christmas carol. More important, however, were his explorations of Russian and Greek culture, as shown in "Akhmatova Requiem" and "Sixteen Haiku of Seferis". Later prominent works include The Akathist of Thanksgiving (1987, written in celebration of the millennium of the Russian Orthodox Church); The Protecting Veil (first performed by cellist Steven Isserlis and the London Symphony Orchestra at the 1989 Proms); and Song for Athene (1993, memorably performed at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997). Following Diana's death he also composed and dedicated to her memory the piece Eternity's Sunrise, based on poetry by William Blake.

It has been reported, particularly in the British press, that Tavener left Orthodox Christianity to explore a number of other different religious traditions, including Hinduism and Islam, and became a follower of the mystic philosopher Frithjof Schuon. While he has in recent years incorporated elements of non-Western music into his compositions, Tavener remains an Orthodox Christian though his brother, Roger, tended towards Sufi. In 2003 he composed the exceptionally large work The Veil of the Temple, based on texts from a number of religions. It is set for four choirs, several orchestras and soloists and lasts at least seven hours. The 2004 premier of his piece 'Prayer of the Heart' written for and performed by Björk, was featured on CD and incorporated as the soundtrack to Jake Lever's powerful installation 'Centre + Circumference' (2008, Wallspace, All Hallows on the Wall, City of London).

While Tavener's early music was influenced by Igor Stravinsky, often invoking the sound world of the Requiem Canticles and A Sermon, a Narrative and a Prayer, his recent music is more sparse, uses wide registral space and is usually diatonically tonal. Some commentators see a similarity with the works of Arvo Pärt, from their common religious tradition to the technical details of phrase lengths, diatonicism and colouristic percussion effects, though the similarities between their outputs are quite superficial. Olivier Messiaen has also been suggested as a strong influence on his earlier work.

Tavener has Marfan syndrome. His wife, Lady Maryanna Tavener, broadcast a charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 in October 2008 on behalf of the Marfan Trust.

Career highlights

* 1969 - The Whale premièred by the London Sinfonietta and subsequently recorded on The Beatles' Apple label.
* 1971 - Celtic Requiem recorded by Apple.
* 1973 - Thérèse, the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, commissioned by the Royal Opera, London.
* 1989 - première of The Protecting Veilat the Proms in London.
* 2000 - received a knighthood in Millennium Honours List.
* 2003 - première of the all-night vigil The Veil of the Temple by the Holst Singers and the Choir of the Temple Church at the Temple Church, London.
* 2005 - première of Laila (Amu), Tavener’s first dance collaboration, with Random Dance company and Wayne McGregor's choreography.
* 2006 - contributed Fragments of a Prayer to the Alfonso Cuarón film Children of Men.
* 2007 - première of The Beautiful Names by the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra at Westminster Cathedral. The work, sung in Arabic, is a setting of the 99 names of Allah found in the Qur'an. Awarded honorary degree by the University of Winchester.
* 2008 - World premier of "the anthem" sung in St Paul's Cathedral in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
* March 2009 - The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia presents the world premiere of Tu ne sais pas, a work for mezzo-soprano, timpani, and strings. Katherine Pracht will sing the texts, which are drawn from poems by French poet Jean Biès, (one of the work's dedicatees), and from Islamic and Hindu sources.

Key works

* The Whale (1966; soloists, speaker, SATB choir, children's choir, orchestra)
* The Protecting Veil (1988; cello, strings)
* Ikon of the Nativity (1991; SATB choir, a cappella)
* Song for Athene (1993; SATB choir)
* The Veil of the Temple (2002; soprano, SATB choir, boys' choir, ensemble)
* Schuon Lieder (2003; soprano, ensemble)
* Laila (Amu) (2004; soprano, tenor, orchestra)
* Lament for Jerusalem (2006; soprano, countertenor, SATB choir, orchestra)