Who Was the Beatles Favorite Band?
In a 1968 interview John Lennon said of Harry Nilsson, “everything influences everything, Nilsson’s my favorite group.” McCartney mirrored the statement. In the same interview, the two confirm Nilsson is both their “favorite artist” and “favorite American group”. Later that day, when a journalist wondered what they thought about American music, Lennon replied, “Nilsson! Nilsson for president!”
A audio clip of John Lennon saying “Nilsson’s my favorite group”.
TIP: The Beatles were obviously influenced by more than just Nilsson (Little Richard and Elvis for example), but with that said, Nilsson was a big influence, long-time friend, and collaborator of the individual members of the Beatles. This is true to the extent that Nilsson and Lennon co-wrote the album Pussy Cats (of which the music is featured below).
How About the Rest of the Beatles? Was Everybody Talkin’ About Nilsson?
Ringo was also a big Nilsson fan. Ringo became a long-time friend and acted in several movies with Harry including Son of Dracula (1974). Klaus Voorman (who played on both Nilsson and Beatles albums) and George Harrison were also close friends with Nilsson.
By this point, you are probably asking yourself, “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”
A preview of the amazing documentary on Nilsson: Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? The documentary contains lots of proof of the claims on this page. Unfortunately, it’s hidden behind a paywall (unless you have Netflix).
Alternatively you can listen to HARRY NILSSON The Thing About Harry (Radio Documentary).
How Do We Know Nilsson Was the Lime in the Beatle’s Coconut?
John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps (their new company and the company Apple computers gets its name from). Lennon was asked to name his favorite American group and influences. He replied, “everything influences everything, Nilsson’s my favorite group”. McCartney said the same. Later when asked to name their favorite American artist both replied, “Nilsson” as well.
This isn’t much of surprise, as Nilsson tells the story preceding these events.
He Said, She Said
1. Harrison Hears Nilsson’s cover of “You can’t do that” and invites him to play at his house in the Hollywood hills. Harrison got some Nilsson Demos at the event and sent them to the other Beatles.
2. Somewhere between three and four o’clock on a Monday morning in April 1968, in the little office at RCA Records in Los Angeles where Nilsson was working on some light night music production, the telephone rings:
“‘I was half asleep,’ Nilsson recalled. ‘A voice says: “Hello, Harry. This is John. Man, you’re too f***ing much, you’re just great. We’ve got to get together and do something.”
‘I said, “Who is this?”
‘I said: “Yeah, right, who is this?”
‘“It’s John Lennon. I’m just trying to say you’re fantastic. Have a good night’s sleep. Speak to you soon. Goodbye.”
‘I thought, “Was that a dream?”’
If it wasn’t clear already, Harry Nilsson was a big Beatles fan going on to record a bunch of their work.
3. The Monday after Lennon’s call, Paul McCartney rang. ‘Hello, Harry. Yeah, this is Paul. Just wanted to say you’re great, man! John gave me the album. It’s great; you’re terrific. Look forward to seeing you.’
4. The aforementioned interviews happen to give us further proof of the mutual admiration.
Harry did a Beatles cover of “You can’t do that” where Harry mashes in something like 20 Beatles songs in one. This isn’t that, this is a demo of Lennon’s isolation by Nilsson, which frankly is just a better song.
Life After Meeting the Beatles
Nilsson went on to record an album with John Lennon, worked with Ringo on a number of occasions recorded with Klaus Voorman, and was so close to George that he attended his funeral. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to go one step further and say that “Nilsson was the Beatle’s favorite American band”, but at the very least, audible proof backs up that he was “Lennon and McCartney’s favorite group and an influence on them”.
Harry Nilsson, don’t forget about him. He was important.