Thursday, June 3, 2010

Brain Trails

Okay. To show you what I have to deal with, I’m going to try to explain to you one of the many distractive -- I know it's not a word, I like it anyway -- thinking excursions I have to endure within my head on a regular basis. We’ll see if you can make it through this whole thing without totally giving up on me.

The better half and yours truly were watching David Lean’s Brief Encounter. It was amazing, of course. The only thing I didn’t think was great was the soundtrack, which is what a lot of people love about the movie. It’s all done on piano and seems a little soap opera to me, but that’s my own baggage, not any real fault of the movie.

Thing is, in key points of the film, a certain melodic line was used and it kept gnawing at me. I knew I’d heard it before, even though I’d never seen the movie before. Then, about an hour or so into the film I realized what it was. It was part of the melodic line of the song “Without You” by Harry Nilsson. “I can’t liiiiiiiiiiiiive if livin’ is without yooooooou.” It was plain as day.

So I’m thinking Nilsson lifted this from the movie.

But then I find out that the soundtrack of the movie was all Rachmaninoff pieces. I’ve never been a big fan. But he was a very famous piano man composer dude in spite of my distaste. They just decided that it was right for the film and that’s what they went with. So, I realize, Harry Nilsson probably lifted the melodic line from Rachmaninoff.

I needed to confirm this supposition. Needed.

So I went online and googled Nilsson and Rachmaninoff. I find out that “Without You” wasn’t even written by Nilsson, even though it was a big hit for him. It was actually written by a guy in Badfinger who later committed suicide. Ironically enough. But as for the connection, nothing comes up. No connection.

But one writer notes how the Eric Carmen power ballad "All By Myself" borrows heavily from “Without You” for tone and such, which spurs me to listen to THAT song, which I hadn’t heard in years and years, which reveals that THAT is the song that actually lifts the Rachmaninoff. I had them mixed up. Eric Carmen used the melody thinking it was public domain, which it wasn’t, so he had to make a deal with Rachmaninoff’s estate after the fact. Hmmmmmmmmmm...

I know. I know. All of this is ridiculous and pointless. But this is my brain. I can’t live with it. I can’t live without it. It’s almost as if I have to do what it tells me to do.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. That's pretty great actually. I wish most people's brains ran like that. We'd all be much smarter. :)

  2. Ah. You're too kind. Actually, we'd all be nuts.

  3. It'd make things very interesting. I'm similarly curious about most everything. It's a good time in the 'ol brain.

  4. I'm the same way. Seriously. I drive Nick nuts!

  5. well i'm finding your post 4 years later as I was listening to Rachmaninoff on Spotify as an ode to my long lost piano teacher who loved him---and as I'm folding laundry--wait a second---did Spotify shift tracks? That's like some soap opera-cized version of "I can't live, if livin is w/o you---I can't liiiiive.." & just like you, I googled those words, got the Nilsson/Badfinger suicides/Mariah Carey stories---and then thought wait, what about that Eric Carmen " all by myself" one? Brainwaving to you :)

    1. And here I found your comment 5 months later. Thanks for sharing. "Brainwaving" could be the next great sport.

  6. Harry nillson should be in the hall of fame. A beautiful artist who sang with clarity and the interpretations of "everybody's talking" and "without you" are classics. A genius.

  7. the two 70s power ballads sound quite similar is the possibility that badfinger despite not being clasically trained musicians had listened to the piece and did some plagiarism by ear really so unlikely? or perhaps harry nilson picked up a mild similarity in chord progression between without you and rachmaninoff and hence the music and piano arrangement, in the nilson cover of the song which is way more polished, were reminiscent of rachmaninoff on purpose


All comments are subject to my approval. All profanity and disrespectful comments will be deleted. Be nice or I will pretend you are not there.