Let’s get to The Point, shall we? On July 1, Varese Vintage will release for the first time in America – and the first time on CD anywhere in the world – a much-desired addition to the discographies of both Harry Nilsson and The Monkees: The Original London Cast Recording of Nilsson’s The Point (1977), starring Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, and featuring songs not included on Nilsson’s original RCA solo recording.
Inspired by an acid trip (“Everything has a point. And…what would happen if someone were born without one?”) Nilsson devised the whimsical story of Oblio, the only person to have a round head in the Pointed Village, and his pointy-eared dog Arrow. He wrote a 13-page treatment of the story, then expanded it to double the length when he hit upon the notion of presenting it as an animated film.
After a tumultuous development period, Murakami-Wolf Films’ The Point premiered on ABC as a Movie of the Week on February 2, 1971, with Dustin Hoffman as narrator, Nilsson as composer-lyricist-singer, and George Tipton as arranger-conductor. The accompanying album made its debut on the Billboard 200 one month later, on March 6, and made it to No. 25 over a 32-week run on the chart. Unlike a traditional musical, the songs didn’t necessarily move the plot forward or illuminate character. In fact, the initial version of score highlight “Think About Your Troubles” was recorded in December 1969, before The Point! began to germinate in Nilsson’s mind. But by April 1970, it was firmly intended for the special, and was re-recorded that month with “Me and My Arrow,” one of the songs specifically written for the project (along with “Everything’s Got ‘Em” and “P.O.V. Waltz,” at least). (Other sessions took place for the album in June and September 1970.)
The animated special was a critical favorite, and “Me and My Arrow” scored Harry a hit single when it reached No. 34 Pop/No. 3 AC. In the wake of the special’s success, it was unsurprising that theatre companies would wish to stage The Point, and Nilsson first granted permission in 1974 to the Boston Repertory Theatre. Their production, starring a young David Morse (one of the company’s founding actors), was also a success. Word travelled across the pond, and a production was mounted at London’s Mermaid Theatre at Christmas 1976 starring Wayne Sleep (a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet and later the star of a London staging of Cabaret) as Oblio. A couple of new songs were added to the score: “Blanket for a Sail” and a song pulled from Nilsson’s Sandman LP, “Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today.”
Plans were made to reprise The Point at the Mermaid the following year. Colin Bennett, who played the Count in the 1976 run, became the director, and tailored his production to the talents of its two stars: Tony Award-nominated Davy Jones and Nilsson’s pal (and fellow Hollywood Vampire) Micky Dolenz. The two erstwhile Monkees had recently finished touring as a duo when they agreed to star in the show – Davy as Oblio, and Micky as The Count’s Kid and The Leafman. Bennett again played The Count, and Veronica Clifford was enlisted as Oblio’s mother. Noel Howlett took on the role of The King, and Felix Rice played The Rock Man. While “Blanket for a Sail” (sung by Davy) and “Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today” (sung by Rice) were retained, additional music from the Nilsson catalogue was added, too: “Remember” for Clifford, and “Gotta Get Up” for the two singing stars.
MCA Records (U.K.) recorded this one-of-a-kind production, but the LP never received a release outside of Europe. Varese (also responsible for reissuing Nilsson’s final released album, Flash Harry, on CD) finally brings this lost chapter of Monkees/Nilsson lore to CD with new liner notes by Larry Watts in a colorful package designed by Bill Pitzonka. It joins other Monkees-related titles this year including a splendid single and an engaging, entertaining interview from Dolenz on the 7a label, and a new album from the band, Good Times! on Rhino. Harry went on to compose more musical scores including Zapata! for the stage and Popeye for the screen, but here’s a superlative record of his first and perhaps most enduring score. The Original Cast Recording of The Point is due from Varese Vintage on July 1. Get The Point!?
- Everything’s Got ‘Em – Company
- Me and My Arrow – Davy Jones
- Poli High – Company
- Remember – Veronica Clifford
- To Be a King – Noel Howlett and Company
- He’s Leaving Here This Morning (Bath) – Micky Dolenz
- Think About Your Troubles – Davy Jones and Company
- Blanket for a Sail – Davy Jones
- Life Line – Davy Jones
- Thursday (Here’s Why I Did Not Go to Work Today) – Felix Rice
- It’s a Jungle Out There – Micky Dolenz
- O.V. Waltz – Davy Jones and Company
- Are You Sleeping – Davy Jones and Company
- Gotta Get Up – Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz
- Reprise Overture