Fronted by the nervous guitar and earnest vocals of Richard Barone, the Bongos grabbed the torch from the Talking Heads to light the way into the 1980s for a second generation of eye-opening New York bands that sounded nothing like their predecessors. Dedicated to the proposition that the tired and huddled masses could still find comfort at CBGB (or at Maxwell’s across the Hudson River), the Bongos ruled the greater-NYC roost. A stimulating succession of solo releases, topped by this year’s Glow (Bar/None), leaves no doubt that Barone is still hitting on all cylinders, a vital and imaginative force in today’s music scene when most of his contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. Barone will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.
Barone: In all the annals of rock lore, there is no story more fascinating than the remarkable rise and fall of Harry Nilsson. From humble beginnings in Brooklyn to an ambitious and successful rise as a songwriter-for-hire, to a long string of solo albums for RCA, Grammy awards, best-buddy status with three out of four Beatles to his ultimate self-destruction, Nilsson had one the undeniably best male voices in pop music ever. A tone and musicality that rivaled Sinatra and Orbison. Man, he was awesome. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, directed by John Scheinfeld, follows the story with incredible detail and sensitivity. While, to a casual reader of this blurb, his story may seem like a typical VH-1 Behind The Music episode, Nilsson was different in that he was not your usual rock star. He rarely if ever performed live and never toured. (God forbid!) From his perpetual four-or-five-day beard when such things were not particularly cool to appearing on the cover of his biggest album in a bathrobe at his refrigerator, Nilsson had much more of a slacker persona than that of a full-on rock frontman. Anti-glamour. Contrary. Remarkable talent. Who Is Harry Nilsson? is a breathtaking tale of excess, abuse, ceaseless wit, angels, demons and incredible beauty. See this film!