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Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Robin Williams, Robert Altman & Shelley Duvall

January 15th, 2008 · 7 Comments

shelley

Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980) is a poorly understood film. I’m not going to call it a masterpiece, but it has more merits than people give it credit for. Its reputation has now been marred by the belly flop it did at the box-office (though Altman claims it never lost money), and the scandalous amounts of blow on the set. Robin Williams singing in Popeye’s voice and Shelley Duvall singing in Olive Oyl’s may have something to do with the lackluster response to the album. But if you look beyond the vocals, there’s something very special going on. As far as I’m aware, this is the only collaboration between Harry Nilsson & Van Dyke Parks. Which is a shame because they seem to be kindred spirits. If only Parks had produced a Nilsson album in his 60s prime. Nilsson’s career was already seriously on the fritz at the release of this soundtrack, but coupled with the murder of his close friend John Lennon, he stopped recording almost altogether after 1980. He laid down one track for a Disney tribute, singing an interpretation of “Zip-a-dee-do-dah,” which has a strange connection to VDP, considering he is a fan, and intepreter himself of the Uncle Remus stories (not necessarily Song of the South), but he also recorded for Disney, doing the arrangements on The Jungle Book. P.T. Anderson and Jon Brion did a nice job saluting and adapting the Popeye soundtrack in Punch Drunk Love. The songs below are posted because they are not available on the official soundtrack, nor on the Punch Drunk Love soundtrack, which has Shelley Duvall singing “He Needs Me.”

Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Robin Williams – Sweet Pea

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Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks – Popeye credits

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As a bonus, here is the underappreciated Harper’s Bizarre interpretation of Nilsson’s score for THE POINT, which is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time (but readily available) AND an interpretation of a very early Van Dyke Park’s single.

Harper’s Bizarre – Poly High

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Harper’s Bizarre – Come to the sunshine

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Tags: Mp3s

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Sineath // Jul 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    VDP played on some of Nilsson’s albums, such as Sandman, That’s The WayIt Is, and Duit On Mon Dei.

  • 2 Jeremy // Jan 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I think Popeye might be the most underrated movie ever. These songs are so lush and gorgeous.

  • 3 Liam // Feb 4, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I am afraid that without the magic of childhood, I quickly lost interest. The songs were repetitive and “pushed”.

  • 4 Paige Crunk // May 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I have the Popeye DVD, soundtrack on vinyl, and a copy of the original demos, and as far as I’m concerned it’s one of the best things ever, as well as one of the most underappreciated. It’s magic goes beyond words.

  • 5 Jenny // Nov 23, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Hi I am wondering if you remember the original photo credits for this phot of Shelley Duvall? If you remember at all I would greatly appreciate it- I’m trying to track them down. Thanks!

  • 6 Zach // Dec 9, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Man, I need to see this again.

    Agreed. The Point is amazing.

    Oh, I just saw you posted this in ‘08. Nice work.

  • 7 Teresa Meza // Feb 8, 2011 at 3:16 am

    It’s funny, I saw this movie many times (punch drunk love) and know very well where the Popeye sound track comes from…I own the record!!! I fell in love with Popeye the movie when it came out! (I’m now 38 years old, you do the math). I believe I have the vinyl disc to Popeye, hopefully it’s sits in my mother’s garage. But you have NO IDEA what that film did for me as a little girl wanting to become an actress!! I sang to that bloody record night after night! (ok…you were partial to helping me become an actress…see my website)
    Anyway, just catching Punch Drunk Love again…and remembering why I loved it. The Shelly Duval and Robin Williams song. I connected!
    Thanks for the powerful memories.
    tM

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