Gotta Get Up

Album: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)


  • The opening track to Nilsson Schmilsson, this deceptively upbeat tune finds the singer contemplating the carefree days of youth before adult responsibilities took over his life:

    We used to carry on and drink and do the rock n' roll
    We never thought we'd get older
    We never thought it'd grow cold

    Nilsson originally recorded the song with producer George Tipton during the 1968 Aerial Ballet sessions, but it didn't make the cut. As Nilsson biographer Alyn Shipton notes, Tipton's fast-paced arrangement was much cheerier, with emphasis on the tambourine and brass section. Richard Perry, Nilsson Schmilsson's producer, took a darker approach that was "less buoyant, an atmosphere helped by Chris Spedding's scratch guitar chords at the start, which finally dissolve toward anarchy at the end as the band follows Nilsson's upwardly spiraling piano into chaos."

    Spedding recalled the recording session, which took place at Trident Studios in London: "We had to do so many takes that we got cabin fever and started messing around, and Harry decided to incorporate the craziness into the song."
  • Richard Perry was adamant that the album, which was Nilsson's first rock release, be recorded in London. "I just felt that London was so far ahead: the technology, the sound of the records," Perry explained in the liner notes. "I was a great student of the Beatles records, trying to figure out how they could get their records to sound like that … my goal was to make Nilsson sound as much like the Beatles sounded as possible. He was the American Beatles all on his own. That was my dream. That was what excited me the most."
  • The story of the young woman and her periodic trysts with a sailor is a possible reference to Nilsson's parents. His dad was a merchant marine who left the family when Nilsson was three years old, which inspired themes of abandonment in "Daddy's Song" and "1941."
  • This is prominently featured in the 2019 Netflix series Russian Doll, which stars Natasha Lyonne as a computer programmer inexplicably caught in a time loop. She keeps dying on the night of her 36th birthday, only to be resurrected to the tune of "Gotta Get Up."

    Lyonne, who created the series with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, told Rolling Stone why she chose the song for her character's reset: "I wanted somebody who was connected to a lineage of a certain kind of difficulty, or who gave you a certain effect. The sound of their voice would in and of itself be a reminder: a juxtaposition of the unpleasantness and the grandeur of the human experience on a daily basis. Harry Nilsson, specifically, encapsulates that. If you've seen that documentary about him [Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?], it's really harrowing, and it resonated with me emotionally," she explained, referring to Nilsson's lifelong struggle with substance abuse. "It's a typology I greatly identify with as an experience. There were other people that were in play - even Lil Kim, oddly, and things in that vein that weren't hitting the exact note that Harry Nilsson could speak to. Lou Reed's 'Crazy Feeling' was in there. There was a desire to hit that double note of deep sadness, personal darkness, married to an upbeat sound."
  • This was used in the 2006 movie A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe.
  • The song features accordion played by Henry Krein, who as a member of London Studio Players, participated in many of the light music programs broadcast by the BBC in the 1940s and '50s.
  • This was the first song recorded for the album, and the first on the tracklist. Nilsson's producer, Richard Perry, said: "Right from the opening, they way that piano starts, you could sense this was going to be something special."


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