Harry Nilsson's take on the Ben E. King classic never fails to bring a lump to my throat.
On "Save the Last Dance for Me", Harry Nilsson sounds like he's in bad shape, and he is. The highlight of an 18-month long binge drinking session with producer John Lennon, the album that boasts "Save the Last Dance", 1974's Pussy Cats, is rough, gorgeous, both orderly and a serious mess. Yet, somehow, it works. "Save the Last Dance for Me" is a perfect example, as we can actually hear Nilsson's tequila-laced phlegm, accompanied by Lennon's sensitive and bizarre string arrangement, and cannot help but be taken in by the sheer honesty and exquisite weirdness of the thing. Nilsson destroyed his vocal cords while recording Pussy Cats, and his confidence as a vocalist would never recover. All of this makes "Save the Last Dance" a bittersweet listening experience for the Harry Nilsson fan. Few other singers could make falling apart sound so beautiful.