John Lennon and Harry Nilsson and a night of Brandy Alexanders in 1974 led to Leslie Feist and Ron Sexsmith co-writing Brandy Alexander some 30 years later… Ah, gotta love your music history and songwriting stories… This is from a recent interview found in the Montreal Gazette:
Ron Sexsmith’s songwriting collaboration with Feist would never have happened if John Lennon and Harry Nilsson hadn’t had way too much to drink at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles in 1974.
The ex-Beatle and his raucous songwriting pal were downing brandy Alexanders that much-documented night, resulting in behaviour that led to their forcible ejection from the club.
When Leslie Feist saw Sexsmith drinking one of those cocktails at a party in Ottawa, she asked what it was. Sexsmith told her the story of the historic Lennon-Nilsson debacle.
“Three days later, I received anemail from her with this lyric in it,” Sexsmith said in a recent telephone interview.
“And I was, like, ‘Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?’ ”
He took it to the piano, and a quick session later, Brandy Alexander had music.
“I’m a Luddite,” Sexsmith said. “I don’t have anything to record on, so I never had a tape of it to give her.
“About a year later, when I was in Los Angeles recording Time Being, I saw that Leslie was playing across town. So I took a cab and I played it for her in her dressing room. She recorded it on to a dictaphone.”
Feist’s hushed, sultry version came out last year on her platinum-selling disc The Reminder. Sexsmith recorded a more upbeat interpretation on his latest album, Exit Strategy of the Soul.
“I had no intention of recording it,” Sexsmith said. “It wasn’t until after I heard her version, which I loved, that I got to thinking that, in my head, I heard it as more of a party song.”
There are significant differences in the lyrics, too.
“They feel, almost, like two different songs,” Sexsmith said.
“But I did stick more faithfully to her original lyrics than she did.”
Here’s to finding your Brandy Alexander somewhere (wherever inspiration finds you), oh, and here’s the recipe:
1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz dark creme de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, creme de cacao, and half-and-half. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg. And May the Muse be with you…