Noel Harrison Unofficial Website

Noel Harrison

Born Kensington, London, 29 January 1934, son of esteemed English actor Rex Harrison, former Olympic skier Noel subsequently chose the life of a troubadour rather than the thespian lifestyle of his father. From stints as a regular on the BBC’s Tonight programme in the late 50s, and performing at bars and nightspots all around Europe (the Blue Angel Club, et al), HARRISON took flight to America in ’65, playing everywhere from San Francisco’s hungry i to New York’s Persian Room.
Bypassing a formative musical career that involved calypso and other pop diversions, Noel inked a deal with Decca Records (London in the US), who aimed him at the baroque-pop and folk market. The eponymous NOEL HARRISON (1966) {*6} boasted exactly four DYLAN songs, the flop 45 `It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, `Love Minus Zero’, `Mr. Tambourine Man’ and `To Ramona’ (but not an early flip-side, `One Too Many Mornings’), alongside a handful of Charles Aznavour nuggets, a BEATLES cover, `She’s A Woman’ and an FM-pop take of Billie Holiday’s `God Bless The Child’. In keeping his profile moderately high in films like Where The Spies Are and The Amourous Adventures Of Moll Flanders (plus television spin-off series, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.), Noel showed his versatility and inherent talent.
Reprise records took over the reins for three further NOEL HARRISON sets. COLLAGE (1967) {*7} outstripped the other two (SANTA MONICA PIER (1968) {*3} and THE GREAT ELECTRIC EXPERIMENT IS OVER (1969) {*3}) by a mile in both commercial and critical appraisal, reaching as it did No.135 in the US charts; his version of LEONARD COHEN’s `Suzanne’ hit the Top 60. Back in Old Blighty, HARRISON scored his biggest UK hit (Top 10 in 1969) through a reading of Michel LeGrand’s Thomas Crown Affair film theme, `The Windmills Of Your Mind’; ex-folkie DUSTY SPRINGFIELD would take the classy song into the US charts later in the year. While other top actors of the day such as Man From U.N.C.L.E. star DAVID McCALLUM and RICHARD HARRIS were to try their hand at singing (the latter nearly topped the charts with `MacArthur Park’), none had the panache to match Noel and his carousel vocal cords.
However, only star parts in Mission: Impossible and the film Take A Girl Like You in 1970, saw HARRISON (who moved from Nova Scotia to L.A.) get the exposure he needed to survive the fickle world of showbiz; in an ironic sort of way, further exposure came in a different light through his directorial work in a few soft-porn flicks. Post-millennium, HARRISON had a slight resurgence via some fresh self-financed CD releases, all on the back of Rev-Ola’s reissue of his debut; sadly, HARRISON passed away at his home in Exeter on 20 October 2013.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Dec2016

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