In his memoir, Rambling Man, Billy Connolly writes about "the most incredible impromptu musical performance I ever witnessed."
Connolly's manager had invited the comedian to tag along on a trip to Malta where some other artists represented by the manager were working on the film Popeye.
That first night I was in Malta, we all met up – Me, Robin (Williams), Ray Cooper the percussionist, a genius banjo player called Doug Dillard, and Harry Nilsson, the brilliant composer and singer. I’d loved his music for years. He was doing the music for the movie.
The plan for that night was for us all to get shit-faced. We started drinking and it was all very jolly, and then Harry said to me, ‘Before you can become one of the gang – a Member of the Knights of the Maltese Cross – you have to write your name on that castle where everybody can see it!’ He pointed to a huge, towering, limestone fort sticking out of the landscape up a steep hill. Everybody looked at me as though they were thinking, ‘Surely he’s not going to fall for that?’ But, undaunted, I climbed the hill and scaled the tower and wrote BILLY on it in large white letters with chalky white stones I found lying around.
Primary mission accomplished (getting shit-faced), we ended up in a nightclub. That’s where we got into a fight. The legendary roadie Booby Daniels had showed up, and – true to form – he was chatting a woman up next to me. On her other side there was a Maltese guy and, after a while, he mumbled something to Booby, and Booby mumbled something back, and then the Maltese guy hit him in the head with an ashtray. It was a real cowboy fight – people walking backwards, kicking. We all exited the club at high speed. Outside, after taking another one on the chin, Booby stumbled and knocked down the marquee.
After that, everybody dispersed for the night. We dropped Booby off to attend to his injuries and likely concussion, and then it was only me and Harry left. Harry said: ‘There’s a guy here who plays great guitar. He works in a garage.’ Well, we found this guitarist on the way back to our hotel, but he hadn’t brought his guitar. There was a piano sitting there – a terrible mess of a piano. It was painted green. So, Harry sat on a bar stool above the keys, fiddled around with the instrument for a bit, and then he turned to me and said: ‘What do you want to hear?’ I said, ‘“Remember (Christmas)”’.
I love that song of his. Harry played it, just for me and the guy in the garage, and it was one of the best moments of my life. Not many of them in a pound.