This Could Be the Night (1966 song)

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"This Could Be the Night"
Song by Modern Folk Quartet from the album Phil Spector Wall of Sound Vol. 6 — Rare Masters Vol. 2
Published March 30, 1966 (1966-03-30)
Released 1976 (1976)
Recorded Gold Star Studios, Hollywood
Genre Folk rock
Producer Phil Spector
Music sample

"This Could Be the Night" is a song written by Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector. It was first recorded by Modern Folk Quartet in 1966 and used as the opening theme music for the rock concert film The Big TNT Show. The song was officially released for the first time in 1976 on a British Spector compilation album, Phil Spector Wall of Sound Vol. 6 — Rare Masters Vol. 2 and subsequently has been included on several other compilations, including Spector's 1991 career retrospective box set, Back to Mono (1958–1969).

Nilsson biographer Alyn Shipton said of the song, "[It expresses] the heady mixture of hope, desire, and fear experienced when a couple who have been dating for a while are on the point of finally conquering their inhibitions and making love for the first time."[1] The song was written in tribute to Brian Wilson, who himself deemed it one of Nilsson's very best songs and one of Spector's best productions, explaining "Well, the idea they've been dating and waiting and finally they made love ... I love that message."[1]


Phil Spector biographer Mick Brown wrote that Harry Nilsson had written the song as a tribute to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It was brought to Spector, whose contributions are unknown.[2] It is often listed as a co-write between the two, but in 1966 was copy-written solely to Nilsson, marking a discrepancy in the song's authorship.[1] The song was one of three Nilsson/Spector co-writes, the other two being "Here I Sit" and "Paradise".[3]


MFQ with Spector at Gold Star Studios in 1965 (from left to right): Cyrus Faryar, Jerry Yester, Chip Douglas, Phil Spector, Henry Diltz, Eddie Hoh

Soon after Spector befriended Modern Folk Quartet, he produced their recording of the song at Gold Star Studios. Brian Wilson was reportedly in attendance.[1] Henry Diltz remembered "we could see him in the recording booth, in his robe and slippers, sitting there playing our song over and over, for what seemed like hours"[2] The session date(s) are unknown, but recording for the track presumably took place sometime in 1965[4] or at least prior to January 19, 1966.[5]

According to Mick Brown, "Spector's production sounded as if it had been recorded in a school gynamsium—a vibrantly echoing mélange of chiming guitars, bells and exuberant, sunny harmonies".[2] Modern Folk Quartet's version has been described by Barney Hoskyns as "pure Wall-of-Sound Beach Boys, light years from the sound Terry Melcher was getting with the Byrds".[6] Biographer Mark Ribowsky called the song a "folk rocker" that resembled a "Wagnerian folk march with Wall of Sound".[7]

It was slated for release as their first single with the new lineup, but Spector became focused on Tina Turner and "River Deep – Mountain High" and "forgot all about the Modern Folk Quartet [sic]".[6] Instead it was used as the theme to the rock concert film The Big TNT Show, the 1966 follow-up to the T.A.M.I. Show. Jerry Yester later commented "I never forgave him for the thing with the TNT Show [for which Spector was the musical director and associate producer]. We were supposed to be in it, because we were on his label, for god's sake. But we ended up being the entertainment for everybody while they were setting up for the next band".[8]

Harry Nilsson version[edit]

A solo recording of the song was made by Nilsson in the 1960s but not released. It remained lost and forgotten until an acetate appeared in 2008 as an eBay listing.[1] In 1967, Nilsson recorded a solo piano/vocal demo for the Monkees with the intention that they may record the song. They didn't, although the recording of Nilsson's demo was included in the 2013 box set The RCA Albums Collection.[9] In 1989, Nilsson contributed guest vocals on a rerecording of the song by Henry Diltz. In the early 1990s, Nilsson recorded a new studio version by himself with additional lyrics, but it remains unreleased.

Brian Wilson version[edit]

In 1973, it was reported in Melody Maker that Wilson could remember the song "very clearly" apart from a couple of verses white playing it on piano for his guests. He claimed that he had been attempting to gather the lyrics from Spector so that he may record a version with American Spring, but Spector was "strangely reluctant" to give away the song. According to Melody Maker, "Brian obviously got a buzz from singing it with differently harmonized bass lines and new riffs, and it was fascinating to hear how, even though he was only mucking about, the harmonies and rhythms were pure Brian Wilson. No one else could've been playing that piano."[4] Wilson eventually recorded his own version with Andy Paley in 1995 for the Harry Nilsson tribute album For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson.



  1. ^ a b c d e Shipton, Alyn (2013-06-19). Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 41–44. ISBN 978-0-19-933069-0. 
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Mick (2008). Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector. Vintage. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-4000-7661-1. 
  3. ^ Courrier, Kevin (2005). Randy Newman's American Dreams. ECW Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-55022-690-4. 
  4. ^ a b Coleman, Ray, ed. (1974). Today's Sound: A Melody Maker Book. Hamlyn. p. 46. ISBN 9780600361428. 
  5. ^ "THE BIG T.N.T. SHOW (1966)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Hoskyns, Barney (1999). Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and the Sound of Los Angeles. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 100–101. ISBN 0-312-17056-4. 
  7. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (2000-05-02). He's a Rebel: Phil Spector--Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer. Cooper Square Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-4616-6103-0. 
  8. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2005). Changes (Reissue notes). The Modern Folk Quartet. Collector's Choice. CCM-524. 
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The RCA Albums Collection - Harry Nilsson". Retrieved 2013-07-30.