Friday, 17 August 2012

Nick Garrie - The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas (1970)

Around ten years ago I became obsessed with CD reissue label Rev-Ola.  I'd buy anything that they put out and at one point, in 2004-2005, releases were coming thick and fast.  It felt like having a friend who new exactly what music you'd like, recommending you loads of killer albums.  A lot of the releases from this time I still regard as some of my all time favourite albums.  One that really stands out is Nick Garrie's "The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas", a true Baroque/Folk/Pop lost classic if every I heard one.  I already knew "Wheel Of Fortune" from the popsike compilation Circus Day's Volume 1, but never thought of looking up Garrie (aka Nick Hamilton).  It wouldn't have mattered anyway because if had found a copy of Stanislas, I wouldn't have been able to afford one. shows that copies sell for between £200 and £500.  I did manage to get a copy on vinyl eventually, thanks to spanish label Wah Wah Records who released it on LP back in 2006.

Half Russian, half Scottish Garrie was brought up in France and England where he went boarding school and university, he never fitted in with the hippy or drug crowds instead preferring to spend time on his own reading poetry and studying surrealism.  Garrie along with a musician friend spent time in the late sixties travelling round Europe, performing in various bars.  By the Autumn of 1968 the French record label DiscAZ had offered Garrie a record deal thanks to a meeting set up via a friend of his mothers.

Studios Davou in Paris along with Eddie Vartan (Sylive's brother) and a 56 piece orchestra were chosen by DiscAZ for the album recording sessions.  Garrie was left disapointed with the output from the sessions as the heavy orchestrations was not how he imagined the songs, instead preferring a much starker, moody sound.

The album opener and title track starts with big strings and echoey vocals, a little electric sitar and tack piano. More dreamlike than nightmarish, this track could fit on any of the Fading Yellow albums.  I've seen Garrie's vocals compared to Peter Sarstedt's before which is very close. Check out Sarstedt's song "Sayonara" from his 1969 album "Peter Sarstedt" and you'll see where such a comparison stems from. "Can I Stay With You?" is reminiscent of Nick Drake circa Bryter Layter.  Again, embellished with the full production works by Vartan much to Garrie's dismay but to the listeners delight. "Bungle's Tour" tells the story of the type of holiday "pack pack pack pack pack pack package" tours which were becoming more common during this time.  This should've been included on Carry On Abroad with lyrics like "Bungle's will be waiting at the bus, the French are crooks so put your trust in us.  We'll get you fish and chips, an english beer to wet your lips", bringing a smile to my face every time I hear it.  "David's Prayer" and "The Wanderer" remind me of John Pantry's early solo records and like most of the album, have that slight melancholy vibe with loner songwriter lyrics sung to upbeat melodies.  Not the sort of thing you'd play at a party but more like what you'd listen to on your earphones while going for a walk.  "Ink Pot Eyes" sounds like the similarly, under appreciated at the time, Bill Fay. A singer songwriter whose music career almost parallels Garries.  "Little Bird" my favorite song on the album. Think the Byrds (Younger Than Yesterday/Notorious Byrd Brothers era) crossed with the Honeybus and you're about as close as you can get pop perfection.  Clocking in at two minutes n the dot, it would've made a great single.  "Deeper Tones Of Blue" and "Wheel Of Fortune" are much like the title track where the orchestration is big but not in a cheesy way like Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey.  Now I don't know what he was thinking when he recorded "Queen of Queens" and I remember Sweet Floral Albion comparing this track to Shaking Stevens! Obviously its not that bad but it sure does stand out.  Final song "Evening" is probably closer to the sound that Garrie had in his head for the record and ends the album on a darker note.

Following the completion of the album, DiscAZ boss Lucien Morrisse committed suicide.  As a result, the album couldn't be found in any shops and without any promotion it was forgotten about and remained largely unheard, apart from a few lucky record collectors, for over 30 years.  But, like all good music it got discovered eventually and its reputation continues to grow, slowly but surely, thanks to reissue record labels and the internet.

Nick Garrie continued playing music on and off, eventually scoring a number one album in Spain thanks to some good exposure through a tour with Leonard Cohen.  Garrie's most recent album "49 Arlington Gardens" released by Elefant Records, sees him backed by Duglas T. Stewart of the BMX Bandits and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub.  My band The Junipers were fortunate enough to share the bill with Nick Garrie at the Doune The Rabbit Hole festival in Scotland in 2011 and can confirm that he's still got a full head of hair and has kept that fine singing voice that made "The Nightmare of J.B Stanislas" so great.  With any luck he will continue to record and perform, bringing Stanislas to the masses, gaining the recognition it deserves.

The Nightmare of J.B Stanislas was given the deluxe reissue treatment as part of a 3CD box set and can be purchased from Garrie's fine website here.


  1. I think "Wheel Of Fortune" is more beatlesque than "little Bird". Good song without any doubt.

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