The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas (release: June 28th, 2019)

Occasionally, a work of art falls into your hands with such a bizarre backstory, you just have to run with it. The implausible origins of Nick Garrie’s folk-pop album “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” require just such a leap of faith. The Englishman recorded his masterpiece in France at the tender age of nineteen. The year was 1968 and Garrie felt ill at ease with the lavish arrangements accompanying his songs (beautiful as they may sound to our ears today). Worse still, the label owner committed suicide and the record virtually disappeared without trace – until it resurfaced in 2005. Our own release now includes numerous bonus tracks, rare photograph and extensive liner notes. Available on CD and double vinyl!

From the first bars of the title track with its Harrison-esque lead guitar, reverb-laden strings and woodwinds, and that wonderfully detached voice going “aah”, it seems simply inconceivable that at the time of its release 50 years ago such grandeur could have remained unheard. “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” feels unmistakably English, and yet never ventures near the childlike tropes of British psychedelia, never hints at prog or flirts with the pastoral folk stylings coming out of the UK in the late 1960s. One very good reason for this oddness is that this album in fact came out of Paris as the result of one heroic act of cross- Channel cultural misunderstanding.

“It’s difficult, really,” says Nick Garrie, half a century later. “There’s a lot of people for whom the album has been a life- saver. I mean I’ve met a girl with cancer who said it had saved her. You know the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman? He used to be absolutely mad about it and used to write to me on MySpace. So I can’t say it’s a lot of crap because that would be inelegant.”

Quite.

Beyond all of Nick Garrie’s self-deprecation, the story of his debut LP sounds eerily poignant in today’s age of European turmoil. It is the tale of a boy who grew up on both sides of the Channel, forever too French for Britain and too British for France, with roots that went back a lot farther still.

“My father was Russian,” he explains, “and my mother was Scottish, and they fought like hell. Even after they divorced and he left, she still couldn’t stand him. She said ‘My son is Scottish’, and he said ‘No, he’s French, cause I’m French now.’”

His father’s idée fixe meant that come his 18th birthday young Nick found himself in line for two years’ service in the French army. 10 years prior to that, the British side of his upbringing had condemned him to the trauma of a Norwich boarding school. “I was terrified that somebody there would know my legal name was Miansarow. They would have thought, ‘Oh, he’s a bloody Russian, probably Jewish,’ and they would have beaten me up even more.” Later, at university while studying European Literature, Garrie wrote the lyrics to the album’s title track as an exercise in surrealist Automatic Writing. “They say you always discover something about yourself. The nightmare is me finding out that I really am Russian. I’m not Garrie, my name is Stanislas.”

In his youth, Garrie’s “gods” were Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Georges Moustaki. No wonder “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” sounds and feels a lot more like the Tuileries than Hyde Park, more French Riviéra than Brighton pier.

In fact the beaches of Saint Tropez were the place where these songs first found an audience when a still teenage Nick Garrie lived precariously on the run from the French army. Having produced some demos in Brussels (included in this collection, alongside a non-album single and one later demo) and renounced his French citizenship, Garrie passed an audition with Lucien Morisse, boss at the then predominant Parisian record label Disc’AZ. “I got my guitar out and played “Deeper Tones of Blue”. He pulled out a contract and said ‘Signez, monsieur, signez!’”

None other than the eminent Eddie Vartan was employed to give the young Englishman’s songs a full orchestral makeover. Having finished his recordings with some 50-odd grumpy French studio hacks in just two weeks, Garrie eagerly awaited the album’s release. But on the day before “Stanislas” was due to appear the news broke that Lucien Morisse had committed suicide.

The unexpected death of the man who had signed him also meant the death knell for Garrie’s record. Only a precious few copies of “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” got away before the album was deleted, just enough for it to be rediscovered as a major buried treasure decades later. “It’s not the album I wanted to make,” Nick Garrie still maintains. That’s as may be, but to the rest of us “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” remains an utter joy, maybe even a life-saver, half a century on.

Robert Rotifer

The Moon and The Village (release date: November 24, 2017)

There’s a new album by Nick Garrie coming out and that’s something to celebrate. Before we get onto the new one we need to put things in context and talk a little about the past.

In the final year of the sixties and in the final year of his teens, Nick Garrie made an album that should be regarded as one of the great classic albums of the decade: ‘The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas’. The fact that it is not more widely known or more universally recognised as one of the classics of the era is not down to the quality of the product but rather to a series of unfortunate events (that’s another story). It’s packed full of smart, romantic, melodious baroque-pop story telling songs with killer string and woodwind arrangements.

After having disappeared for decades, copies of the album started to pop up for sale online at very high prices. In 2005 ‘Stanislas’ was reissued, the word of mouth about how great it was soon spread and a new generation of Nick Garrie fans began to emerge. Musicians including Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, Camera Obscura, The Trembling Bells, Ladybug Transistor and BMX Bandits (of course) were among those declaring themselves as fans.

In 2009 I was asked to help produce a new Nick Garrie album, “49 Arlington Gardens”, and the world could hear that none of Nick’s talents had diminished. Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub who performed on the album declared to me during the sessions “Nick’s the real deal. He can really do it. Brilliant songs and what a voice.”

Back to 2017 and now there is another new album by Nick Garrie. Let me assure you straight away, it’s a thing of great and rare beauty. It’s still very much the same Nick Garrie who made that incredible 1969 debut and the 2009 album too, but this time round it’s Nick Garrie in a more reflective mood. The songs are as strong as ever but have a directness and fragility about them. The sonic settings created by Gary Olson and a supporting cast of players matches the tenderness of the story telling in Nick’s songs. The arrangements are from the school of less is more. Nothing is screaming out for attention here but instead every sound perfectly plays its part in bringing the stories in the songs to life. Nick sings about a lost diary and about losing one’s way on the album’s opener ‘Lois’ Diary’. This track like others on the album has a beautiful sadness about it. There’s no artificial earnestness or over statement, it’s all perfectly pitched.

One of the albums’ most affecting tracks is its most stripped back: ‘Got You On My Mind’. It’s just Nick’s voice and a harp. The intimacy and warmth of the album feels like the perfect antidote to the in-your-face and often ugly nature of modern life. This is a gentle album that soothes the soul and warms the heart. When Nick sings “I’m On Your Side” you believe him and you feel a connection being made with the singer as you listen. I’m grateful to have Nick and his music on my side and I’m grateful to have such a wonderful new album by him.

Duglas T Stewart, Summer 2017

Deutscher Pressetext

Nick Garrie bringt ein neues Album heraus, und das ist fürwahr ein Grund zur Freude. Doch bevor wir uns dem Neuen zuwenden, sollten wir den Kontext betrachten und uns kurz über die Vergangenheit unterhalten.

1969, im letzten Jahr seiner Teenagerzeit, brachte Nick Garrie ein Album heraus, das eigentlich zu den Klassikern jener Dekade gezählt werden müsste: „The Nightmare of J. B. Stanislas“. Die Tatsache, dass es keine größere Bekanntheit oder Anerkennung erlangt hat, hängt sicher nicht mit der musikalischen Qualität zusammen, sondern ist einer Verkettung unglücklicher Umstände geschuldet (aber das ist eine andere Geschichte). Jedenfalls ist dieses Album ein Füllhorn an klugen, romantischen, melodiösen Barock-Pop-Erzählungen mit fantastischen Streicher- und Holzbläser-Arrangements. Nach Jahrzehnten der Vergessenheit wurden schließlich etliche Exemplare bei Online-Aktionen angeboten und erzielten dort atemberaubende Preise. 2005 wurde „Stanislas“ dann erneut veröffentlicht. Die Kunde verbreitete sich schnell, und Nick Garrie gewann eine ganze Generation neuer Fans hinzu. Musiker wie Teenage Fanclub, Wilco, Camera Obscura, The Trembling Bells, Ladybug Transistor und (natürlich) die BMX Bandits outeten sich öffentlich als begeisterte Fans. So kam es, dass ich im Jahr 2009 gebeten wurde, bei der Produktion eines neuen Nick-Garrie-Albums mitzuwirken. Und nach dem Erscheinen von „49 Arlington Gardens“ konnte alle Welt sich davon überzeugen, dass Nick nichts von seiner großen Begabung eingebüßt hatte. Norman Blake von Teenage Fanclub, der auf dem Album ebenfalls mitwirkt, sagte mir während der Aufnahmen: „Nick ist ein ganz Großer. Er hat es drauf. Fantastische Songs, und dazu diese Stimme ...“

Aber jetzt zurück ins Jahr 2017 und zu Nick Garries brandaktuellem Album. Um es gleich vorneweg zu sagen: Es ist ein Werk von überwältigender und seltener Schönheit. Unverkennbar begegnet uns dort immer noch derselbe Nick Garrie, der 1969 dieses unglaubliche Debüt hingelegt und 2009 „49 Arlington Gardens“ veröffentlicht hat, aber dieses Mal in einer deutlich besinnlicheren Stimmung. Die Songs sind so stark wie eh und je, und dabei direkt und zerbrechlich zugleich. Das Klangbild, das Gary Olson und seine Mitstreiter erschaffen, passt zu der Zärtlichkeit, mit der Nick seine Geschichten erzählt. Die Arrangements ordnen sich allesamt dem Prinzip „Weniger ist mehr“ unter. Hier drängt sich nichts auf, hier schreit nichts nach Aufmerksamkeit. Vielmehr trägt jeder Ton seinen Teil dazu bei, um die Geschichten in den Songs zum Leben zu erwecken. Im Opener „Lois‘ Diary“ geht es um ein verlorenes Tagebuch und darum, wie der Mensch sich verirren kann. Es ist nicht das einzige Stück des Albums, in dem eine wunderschöne Traurigkeit mitschwingt – keine künstliche Ernsthaftigkeit, keine Übertreibung. Alles klingt wunderbar ausgewogen.

Eines der bewegendsten Stücke des Albums, „Got You On My Mind“, ist zugleich das sparsamste. Nur Nicks Stimme und eine Mundharmonika sind darauf zu hören. Die Intimität und die Wärme, die dieses Album verströmt, fühlen sich an wie das perfekte Gegenmittel gegen das aggressive und oft genug hässliche Wesen des modernen Lebens. Es ist ein sanftes Album, das die Seele streichelt und das Herz erwärmt. Wenn Nick „I’m On Your Side“ singt, dann glaubt man ihm, und man spürt, wie während des Zuhörens eine tiefe Verbindung zum Sänger entsteht. Ich bin dankbar für Nick und seine Musik, und ich bin dankbar, dass er uns so ein wundervolles Album geschenkt hat.

Duglas T Stewart, Sommer 2017

Videos

Nick Garrie - The Moon & the Village
Nick Garrie - My Dear One