10 July 2005

Flower Garden by Nick Lampe (aka Nicholas Lampe)

[UPDATE: See my later post At last: the Nick Lampe story which answers the questions raised here.]

If there were any justice in Pop Chart History Land then Nick Lampe's 1970 single Flower Garden would be one of those evergreens that you love to pieces but just wish your local oldies station would hold off playing for the 437,085th time.

As it is, this fine record, produced by Armet Ertegun and Jackson Howe at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, seems to have sunk without trace. Even at the time, Flower Garden charted at #16 in Melbourne, Australia, but didn't make the national charts in the US or Britain. I can't vouch, of course, for the charts of Portugal or Norway or Cedar Rapids, IA, so I won't say it didn't chart anywhere else.

You will find very few Web references to Nick Lampe (as on the single) or Nicholas Lampe (on the album) and I've yet to find any biographical information.

All Music Guide has track and personnel listings for what was apparently his only album, It Happened Long Ago (January 1971), but no other details. At the 60s And Further website, Gilbert Weingourt has a historic black and white photo entitled Nick Lampe and Friends (scroll right down: the topless friends are a bit of a distraction, but that would be Nick in the centre with the guitar). Both Sides Now lists the album on its discography for Cotillion, a subsidiary of Atlantic.

The personnel on It Happened Long Ago (Flower Garden was Track 1) were the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section which included the four founders of the studio, drummer Roger Hawkins, rhythm guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood and keyboardist Barry Beckett, along with lead guitarist Eddie Hinton.

Thus, the Nicholas Lampe album is mentioned at The Hideki Watanabe Archives on its pages about Eddie Hinton and engineer Marlin Greene. Pop-jazz singer-songwriter Kenny Rankin, acknowledged in the liner notes, has his own website, but the only reference there to Nicholas Lampe is in an unanswered question posted to the forum by an Australian. (The discographies at the Muscle Shoals website don't mention him, but they may focus on better-known artists: well worth browsing nevertheless.)

Apart from that, you are mainly left with tantalising references at the sites of record dealers who have the album or the single for sale on vinyl.

Audiophile, for example, includes a colour scan of the album cover. Undergroundalbums.com has it as a "very obscure item": '70 moody singer-songwriter w/ lots of electric piano, he credits Dion & Kenny Rankin as "Spiritual Advisors" on back. At the Last Vestige Music Shop it's a gritty twang folkrocker with the MUSCLE SHOALS crew, and a current Ebay auction lists the album as Rare Southern psych folk, a little fuzz.

And that, as far as I can see, is that, on the subject of Nick Lampe aka Nicholas.

Photo: Nicholas Lampe, from the cover of It Happened Long Ago.

[Updated in At Last: The Nick Lampe Story.]

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