16 July 2005

Nail that original!

I can’t explain this obsession some of us have about tracking down the original version of every song ever recorded in the universe or, in my case, Australia. Either you get it or you don’t: maybe Arnold Rypens would have a better idea. But here are four rules of song history that I’ve learnt along the way:

1. After you nail an original, wait: someone, some day, will email you with an earlier version.

2. Ask the singer, producer or songwriter for information, but don't be surprised if they turn out to be wrong.

3. There's a bloke in Belgium or Finland who knows more about this stuff than Australia's Rock Brain of the Universe.

4. If you've dug up a really obscure original version of a well-known song, don't expect friends, family, neighbours or the guy at the post office to get excited about it or even understand why you bothered in the first place.

(Also on the About page.)

13 July 2005

I've Been Everywhere: the penny drops

I may have discovered why there is currently so much interest in I've Been Everywhere, making it one of the most visited features at PopArchives.com.au.

The 1996 Johnny Cash version is being used in the US in advertisements for Choice Hotels. If you Google "choice hotels" + "i've been everywhere" you'll see that it's created some interest here and there.

I thought about emailing the sites that refer to "a Hank Snow song" (or worse, a Hank Snow "original") and telling them about Lucky Starr's 1962 original version, but maybe I'll let it rest. After all, in the States it's Hank Snow who is identified with the song, so I guess we can forgive them.

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.]

04 July 2005

More on the Bearded Beetle

Broadcaster and radio historian Wayne Mac emailed to tell me the Bearded Beetle's name was Dave Dexter. He was the panel operator at 3DB who recorded a song called The Bearded Beetle with announcer Barry Ferber in 1964. No other details yet, except that Wayne believes Dave Dexter died in a car accident in New Zealand. I did find a reprinted magazine article from the 70s about Radio Hauraki, the pirate station that became New Zealand's first commercial station, and there is a Dave Dexter amongst the station's disc jockeys. (Not to be confused, I should hardly need to add, with Dave Dexter the Capitol Records producer and executive.)