Gimmer Nicholson Christopher Idylls on LP
Upon first glance, one could be forgiven for wondering which is the artist and which is the title of this album. Memphis' Larry "Gimmer" Nicholson still remains a great unknown today, despite his having orbited the periphery of the city's music scene since the early ‘60s, playing with artists ranging from Furry Lewis to William Eggleston and influencing a young Chris Bell (Big Star). Fusing classical and folk music, the sound Gimmer created for Christopher Idylls was evocative and unusual, its chiming guitars recalling the music of centuries past while also – when recorded in 1968 – being quite desperately ahead of its time.
The album was recorded with Terry Manning (Big Star, Led Zeppelin), who describes its creator as "one of the world's most enigmatic people. I don't know how many people really knew him because he was such a private person, a ‘full of love' person, who had a dark side as well." The six compositions that comprise Christopher Idylls were composed out west, Manning believes, while overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They were laid down in 1968 in four weeks of intimate sessions at Ardent Studios that saw Gimmer experiment by feeding acoustic guitars through delay pedals, layering and layering the sound live – one of the first examples of electronic repeat being used as part of the music.
The album was supposed to be the first full-length LP release on Ardent Records, but there were understandable concerns about the size of audience that might be waiting for a curious instrumental album such as this. Meanwhile, Gimmer put blocks in the road himself: he didn't like the original mixes or the sleeve and eventually decided he didn't want the album released at all. He got his way but, Manning argues, the influence of those chiming guitars can be heard in the sounds floating out of Memphis in the decades that followed – especially in Big Star.
Having personally played it to luminaries including Jimmy Page, Manning was frustrated he couldn't get the album to a wider audience. "It was one of the best things I've been associated with – and it still is," he says. It was Manning who finally convinced Nicholson to release the album on CD in 1994 and who was talking about recording more with him when Gimmer passed away at just 54 years old in 2000. Now available on vinyl, it's Gimmer's time to chime and shine again!
• First ever vinyl reissue
• Remastered from the original master tapes
• Album cover by William Eggleston (Big Star, Alex Chilton, Spoon, Silver Jews)
• Essay by Mempian Andria Lisle interviewing key players
• LP housed in a deluxe gatefold Stoughton "tip-on" jacket