Patrick Campbell-Lyons: Slainte Nirvana
Irish composer and musician Patrick Campbell-Lyons is well-known as one half of the cult symphonic-rock band, Nirvana – formed in London in 1967. Campbell-Lyons was part of the West London music scene from the early 1960s playing in several bands. He was the vocalist and a founder member of a locally-popular R&B band Second Thoughts whose lineups included future record producer Chris Thomas, Thunderclap Newman founder / drummer Speedy Keen and two future members of prog-rock band Jade Warrior (Jon Field and Tony Duhig). Second Thoughts split up in late 1965 and after a year living in Sweden, Campbell-Lyons returned to London in late 1966. In early 1967 he formed Nirvana with Greek musician Alex Spyropolous. The duo (augmented in the studio and live by a floating line-up of session musicians) created a series of critically-acclaimed baroque, orchestrated albums before disbanding in the early 1970s.
Patrick Campbell-Lyons, Photo © by Michael Limnios
Interview by Michael Limnios
Special Thanks: Nikos Syllas (audio engineer, producer)
Musically, Campbell-Lyons and Spyropoulos blended myriad musical styles including rock, pop, folk, jazz, Latin rhythms and classical music, primarily augmented by baroque chamber-style arrangements to create a unique entity. In 1967, they released their first album: a concept album produced by Blackwell titled The Story of Simon Simopath. The album was one of the first narrative concept albums ever released, predating story-driven concept albums such as The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow (1968), The Who’s Tommy (1969) and The Kinks’ Arthur (1969), and the Moody Blues album Days of Future Passed (November1967) by a month. Island Records launched Nirvana’s first album “with a live show at the Saville Theatre, sharing a bill with fellow label acts Traffic, Spooky Tooth, and Jackie Edwards.”
Unable to perform their songs live as a duo and with the impending release of their first album, Campbell-Lyons and Spyropoulos decided to create a live performing ensemble, The Nirvana Ensemble, and they recruited four musicians to enable them to undertake concerts and TV appearances. Though hired to be part of the live performance group rather than as band members, these four musicians were also included in the photograph alongside the core duo on the album cover of their first album to assist in projecting an image of a group rather than a duo. However they were not core founding members of the group and within a few months Nirvana had reverted to its original two-person lineup. The four musicians who augmented Campbell-Lyons and Spyropoulos on their live appearances and television shows.
The band appeared on French television with Salvador Dalí, who splashed black paint on them during a performance of their second single “Rainbow Chaser.” Campbell-Lyons kept the jacket, but regrets that Dalí did not sign any of their paint-splashed clothes. Island Records allegedly sent the artist an invoice for the cleaning of Schuster’s cello. Following the minor chart success of “Rainbow Chaser”, “live appearances became increasingly rare” and the songwriting duo at the core of Nirvana “decided to disband the sextet” and to rely on session musicians for future recordings. Spyropoulos cited Schuster’s departure due to pregnancy as the instigator for the band returning to its core membership. Campbell-Lyons also cited the high cost of having the additional members as a reason for their departure. Schuster later became principal cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
In 1968, the duo recorded their second album, All Of Us, which featured a similar broad range of musical styles as their first album. Their third album, Black Flower, was rejected by Blackwell, comparing it disparagingly to Francis Lai’s A Man and a Woman. Under the title, To Markos III (supposedly named for a “rich uncle” of Spyropoulos who helped finance the album), it was released in the UK on the Pye label in May 1970, though reportedly only 250 copies were pressed it was deleted shortly after. One track, “Christopher Lucifer,” was a jibe at Blackwell. In 1971 the duo amicably separated, with Campbell-Lyons the primary contributor to the next two Nirvana albums, Local Anaesthetic 1971, and Songs Of Love And Praise 1972. Campbell-Lyons then pursued a career in the music business as an A&R executive and producer – while continuing to occasionally record solo albums including Me & My Friend, The Electric Plough and The Hero I Might Have Been.
Campbell-Lyons’ first solo album Me & My Friend was reissued on CD in 2001 in the UK by Market Square Records together with bonus tracks from one of Nirvana’s later albums Songs Of Love And Praise. In early July 2008 Patrick started to write a book, Psychedelic Days, about his life and times in 1960’s London and beyond.
Photo: Patrick Campbell-Lyons & Alex Spyropolous (Nirvana)
Patrick recalled “I was remembering in great detail those ‘psychedelic days’ of forty years before when I navigated my way on a voyage of music, freedom, adventure and self-discovery. The past had no distance and I was living it all over again. Thrill’s and pill’s rhythm and blues, the legendary Ealing Club, Island Records, Chris Blackwell Nirvana in Tin Pan Alley, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Guy Stevens, Mickie Most, Paris with Salvador Dalí, Rio de Janeiro with Jimmy Cliff, The Star Club in Hamburg, Stockholm, Belgium, Tangiers and the ‘happenings’. When I stopped writing four months later I had a book. I had been there and lived to tell the story. Today so many years on people fantasize and wonder about those crazy days and often ask me “What were the ‘sixties’ like? It must have been a crazy time! I wish I had been there.” In 2017 Patrick released a new album on the Market Square Records Label called “You’re A Cloud, I’m A Comet” released on 180 gramme vinyl LP with CD included.
One-off “Special Release” Deluxe Edition with “FREE” bonus DVD of Patrick Campbell-Lyons CD THE 13 DALI’S. This special deluxe edition contains a bonus DVD that has the “rare and collectible” videos of “The Girl from Roxyville” and the classic “lost” song “Love Is.” The videos have never been seen before and were long thought lost until recently discovered by Patrick when he was going through one of his 3 storage locations. Patrick is a nomadic “traveller”. Nirvana fans have been long searching for “Love Is” and they will not be disappointed when they finally get the chance to see this psychedelic masterpiece. Also included is the new music video for “Falling” from the CD, “The 13 Dali’s” and the Nirvana performance of Pentecost Hotel from their Beat Club appearance, also a “West Coast” U.S.A. documentary TV interview with Patrick.
Patrick Campbell-Lyons, Photo © by Michael Limnios