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Spiral Earth
07/27/10
by Guest Editor Kelli Ali

CLICK HERE for actual article

Patrick Campbell-Lyons is known as the singer and founder of the psychedelic, symphonic rock band Nirvana. Patrick formed the band with Greek musician Alex Spyropoulos in 1967. 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 1970's.

Now Patrick is becoming known for his writing also, as he travels the world promoting his new book "Psychedelic Days".

A literary voyage of music, freedom, adventure and self discovery, "Psychedelic Days" is a must read for anyone interested in Nirvana, the Psychedelic music scene or music history in general.

I was lucky enough to spend time with Patrick last summer and he agreed to join me for an interview especially for Spiral Earth.


Thanks so much for joining us Patrick. Where have you just returned from and what have you been up to?

I have been in the U.S.A. for the past 3 months, NYC, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles ... promoting my book Psychedelic Days ... It was published in early February. It was hard work especially the traveling but very exciting because it was different form the way I would promote music/recordings as a songwriter/recording artist. My poetry recitation skills from my student days at school in Ireland were really helpful during readings in stores and on radio. I also did press and some cable tv shows and it was ultra special to meet young fans who came with vinyl copies of our Island LP's to be signed. Many of them were musicians in new psych bands. There is a real psych scene going on especially on the west coast, long may it last.

What is your earliest musical memory?

What a coincidental question that is ... the first pages of my book describe that while I was inside my mother's womb I could hear the music that my parents were dancing to .... They were big into dancing and would drive distances to find a good ballroom ... I loved it especially when they did their kind of jive .... It was somewhere between an Irish jig and the twist while on acid .... so that's got to be the answer ... Readers of the book will discover the songs and those who had made them well known.

What kind of music/bands did you listen to as a teenager?

The Everly Brothers (who in fact 20 years later recorded one of my songs called "Finding it Rough") Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, mostly American music of the time because the Irish show bands played all those songs live and every place where young people congregated had a juke box .... my favourite was "Sweet Nothin'" by Brenda Lee .... I dreamed of going to America to find her and fall in love with her. I like Billy Fury from England. He was special.

Which album do you fee was the most exciting to make and which are you most happy with?

I love the whole writing and recording of songs process, the most thrilling moments are the playback of the final mix in the studio and then seeing it in the packaging a few weeks later, everything moved fast in those days, then it is over and you move on to the creation of the next one.

So let's say the 3 albums we did as Nirvana for the original Island Records Pink label, (by the way our first LP The Story of Simon Simopath was the first album released on the label produced by Chris Blackwell the founder of label) were all favourites.

They were our children and I am proud to say that they have grown up to be special and have come through the test of time, when you hear the songs on the radio today (they have been digitally re-mastered by Universal also) they sound wonderful and the quality comes through big time Rainbow Chase is as fresh today as it was back in 1969.

Did you have a process, which you would use to write your albums, or was it different every time?

This is going to sound strange maybe ... when I say "We went to work every day" and if we had been out all night before ... we still continued the next morning. Sleep was not a necessity in those days for Alex or I and many others I knew "ploughing the same furrow as ourselves in London Town. Amphetamines also helped. We had a small attic room in Shepherd's Bush with a piano, a mellotron, 2 revoxes and a few "toys". There was also a bed and a small kitchenette with a shower for dwarfs that was our world. We had a weekly wage from Island Records jut like all the other artists, that's how Chris Blackwell did things. It was a lot of money as wages went POUND55.00 a week each ad to put that into perspective the rent on the flat was POUND7.50 a week.

Every day really was a "happening" . we lived like that for 3 years, made 3 albums, and promoted them around Europe where we were treated like pop-stars. We then went into semi-retirement ... we needed a break form each other and from the "scene" which was changing rapidly before our sunset eyes. Also to recharge the engine and do something different like doing nothing or traveling in Europe and North Africa.

And one other thing . for every song we wrote together we scrapped or rejected many more that sounded as if they might be promising.

You have recently been traveling the world promoting your book, "Psychedelic Days". Why did you decide to write a book and how does the process compare with writing an album?

I had no intention of writing a book, songwriting was hard enough, but in late January 2009, I was working on a new lyric for a song, with no pressure attached it started to become a poem / a short essay / then a story. I could not stop writing and before I knew what was going on, a voice was saying to me "You are writing a book" ... It went on for 7 months, 6 hours a day. Also I was in the right place to be able to do such a thing. I was living in a small village in the mountains above the town of Granada in Andalucia Spain. no distractions whatsoever. Younger members of my extended family who are in their 20's and 30's in recent years, often asked me "What was it like to be there in the 60's? Did you have free love? Did you do drugs? Did you meet any famous rock stars? Maybe there was a subconscious thing going on there also!

As a musician who was involved in the height of the new experimental period of modern popular music, you must have experienced many changes in the way that music is both recorded and distributed. How do you feel about the way these aspects of music are changing?

To be in a band today trying to get things "off the ground" dealing with moronic, uncreative, greedy charlatans who have managed to destroy the music business and in so doing create a massive void between what is average and what is bad ... to be a success or a star you just have to be average in the eyes of Amanda Cowell, that says it all ... originality and good does not work ..If I was in my early 20's today I would try to become a scientist ... science is going to be the new "rock and roll"

Who are your favorite current bands?

I like - The Dirty Projectors ... Richmond Fontaine ... The Villagers ... Helen Stellar ... Lucky Soul ... Beechwood Sparks ... Dave Rawlings ... and the Box Elders.

What's next for you Patrick?

Promote the book here in London and in England where I am at presently (book is available form www.psychedelicdays.com and form Amazon) and in early September I will have something new to offer our "cult following" of loyal fans around the globe in the shape of 13Dali's ... a new solo recording ... The show must go on!!!


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