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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wesley Britton Loves to Revisit Rock 'n Roll

Psychedelic Days (1960-1969)
By Patrick Campbell-Lyons
GRA Publishing, Nov 25 2009

Review by: Wesley Britton originally posted at Wesley Britton’s Entertainment Scrapbook

Like everyone else, I’m sure, when I pick up a biography or history dealing with rock ‘n roll, I choose titles about performers, bands, or periods I’m interested in. Normally, I’m looking for the behind-the-scenes stories about how classic music came to be, whether written by stars like Eric Clapton, session musicians like Vic Flick, or historians who’ve done their due diligent homework.

But, last month, I received a review copy of a book called Psychedelic Days written by a performer from a band I never heard of—the British Nirvana of the late ‘60s. I had absolutely no pre-conceived ideas about the book as, then and now, I’ve never heard a bar of their music. But, as revealed in Patrick Campbell-Lyons’s fast-paced (240 pages) memoir, I’m far from being alone, at least in the states. While the original Nirvana made waves internationally, because Bell Records in the U.S. released the debut album with no publicity whatsoever, it disappeared without a trace, the band not even knowing an American version had been issued. So when I began reading the text of PD, what I knew about Nirvana wouldn’t fill a back-cover publicity blurb.

So here’s a bit of history: While a number of musicians came and went on stage and in the studio, Nirvana was essentially Irish guitarist Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Greek composer/ keyboardist Alex Spyropoulos. Before ELO and the “progressive rock” of the ‘70s, they fused rock ensembles with baroque instruments for a then fresh approach in popular music. Their Oct. 1967 album, The Story of Simon Simopath, is widely regarded as a predecessor to concept albums by the likes of The Who and The Kinks. The LP was produced by Chris Blackwell for his then-new Island Records, and Blackwell and his legendary label play a prominent role in Psychedelic Days.

Apparently a moderately commercial success, Nirvana’s single “Rainbow Chaser” was their biggest hit in 1968, the first rock single to use flange from beginning to end (flange being the sound you hear in the Small Faces “Itchycoo Park.”)Nirvana was nonetheless a critical favorite and the group was part of the heady days of late ‘60s counter-culture. So, while Campbell-Lyons’ memoir is told from a performer’s point-of-view, the tale is essentially a whirlwind tour of what life was like experiencing the exuberance of the times in England, Greece, France, South America, Morocco, and points in between. Campbell-Lyons paints a wide canvas of just how interconnected youth culture was around the world. No matter where you hailed from, you didn’t need to be Jimi Hendrix or Mick Jagger to have a good time, and Campbell-Lyons and most of the cast of players in his book were indeed having the times of their lives. The first paragraph sets the stage:

For me and Nirvana, the ‘60s were a trip indeed. Immigration blues, Paddies, navvies, booze, dope deals, thrills and pills, rhythm & blues, guitars and groupies, Mods and Rockers, free love and flower power, bohemian swagger boys and gypsy princesses, Ealing Art College, the local scenesters at Jim Marshall’s Music Store in Hanwell, Speedy Keen, Mitch Mitchell, John McVie, Cliff Barton, Jimmy Royal, Ron Wood and Kim Gardner with the Birds, the boss guitar man Terry Slater, Pete Townshend, Pete Meaden, Vic Griffiths (the best harp player in West London), the legendary Ealing Club, the Rolling Stones, the Speakeasy in Margaret Street W1, the Limbo Club in Soho, the Bluebeat Jukebox, Blackbombers in Hyde Park, 51 Club Great Newport Street, La Gioconda CafĂ©, Denmark Street and the Tin Pan Alley publishing houses, Regent Sound, St. Martins, the musical >>Hair>>, >>You Can All Join In>>, Jimi Hendrix, Guy Stevens, Mickie Most, Hamburg’s Star Club, Paris, Belgium, Rio de Janeiro with Jimmy Cliff, Stockholm, Tangiers and the “happenings” of Morocco, Island Records and Chris Blackwell, Alex Spyropoulos and I creating the band Nirvana.

Like I said, that’s just the first paragraph, and the roller-coaster ride to follow is just what the title claims—Psychedelic Days. This is one reason readers unfamiliar with a band pretty much a footnote in rock history would enjoy this trip. It’s not an introspective personal odyssey chronicling inner torments or regrets about any addictive excesses. It’s not a vanity trip either, but rather a lively series of vivid observations from the inside looking out. That alone is something different in the genre of rock memoirs. Yes, the book has the perfect title—it’s about a time that remains unique, whether you were a concert attendee or standing behind a mic. It looks at these heady days from a perspective I’ve not encountered before, that is how the youth scene expressed itself all over the world.

If you can get homesick for an era, this book can do that. If you weren’t there, well, this is a time capsule you’ll enjoy swallowing. For more details and ordering information:

To read some samples from the book:

Now, to see if I can track down some of this unheard music—


Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton is co-host of online radio’s “Dave White Presents” which features interviews with a wide range of entertainers. Past programs are archived at He is also author of four books on espionage and runs Wes teaches English at Harrisburg Area Community College.

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