Early years, 1967-1971
Nirvana was created around the songwriting partnership of Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos. The original line up also included Ray Singer (guitarist), Sylvia A. Schuster (cellist), and Brian Henderson (bassist). Patrick Campbell-Lyons took lead vocals and guitar, and Alex Spyropoulos played piano. After being signed to Island in 1967, a sixth member was added: Michael Cole (French horn, viola). Island launched the band "with a live show at the Saville Theatre, sharing a bill with fellow label acts Traffic, Spooky Tooth, and Jackie Edwards."Following the chart success of their perennial single "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. Schuster eventually became principal cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.Keith Smart (guitar and sitar) was credited as a full band member on the 1996 album, consisting primarily of unreleased demos, Orange and Blue.
In October 1967, the band released its first album: a concept album produced by Blackwell titled The Story of Simon Simopath. The album was probably the first narrative concept album ever released, predating story-driven concept albums such as The Family Tree's Miss Butters (August 1968), The Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow (December 1968), The Who's Tommy (April 1969) and The Kinks' Arthur (September 1969).
Musically, the group 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.
The next year, 1968, the duo recorded their second album, All Of Us, featured a similar broad range of musical styles. In 1969, the band appeared on French television with Salvador Dalí, who splashed black paint on them during a performance of "Rainbow Chaser." Campbell-Lyons kept the jacket, but regrets that Dalí did not sign any of their paint-splashed gear. Island sent the artist an invoice for the cleaning of Schuster's cello.
Their third album, Black Flower, was rejected by Blackwell, comparing it disparagingly to Michel Legrand's A Man and a Woman. Under the title, To Markos III (named for a supposed "rich uncle" of Spyropoulos), it was released on the Pye label in May 1970, though only 250 copies were pressed it was withdrawn almost immediately due to the failure of Metromedia and not seen or heard again until 1987. One track, "Christopher Lucifer," was intended as a parody of Blackwell.
In 1971 the duo amicably separated for a while, with Campbell-Lyons the primary contributor to the next two Nirvana albums, Local Anaesthetic 1971, and Songs Of Love And Praise 1972. Campbell-Lyons subsequently worked as a solo artist and issued further albums: Me And My Friend, 1973, Electric Plough, 1981, and The Hero I Might Have Been, 1983, though these did not enjoy commercial success.
The band reunited in 1985, touring Europe and releasing a compilation album Black Flower (Bam-Caruso, 1987) which contained some new material. (Black Flower had been the working title of their third album). In the 1990s two further albums were released. Secret Theatre 1994 compiled rare tracks and demos, while Orange and Blue 1996 contained previously unreleased material including a flower-power cover of Kurt Cobain's song "Lithium" originally recorded by Cobain's grunge band of the same name, Nirvana.
The original band had filed a lawsuit in California against the Seattle grunge band in 1992. The matter was settled out of court on undisclosed terms that apparently allowed both bands to continue using the Nirvana name and issuing new recordings without any packaging disclaimers or caveats to distinguish one Nirvana from the other. In 1999, the band released a three-disc CD anthology titled "Chemistry," including several previously unreleased tracks and some new material.
Their first three albums were reissued on CD by Universal Records in 2003 and received critical acclaim. In 2005, Universal (Japan) reissued Local Anaesthetic and Songs Of Love And Praise.
As of 2009, the two members Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons are still sporadically writing and recording together