Nirvana: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 17, 2021

287) Nirvana — “Pentecost Hotel”

Steven McDonald surmises in All Music Guide that “[i]t must have been a rude surprise for Kurt Cobain and company to be hit with a lawsuit over the name of their band once they became internationally successful.” Yes, Nirvana from the 60’s sued Nirvana from the 90’s. Was this a SNL skit? Like their audiences overlapped! Talk about samsara! Stewart Mason, also in AMG, says that:

One of the most entertaining things to do on websites that allow customer reviews of CDs is read the apoplectic fury Kurt Cobain’s fans have for the original Nirvana, the cultily-adored British psych-pop group from the late ’60s. Much of that misguided and ill-informed venom seems to be directed toward . . . Nirvana’s 1967 debut [album, The Story of Simon Simopath].

Smells like teen spleen! In any event, McDonald goes on:

Nirvana appeared in 1967 . . . led by Patrick Campbell-Lyons from Ireland, and Alex Spyropoulos from Greece. They were quickly signed to the fledgling Island label . . . when [Chris] Blackwell recognized a need to hook into the exploding psychedelic genre of the time. The first LP to emerge was the science-fiction concept album The Story of Simon Simopath, which yielded their second single, “Pentecost Hotel” . . . . The band’s early performances yielded something of an audience, but this did not translate into explosive sales in England or America, though the band achieved some success in Europe.

Mason nails Simopath:

An unashamedly twee early concept album, The Story of Simon Simopath . . . sounds, like most rock concept albums, like a collection of unconnected songs forced together by the story written in the liner notes. Ignoring the rather silly story (something about a boy who wishes he could fly), what’s left is a regrettably brief but uniformly solid set of well-constructed psych-pop tunes with attractive melodies and rich, semi-orchestrated arrangements.

As does Jim Wirth:

A head-shop fairytale, it charts the adventures of a depressed youngster who finds happiness on the far side of the cosmos after becoming a space pilot, its monstrous tweeness mitigated by brilliant, primary-coloured songs . . . .

uncut.co.uk/reviews/album/nirvana-songlife-1967-72-129643/?amp

Wirth notes that “Pentecost Hotel” is the “lush centrepiece” of Simopath, “promis[ing] a refuge for ‘people with a passport of insanity’, a moving exemplar of how Nirvana hinted at emotional fragility behind their crushed-velvet wall of sound.” And Melanie Blue’s liner notes to the CD reissue of Simopath effuses that “‘Pentecost Hotel’ boast[s] a superb orchestral score . . . combining a haunting melody with a sing-a-long chorus — perfect pop!” Yes, yes it is. But, as Blue’s notes note, “No dice! Radio One was having none of it — although over in Europe sales were much better.”

I would have loved to see a mash-up of the two Nirvanas. Imagine Cobain setting “Pentecost Hotel”‘s lyrics to music! —

There underneath blue waves, the sunrise spreads blue rays and Pentecost Hotel sheds all its cobwebs. Explosion of the stars upon the sea in red and all the guests had seen the water fireworks. And in the lobby, Magdalena is friendly to all the people with a passport of insanity. And seven sirens are a-dancing to music in Pentecost Hotel. Strange viaduct of beams, take me to all your dreams and leave me there as master of the ocean.

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