i think that donovan more than any other artist has shaped my taste in music. his folky, hippy, jazzy ways are exactly the things i love in some of my favourite contemporary artists. my parents loved donovan and i fell asleep being sung his songs so often i couldn’t begin to count. i studied his album covers and practiced drawing my own versions for tapes i made from the records. who knows, the man could be responsible for my whole fascination with psychedelia! but i want to share some of his music with you today. you probably know mellow yellow, and you might’ve seen the spoof of atlantis on futurama (hail the sunken city of atlanta!), but he has many lovely songs you possibly haven’t heard….
sunny south kensington from mellow yellow
let us begin with a very groovy song with some rockin’ harpsichord. i love the name dropping of mary quant and ginsberg! wouldn’t you die to be there?! contrast the aforementioned british scene with the LA scene of the following song…
the trip from sunshine superman
sunshine superman was one of the first full blown psychedelic pop albums and it is an awesome blend of instruments and styles. you might know the title track, but this song ‘the trip’ is a very cool, bluesy account of the west coast (USA) psychedelic scene. it reminds me a lot of creeque alley by the mamas and the papas in that its an upbeat biographical ballad that name-checks people in the scene at the time (bob dylan and “joannie” baez). fun pop cultural fact 1#: donovan wrote the excellent song the fat angel for mama cass. fun pop cultural fact #2: notice the stuttering lyrics delivered similarly to the ’my generation’ by the who? could it be these two poor english boys were stutterers? no. speed, don’t do it.
And-a all in all, the seagull said,
As I look to where I’ve been,
The whole wide human race
Has a-taken far too much Methedrine
entertaining of a shy girl from hurdy gurdy man
of course it’s not all mind bending drug-addled name dropping epics. donovan was an influence on (amongst many others) the exquisite nick drake and this song couldn’t be more of a direct line between the two. my dad would sing this song to me when i was little, because believe it or not, i was a painfully shy child. there are a lot of sweet, fey songs by donovan, inspired by pretty girls, nature or celtic folklore that lend themselves to being sung to sleepy children at bed time! other sleepytime favourites include the sun is a very magic fellow and little boy in corduroy.
ferris wheel from sunshine superman
speaking of dreamy, this is my current favourite donovan song. its blissy and the sitar and drums are just psychedelic sixties enough to make me feel like i’m hazed out on a pile of moroccan pillows.
and the moral here, if any, my friend:
follow through your dream to the end.
dig the seagull fly across the sky
to build its nest in the ferris wheel
catch the wind from catch the wind
and lastly, the very beautiful ‘catch the wind’. this slow building, soulful version of donovan’s first single is – in my opinion – so much lovlier than the bob dylan-esque original. donovan’s early recordings attracted lots of comparison’s to dylan’s work, and in the original recording of this song it seems donovan is mimicking dylan’s nasal strummy style. i’m not really a fan of bob dylan’s music – gasp, i know – so this version of ‘catch the wind’ hits me so much more. its especially dear to me in a bittersweet way because it reminds me of my dad, who passed away a little over a year ago. he sung and played this on guitar to me many times and i hope wherever he is now, his old busted up guitar ‘gertie’ is with him.
to feel you all around me,
and to take your hand, along the sand,
ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.