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Sunshine Superman


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Sunshine Superman _________________________________________________



When the MC at the start of a 1967 performance described Donovan as a phenomenon, it was perhaps inappropriate (albeit symptomatic of the times) that he chose to cite the singer’s command over the elements.  The MC recalled how, at an earlier show, Donovan had suggested to the audience that some concerted applause might banish the rain.  That the rain did soon cease doubtless had more to do with the canny Scotsman keeping one eye on the clouds, than the extraordinary powers of a Sunshine Superman.

But in many other respects the Donovan of 1967 was indeed a phenomenon, especially in the United States.  During the previous year the 20-year-old singer had enjoyed massive hit singles there with Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow.  Over the next three years he followed through with a string of albums and singles that were startling in both their compositional strength and also their diversity of style.  Between 1966 and 1969 Donovan enjoyed 10 successive US Top 40 hits (including one chart-topper and five further Top 20 entries), and his tours of North America, taking in venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, were amongst the highest grossing of the period.  Donovan also enjoyed considerable success in other major markets like Europe and the Far East.  At home he had seven successive UK Top 30 hit singles (with all but the last two making the Top 10).

Donovan’s contribution to pop music needs to be understood both in the context of that era and also in isolation from it, allowing the songs and performances to speak for themselves.  Commentators on pop history frequently underplay Donovan’s significance by portraying him as a bandwagon-jumper (Dylan wannabe, hippy by numbers) rather than innovator.  Donovan’s misfortune was to be the UK’s highest-profile folksinger at a time when most young folksingers were either heavily influenced by Dylan or at least mining the same rich seam of North American folk and blues songs.  He soon found his own voice and was making forays into psychedelia ahead of most his contemporaries, although circumstances conspired to make it look otherwise.

Some critics dismiss Donovan as a reminder of a long-gone, naive and somehow even regrettable era.  And from the perspective of ages less innocent or optimistic than the 60s, the kaftan-clad figure of Donovan, performing his gentle songs to the devoted thousands, is an image that’s easy to mock.  But the stature of Donovan’s 60s songbook is borne out by the sheer quantity and diversity of cover versions that he immediately attracted and which have continued to emerge ever since.

The late 80s brought a revival of interest in Donovan, which was due at least in part to his association with The Happy Mondays and perhaps also by an affinity felt by the rave generation with a survivor of an earlier blissed-out era.  More recently musicians have been attracted to his 60s recordings, not just for the songs themselves, but also for the sheer musicality of the performances.  Donovan’s pop and folk sensibility was fused with jazz and chamber instrumentation, at a time when solo pop acts were expected to pick at a solitary guitar, integrate with the prevalent group sound, or slug it out with an orchestra.

Donovan’s career between December 1965 and the close of the decade – the period covered by EMI’s series of expanded reissues – begins and ends with changes in the artist’s personal and professional relationships, changes which were to have a significant impact on his music during those intervening years and which go some way to explain his lower profile in the subsequent decade.  For although Donovan was to sign a highly lucrative new deal with Epic – and although he enjoyed further commercial and creative success – the 70s were to prove far less hospitable to Donovan.

The most obvious changes during the period under scrutiny were the beginning and ending of Donovan’s associations with producer Mickie Most and arranger John Cameron.  This partnership crafted performances that are widely regarded as the finest of Donovan’s long and varied career.  However, it is also interesting to conjecture on the impact of Linda Lawrence on Donovan’s creativity.

In February 1965 Donovan previewed his debut single on Ready, Steady, Go!  This was his third consecutive appearance on the must-see television show.  In the green room after his first appearance, the 18-year-old songwriter had met and danced with a young model, Linda Lawrence.  He was smitten.  “I wrote the song before I met Linda,” says Donovan of Catch The Wind, “yet it was about losing her.  Premonition?  Or is it what yoga teachings say, that there is only the present moment: the past and the future are here all the time.  We fell in love, and all that year of 1965 we were together off and on as my career exploded.  We parted, to meet again as the 60s ended.”

The absence of Donovan’s true love was to prove a constant source of inspiration in the years 1965 to 1969.  Perhaps there is some truth in the old cliché that songwriters are at their most creative when they are hungry for someone or something.  By 1970, when Donovan and Linda were finally united, maybe that hunger was assuaged.  However, setting aside these changes in personal and professional relationships, it was perhaps inevitable that an artist who was as conspicuously “in” as Donovan was in the late 60s would become just as resolutely “out” by the mid 70s.  An artist as closely associated with the hippy optimism of the “summer of love” as Donovan would have no place in the era of slick West Coast sounds, hard rock and disco, let alone punk.

EMI’s series of reissues bypasses A Gift from a Flower to a Garden and Donovan in Concert, because no material is available to expand these albums.  However, Donovan’s four remaining studio albums from the Mickie Most years are considerably enhanced by the inclusion of all seven non-album singles, 14 outtakes or alternate takes (all but three previously unreleased) plus the first official appearance of 13 demo recordings.

This body of work bore rich commercial fruits, but in critical terms too this period has come to be regarded as Donovan’s most fertile.  Sunshine Superman is regularly cited as one of the finest albums of the psychedelic era (benefiting from sessions in the two key recording centres of the time, London and Los Angeles).  Recorded entirely in London, the Mellow Yellow album lacked the edgy quality of those Los Angeles sessions, but compensated with an exquisite selection of John Cameron arrangements.  Indeed, with the single exception of Elton John, Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster in the early 70s, it’s hard to think of a more fortunate marriage of singer-songwriter, producer and arranger in the history of British pop than Donovan, Most and Cameron.

Subsequent studio albums like A Gift from a Flower to a Garden and The Hurdy Gurdy Man also contained a wealth of strong material and contributions from fine session players like Harold McNair and Danny Thompson, while later hit singles Hurdy Gurdy Man, Atlantis and Barabajagal found Donovan pushing into new, more rock-oriented areas with dynamic results.

In 2005 Donovan remains an engaging presence in concert.  Inspiration may strike less often than it did in that whirlwind of creativity that was the 60s, but Donovan continues to add to his catalogue of memorable songs.  New albums and tours may be less frequent than once was the case, but you can while away the time by enjoying EMI’s thorough survey of Donovan’s Atlantean age.

Hail Donovan!


part one.  sunshine super-duper man: a collapsed love affair no less.  the legend of the girl-child linda: a tale for ageing children.  twelve kingfishers: dive-a flash of turquoise-brilliants into the pool (summer-donoleitcho’s island).  the ferris wheel: from the kingdom of the green witch, a girl spoke of how she’d gotten her hair caught in a wheel of sorts.  I’ve been looking through ice-blue shades: someday my princess will come (soon please).

part two.  the season of the witch: starring mr. plod in action with a daughter of the evil land of mordor.  the trip: is a hub of life, a club of life in the vest coat of the americas.  the lady guinevere: all of a sudden i was there, 400 a.d., hiding like a child watching…  the fat angel: appeared to me on visit to los angeles.  celeste is my name for the lady weaver of all the skies who weaves our fates on a silver loom in the silent room of eternal love.


“dedicated to the bearer of the eastern gift.”

1  Sunshine Superman

2  Legend Of A Girl Child Linda

3  Three Kingfishers 

4  Ferris Wheel

5  Bert's Blues  3:57

6  Season Of The Witch  4:56

7  The Trip  4:34

8  Guinevere

9  The Fat Angel  4:10

10  Celeste  4:08

Bonus Tracks

11  Breezes Of Patchulie

12  Museum {First Version}  2:50

13  Superlungs {First Version}

14  The Land Of Doesn't Have To Be

15  Sunshine Superman {Stereo Version}

16  Good Trip {Demo}  1:34

17  House Of Jansch {Demo}  2:46

All tracks composed by Donovan Leitch and published by Donovan Music Ltd (MCPS). All tracks mono except tracks 14 & 15.

Digital Remasters (P) 2005. The copyright in this sound recording is owned by EMI Records Ltd. except tracks 14, 16 & 17 (P) 2005. The copyright in this sound recording is owned by EMI Records Ltd.
(P) 2005. The copyright in this compilation is owned by EMI Records Ltd.
© 2005 EMI Records Ltd.

This label copy information is the subject of copyright protection. All rights reserved.
© 2005 EMI Records Ltd.


Sunshine Superman:
The Mickie Most Years Part I
(December 1965 to September 1966)

By December 1965, just nine months after the release of his first single, Donovan had notched up three hit singles and two hit albums on either side of the Atlantic.  Now he embarked on a new and highly fruitful phase of his career, recording a song which would be his first release in the States on a major label and represent a marked change of direction from his earlier, acoustic recordings.  The producer at this session, Mickie Most. was just one of a number of influential music industry figures to have entered Donovan’s life over the previous few months.

The first significant move had probably been made back in July.  In his autobiography Clive Davis recalls sending top talent scout John Hammond to check out Donovan’s performance at Newport Folk Festival.  At that time Donovan’s US outlet was the relatively small Hickory label.  Davis was a fast rising employee of CBS, a major broadcasting and record company with Bob Dylan, the Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel already on its roster.

Also that summer high profile New York music business accountant Allen Klein witnessed one of Donovan’s appearances on TV.  “Klein saw my potential early,” confirms Donovan.  “Three months after Catch The Wind I was on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in New York.  The US were quick to see that my work was strong.  Klein commented later that, when I refused to ‘cheesecake’ at the finale with the other performers on the show, he made a note to watch my progress.”  Klein managed the US business affairs of record producer Mickie Most and suggested to Most that he should contact Donovan, with a view to working with him.

Michael Peter Hayes was born in 1938 and performed with Alex Wharton as the Most Brothers in the 50s.  The name Mickie Most stuck when he relocated to his fiancée’s native South Africa in 1959.  Here he continued to pursue a career in pop music, acquiring some knowledge of the recording process and experiencing considerable chart success fronting a covers band called The Playboys.  Returning to Britain he enjoyed a minor hit in his own right with Mister Porter in 1963, but soon turned to production work, with spectacular results.

As well as working on the earliest and biggest hits of the Nashville Teens (Tobacco Road and Google Eye), Most commenced a highly successful partnership with Herman’s Hermits, which was to last from 1964 to 1970 and include 20 UK hits. 1964 also found Most working with the Animals, but by the time of their seventh hit single in October 1965, producer and group had parted company.  It is likely that Most was on the look-out for an addition to his roster of artists and maybe this was why Klein proposed the get-together with Donovan.

Early in October Donovan’s solicitor announced the termination of his client’s contract with Peter Eden and Geoff Stephens.  As well as managing Donovan thus far, Eden and Stephens, together with Terry Kennedy, had been credited as the producers of all his records.  By the end of the month Donovan’s US tour, which was to have included a prestigious Carnegie Hall date with Joan Baez, had been cancelled due to a switch in agency from Aussie Newman to the Vic Lewis Organisation.

In November, Ashley Kozak was announced as Donovan’s business manager, with Donovan’s father Donald nominated as his personal manager.  The introduction to Kozak came courtesy of London-based US musician Shawn Phillips, who had befriended Donovan in a music store earlier that year.  Later that month Eden and Stephens responded to these developments by serving a High Court writ on Donovan, preventing him from working with Vic Lewis and Donald Leitch.

By November Klein, apparently now acting as Donovan’s US business manager, was conjecturing that Hickory and Pye might cease to be Donovan’s labels for the US and UK respectively.  He also revealed that the artist was having negotiations with Mickie Most.  By this time Most had heard Sunny Goodge Street, a jazz-classical fusion that was the standout track on Donovan’s newly-released fairytale album.  Sunny Goodge Street was the only one of Donovan’s recordings to date to have integrated an arrangement more sophisticated than acoustic guitar, bass and drums.  (Although the original single version of Catch The Wind featured an orchestra, its presence was low in the mix, seemingly overdubbed as commercial insurance for an untested artist.)

One of Sunny Goodge Street’s verses – “the magician he sparkles in satin and velvet/you gaze at his splendour with eyes you’ve not used yet’ll tell you his name is love… love… love…” – graced the cover of fairytale, serving notice of the coming era of psychedelia and flower power.  From the vantage point of 2003 Donovan observed, “I will always be grateful for [producer/arranger] Terry Kennedy’s encouragement of my breakthrough song Sunny Goodge Street.  I seem to have been the first with this fusion and the lyric is the herald of the new consciousness.”

Mickie Most, for one, was interested in pursuing that direction further with Donovan.  “I thought, yes, I could be of some assistance,” Most recalled for BBC Radio 2’s ‘The Donovan Story’ in 1995.  “Good writer, I thought he was a good writer.  I liked the songs.  I liked his approach and I liked his lyrics.  He was very hip at the time, I thought.”

Between 2.00 and 5.00 in the afternoon of Sunday December 19, in Studio 3 at EMI Abbey Road, Mickie Most and Donovan worked together for the first time.  Although the resultant recording was initially announced to the press as For John & Paul, the song’s lyrics name-checked Superman and Green Hornet rather than the Beatles.  Donovan admits his youthful infatuation with comics, but adds that “to be a Sunshine Superman was far beyond brawn and brains and x-ray sight.  The Superman I was describing is the full potential we can all discover within.”  However the song’s chief inspiration was Linda Lawrence.  “My tempestuous affair with Linda Lawrence had started in the spring,” Donovan recalled for the BBC in 1995, “had gone all the way through the summer, with me falling deeper and deeper in love with this girl who I realised – slowly – had a child [and] who had been with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones for two years and no marriage.”

Linda was reluctant to commit herself to another relationship, particularly with a musician.  “This broke my heart, so she went to America and she lived in California and 1 went over to visit her and wanted her to come back with me.  Then I realised this was not going to happen.  She needed time.  She needed space.  And inside the lyric it spoke of how we were going to get together, but I didn’t know when.”  Despite, or maybe because of, her absence, Linda was to remain Donovan’s muse, with many subsequent songs taking inspiration from her.

Also present at the recording session was a young keyboard player and arranger.  “Mickie had heard Sunny Goodge Street and my experiments with jazz and folk,” remembers Donovan, “so when I played him Sunshine Superman and explained the Latin-classical harpsichord ideas he introduced me to the master arranger, John Cameron.”

“I was working as a cabaret artist at a club called Take One, a jazz supper club,” Cameron explains.  “The bass player there was Spike Heatley, Tony Carr was on drums, Ronnie Ross was on saxophone and Bill Le Sage on keyboards and vibes.  Spike was friends with Ashley Kozak, who had recently become Don’s manager and Spike came in one night and said, ‘Don’s got a new song he wants arranged: do you fancy us doing it?’”

Cameron’s first professional recording sessions had been arranging, conducting and playing on World Record Club albums of Hello Dolly! and Mary Poppins, but working with Donovan was his first “pop” session.  He had read history and music at Cambridge and worked as a professional musician in the holidays, providing arrangements for the bands with which he played.

At Cambridge, Cameron was vice president and musical director of the Footlights at the same time that Python/Rutle-to-be Eric Idle was president.  “He and I wrote a lot of pastiches of Beatles tunes… we actually wrote a thing called I Want to Hold Your Handel, which was the Hallelujah Chorus for the Beatles.  Unfortunately Messrs Lennon and McCartney weren’t very happy about their songs being pastiched in this way and wouldn’t allow us to do it on English territory, which was a drag, but it did go on to Broadway.  Eric and I used to receive royalty cheques at the Footlights in our third year at university, which put us in a rather different spending league to anybody else!”

Cameron and Heatley went to meet Donovan who, Cameron recalls, had been inspired by witnessing the Beatles, or perhaps specifically Paul McCartney, at work in the studio and was keen to move away from the sound of Catch The Wind to something with more of a rock feel to it.  “He played us Sunshine Superman, and Spike and I went off and decided to use two bass players, double keyboard Morley harpsichord and various other tricks.”  Cameron explains that the combination of double bass and bass guitar “gave us, pre-synthesizers, a lot of depth and a lot of different textures at the bottom end.”

At the recording session Cameron and Heatley were joined by top session guitarist Eric Ford, the experienced jazz and big band drummer Bobby Orr and Tony Carr on percussion.  Donovan played acoustic guitar as usual.  Cameron cannot remember who played bass guitar at this session (he recalls working with Herbie Flowers on later dates), but John Paul Jones has claimed the role.  Jones was an in-demand arranger and bass player at this time, often working with another of Most’s acts, Herman’s Hermits.  It has been suggested that Jimmy Page, Jones’s future colleague in Led Zeppelin and at that time a prolific session musician, also contributed some guitar to Sunshine Superman.

The record was readied for UK release in January 1966 on Donovan’s existing label Pye.  However, it was pushed back a week and then dropped from Pye’s schedule with the explanation that the label could not release a Mickie Most production in the UK, as the producer was under contract to EMI.  In the States, where Clive Davis had secured Donovan’s signature to a deal with CBS, Mickie Most’s involvement was not problematic, as the producer already had contracts with both CBS and MGM.  The US deal guaranteed Donovan $20,000 each year for the next five years.

Despite the uncertainty over future releases in the UK, Donovan and Most returned to the studio at the end of the month to cut three more songs and further tracks were laid down in February.  Next Donovan flew to New York for his scheduled date at Carnegie Hall, before traveling to Toronto for a concert and then on to Los Angeles.  Filming for US TV shows included a performance of the as yet unrecorded Guinevere for ‘Hullabaloo!’

Meanwhile back in the UK, in place of the new song, Pye released an old track, Josie, as a single against Donovan’s wishes and to the public’s indifference.  “I know it was rather bizarre,” John Cameron says of this hiatus, “because we cut Sunshine Superman and then there was a dispute as to who actually managed Don, so it all got put on ice for a bit.  He went off to America.  I went back to the Watford Palace Theatre to do pantomime!”

Donovan was back in the States in the spring.  He and Most recorded eight songs over three days in Hollywood in April, returning to the studio for a further day’s work in early May.  The sessions appear to have been a spur-of-the-moment idea, with the original purpose of Donovan’s visit being a 10-day residency (with Shawn Phillips also on the bill) at a happening club on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

“I was working in The Trip, I think, the club where all the jazz and new folk-rock events were playing,” remembers Donovan.  “Everyone turned up (and maybe turned on) to my Trip appearance – actors, directors, musos, dancers, painters, writers – it was the event of May 1966 in Hollywood.  I picked up a band for the appearance: I was introduced to a few LA musos through John Phillips of The Mamas And The Papas and we experimented in Columbia Studios, LA.”  It was probably during this visit that Donovan was filmed for Pete Seeger’s TV show ‘Rainbow Quest’, performing My Sweet Joy, Colours (with Seeger on banjo), Three Kingfishers and Guinevere (both with Shawn Phillips on sitar).

In June Donovan’s career took a setback when police (doubtless incensed by the sight of Donovan and friends smoking pot on the ‘Boy Called Donovan’ documentary aired on TV back in January) raided the singer’s London flat in the early hours.  The following day Donovan (who apparently had leapt naked at a policeman, in an attempt to stall the raid), Gypsy Dave, Ashley Kozak and Doreen Samuels were charged with possession of cannabis at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court and remanded on bail.  In July Donovan and Gypsy Dave were fined £250 and £50 respectively and Samuels was placed on probation for a year.

Donovan’s first single under his new deal, now titled Sunshine Superman, eventually materialised in the US in July.  Eric Ford’s distinctive guitar sound was achieved by moving a DeArmond foot pedal rapidly between the bass and treble settings, a technique previously employed on Dave Berry’s The Crying Game to create a weeping effect.  The pioneering nature of this slice of psychedelic pop, with its catchy bass intro (quickly echoed by the harpsichord) and nagging electric guitar, has been obscured by the six-month gap between its recording and release.  In the UK, the wait would be protracted still further.  To put the recording in context with other developments in pop, The Byrds’ first attempt to record Eight Miles High took place in Hollywood on December 22, 1965 (just three days after Sunshine Superman was recorded) and the hit version was cut in January of the New Year.  The Beatles’ album Revolver was recorded in April and May 1966, at the same time Donovan was completing his first album with Most.

Dating from the Hollywood sessions, flipside The Trip employs a rhythm section of Bobby Ray (bass guitar) and “Fast” Eddie Hoh (drums), plus Cyrus Faryar of The Modern Folk Quartet on electric violin, and, presumably, Donovan on electric guitar.  Taking its name from the Los Angeles club, this marries a churning sound to a whirling kaleidoscope of impressions, with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez getting name-checked alongside references to methadrine, Alice’s Wonderland and Arthurian imagery.

Donovan’s court date deprived him of his permanent entry visa to the US, although it soon transpired that he could travel on a temporary one, if granted by the US embassy in London.  This further complication may have been behind the cancellation of a visit to the USA, intended to coincide with the release of the single.  Obtaining a visa to visit the USA was to remain problematic for Donovan, who was unable to take up an invitation to perform at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of the following year.  (As late as 1996, Donovan was obliged to reschedule a North American tour, after being refused a visa.)

Despite Donovan’s absence from the country, Sunshine Superman was a massive success in the USA, entering the Hot 100 by the end of July and eventually topping the chart on September 3.  Meanwhile an end to the contractual deadlock in the UK was expected soon, with Pye looking likely to remain Donovan’s domestic label.  During August Kozak reported that he was hopeful of the single’s release before long, following a settlement between Pye and Iver Records over back royalties.  In August Mellow Yellow was recorded in London.  Unable to promote the Sunshine Superman single in the USA and with its UK release still thwarted, Donovan and Gypsy Dave took off for the Greek island of Paros.

The Sunshine Superman album charted in the USA in September.  The front cover carried a photo of Donovan sporting a nifty button-collar paisley shirt, framed with art nouveau lettering and foliage.  On the reverse, the album title appeared in a stylized circular design by Mick Taylor and Sheena McCall, headed with the message “dedicated to the bearer of the eastern gift”.  There was also some impressionistic prose by Donovan, alluding to each song in turn.

All of Donovan’s albums of this era featured distinctive artwork.  “I was the first of my period to actively get involved with the cover art, while bands were leaping up and down in bomb sites,” claims Donovan (alluding to the over-familiar “jump for joy” images favored by photographers during the beat group era).  However, Donovan would not get his preferred design for Sunshine Superman until the album’s belated release in the UK.  “The two artists Mick Taylor and Sheena McCall designed the cover for Sunshine Superman, an illustrated ‘S’, but Epic in New York wanted a photo, which Barry Feinstein took, and in doing so Barry introduced my Romantic image to the world.  But Epic also allowed an Art Nouveau design by Dick Smith, whom I did not know.  So my art was vetoed for a photo and someone else’s art.  The Barry Feinstein photo was great though.

“The UK version of the album eventually was the original art.  I met Mick through Shawn.  Mick was American, loved Tim Hardin and I learned London Town from Mick.  This song was a derivative of Tim’s Green Rocky Road.  Mick lived with Sheena, a lovely English rose.  They both were great illustrators and complimented each other when they illustrated my songs for the many albums we did together as a team.”

The album included two tracks recorded in London in February 1966, both arranged by John Cameron for harpsichord, strings and woodwind.  The six-and-a-half minute Legend of a Girl Child Linda is an 18-verse fairy tale, with Linda Lawrence doubtless the inspiration for the title.  Bert’s Blues adds double bass, drums, percussion and saxophone to the musical palette, as well as distinct Bert Jansch-style vocal mannerisms.  “You were never (with Donovan) presented with something where you thought, ‘Oh, we’ll just put strings and choir behind that’.” recalls John Cameron, when asked about the challenge posed by a song like Bert’s Blues.  “It was always like a well constructed play.  You thought, ‘Who can we put in opposition to the main character of the song?’”

Sessions for the six remaining tracks, recorded in Hollywood in the spring of 1966, tapped a pool of musicians including Bobby Ray (bass), Eddie Hoh (drums), Cyrus Faryar (violin) and Shawn Phillips (sitar).  “Candy” John Carr, Donovan’s percussionist for his engagement at The Trip, may well have been present too.  Three Kingfishers (its title seemingly a typo for Twelve Kingfishers), Ferris Wheel, Guinevere and The Fat Angel are all acoustic affairs.  Sitar and hand percussion (underpinned by bass on Ferris Wheel and The Fat Angel) contribute to the trippy, exotic atmosphere.  Guinevere is an exquisite, melancholic evocation of Camelot.  The Fat Angel, a benign ode to an LA dealer, name-checks nascent San Francisco band Jefferson Airplane, who promptly incorporated the song into their live set.

Season of the Witch sees the rhythm section augmented by an unidentified organist, while Donovan switches to electric guitar.  Asked whether the song’s title was inspired by The Sea Witch – a rival to The Trip on Sunset Strip – Donovan replies, “I don’t recall the other club, but the Witch song is one of a rare few that are prophetic: the event I sang of was the time I became the first drug bust in Britain.”

Donovan’s sleeve note for this track (“starring mr. plod in action with a daughter of the evil land of mordor”) clearly alludes to his drug bust, which Donovan has suggested may have been set up by a girlfriend of Gypsy Dave.  Although the raid occurred after the recording of the track, there is certainly an air of menace and paranoia to this remarkable song.  Central to this recording is the prominent bass part.  Most was only able to obtain this after he had overcome the protests of a US engineer – nervous for the safety of his studio speaker – by threatening to raise the issue with the president of CBS.  The finest album of Donovan’s career has been the source of many cover versions, with Season of the Witch attracting the most attention, most notably from Al Kooper (in collaboration with Stephen Stills) and Brian Auger & the Trinity with Julie Driscoll.

Sunshine Superman did not constitute a massive leap forward in Donovan’s song writing.  The most ambitious material on his last album, fairytale, had already abandoned conventional storytelling in favour of a more impressionistic, almost stream-of-consciousness style.  However, with the exception of the closing track Celeste (an irresistibly romantic concoction, with violin, harpsichord and tinkling celeste), straightforward love songs were now absent, while the lyrics and the musicality of the material were complimented by the skills of Mickie Most and John Cameron.

Most recognized that Donovan’s lyrics and vocals could be the basis for some distinctive pop records.  “He had this wonderful way of making complicated lyrics sound so simple,” he recalled for the BBC in the 90s.  “The microphone does like his voice.  And it communicates.  It’s warm.  The way I recorded it was very close, so the microphone and his voice were like half an inch apart.  And you got that kind of almost in-the-room feel.  And the songs, some of them lyrically and choral-ly were quite different, but he had a way of being able to get his message over, so to me he was a wonderful storyteller.”

Most identified the final ingredient in Donovan’s winning formula as the acoustic guitar.  “At that time he had a Gibson J45,” he told the BBC, “which was a magical guitar – unfortunately it got stolen on an American tour – but it was a very, very good sounding guitar as far as the recording [went]: the microphones liked it.

“You have to find instruments that are sympathetic to an acoustic that’s EQ’d up to make it sound beefy, and some of those Indian instruments, the sitars especially – strings with strings – work very well.  Of course guitar with flute works very well and we used celeste and cor anglais, those kinds of instruments because they were sympathetic to the acoustic guitar.”

Cameron’s distinctive arrangements were markedly different from the kitchen sink orchestral affairs that were to smother the efforts of many singer-writers in the mid to late 60s.  “The nice thing was that the songs…never demanded huge orchestras,” explains Cameron.  “They were always chamber pieces, so one could really be quite adventurous as to what was used: bass clarinet, vibes and harpsichord.  Mickie was probably quite brave but at the same time I think it was the way Don wanted to do it, to keep it individual and use one sound if that was the absolutely essential sound, rather than a layer of sound.  Mickie always worked on the premise that if there’s one really good hook sound, that’s all you need.”

Outtakes from sessions for the album include The Land of Doesn’t Have to Be.  Featuring an uncharacteristic beat group sound, this is an entirely different work to the song of the same title on Donovan’s A Gift from a Flower to a Garden.  Museum would be re-recorded for Donovan’s next album, but this is a lighter version, with flute instead of violin and some later-abandoned references in the lyrics to Alice in Wonderland.  The first of Donovan’s three attempts at Superlungs has a West Coast sound dominated by an organ.  Also recorded in Hollywood, the lengthy, melancholic Breezes of Patchulie had originally been known as The Darkness of My Night, under which title it appeared as an obscure single by Trisha in 1965.  Donovan’s original version surfaced on the Sixty Four collection of early demos in 2004.  Versions of Good Time (under the working title of Good Trip) and House of Jansch both date from October 1966, when Donovan demoed material; for his eagerly awaited second album with Most.

– Lorne Murdoch

Research & compilation: Tim Chacksfield
Project co-ordination: Tim Chacksfield and Paula Flack
Bonus track mixes, and remastering by Peter Mew at Abbey Road

Original US sleeve design (booklet front) by Dick Smith
Original UK sleeve design (booklet back) by Mick Taylor and Sheena McCall
Photographs by Jack Pia (pages 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 15 & 18),
and Barry Plummer (page 16 and inside tray)
CD package design by Phil Smee at Waldos Design & Dream Emporium

A special thanks to Donovan for his assistance with this project.
The official Donovan website: www.donovan.ie

Thanks to Andrew Morris for his help; to Tom Grierson & Davy McGowan at Get Thy Bearings fanzine: getthybearings@btinternet.com

Also to Mike Zarro & Karen Schwartz at The Everlasting Sea www.everlastingsea.com
and Ade www.sabotage.demon.co.uk/donovan

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