Lex on Donovan

“I Love My Shirt” was the title of the very first song I heard by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan.  It was September 1974, and I was into my first experience away from home – kindergarten.  My teacher, Mrs. Ganoux, was a music fan, and a bit of a hippie (she even encouraged me to paint a white rabbit during art-time).

She must have figured out that music tends to soothe savage 4-year-olds.  During class sing-along-time, she’d play Donovan records.  She’d teach us the chorus (so that everyone could sing together at the appropriate time), play the record, and we’d all sing.  It was fun and “I Love My Shirt” was my favorite song to sing.

(Sidebar: “I Love My Shirt” can be found on Donovan’s Barabajagal album from 1969, along side other greats like “Atlantis,” “To Susan, On The West Coast Waiting,” and the rockin’ title track, co-starring the Jeff Beck Group!)

“Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” one of Donovan’s biggest hits, was another favorite of mine.  The sound of that song still takes me back to the smell of paint, glue, and paste.  I wouldn’t hear this great Donovan track again until years later on my local L.A. “oldies” station KRTH, 101.1 FM (aka “K-Earth”).

K-Earth had something called a “Super Set 60s Weekend,” and played a 30-minute block of Donovan’s music.  I heard a song called “Epistle to Dippy,” and went absolutely bananas.  I had to have THAT song in my collection.  I quickly visited Record Retreat (my local record shop, as well as the BEST record store ever).  Along with a copy of The Hollies’ Greatest Hits, I purchased Donovan’s Greatest Hits album from 1969.

The album would stay on my turntable for about a month, and I would listen to it as I dressed for junior high school.

Besides “Epistle To Dippy,” there was “Mellow Yellow,” “Jennifer Juniper,” “Season Of The Witch,” “Sunshine Superman,” and a lot of other songs I heard on the radio.  There were also some “updated” versions of earlier songs like “Colours” and “Catch The Wind,” that were more lengthy and “jammy” that I thought were just as good as the originals.

(Sidebar: The later versions of “Colours” and “Catch The Wind” are no longer available on the expanded CD version of Donovan’s Greatest Hits album.  The originals take their place, which is kinda sad to my music mind – the later versions fit the overall album better.)

It was at this time that I turned into a record junkie.

I started making lists of 60’s records to find during my weekend record shop hunts.  I left one of these lists in a school folder, and left the folder in my 9th grade World History class.  These lists were found by my teacher, Ms. Beck (aka Harriet, aka Hara, aka Momma B).  She asked if the lists were part of a project for my English class.  I told her that I was searching for Donovan records.

She looked at the list (written with horrible teenage scrawl) and said, “Well, I have this one, this one, that one, and I should still have this one if I didn’t lose it during the divorce.” She also offered to loan me her out-of-print Donovan discs so I could transfer them to cassette.

Harriet had original copies of albums like What It Is (a compilation of early Donovan on the old Hickory label) Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, which featured the pop hits, plus album tracks that were innovative, ingenious, and meticulously textured blending of disparate genres such as jazz and folk and rock (not to mention medieval, Indian, and Caribbean music).

And he’s even the co-vocalist on “Billion Dollar Babies” by Alice Cooper.  How cool is that?  Very!

May 10th finds Donovan celebrating another year of life.  Happy birthday, Donovan!  Thanks for giving me some of the music from which I sprang; thanks for the drive to discover more about the decade from which I sprang; and thanks for my connection to Momma B, from which a fairly large chunk of my “musical self” sprang.

Yet again, another sidebar: I have a wall that is dedicated to album cover art.  Within the display’s checkerboard pattern, you will find Harriet’s original copy of Mellow Yellow.  If you haven’t seen the cool pop art on the front of the cover (or that cool shot of young Donovan sporting his white Edwardian double-breasted jacket), check it out sometime.  It inspires!

Please note: the original release date of Mellow Yellow is March, 1967.

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).

Currently listening:
Mellow Yellow
By Donovan
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~ by Poppermost on May 11, 2009.

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