On The Radio

 

 

This is not my image – it’s from Google Images

 

Last night I drank just a little too much tequila. Maybe that’s why this morning I felt a bit raw and emotional. But that’s how I felt while we were enjoying Breakfast With The Beatles (raw and emotional).

Nearly every Sunday morning we enjoy the program, courtesy of my sister, (thank you, Eileen) on Sirius radio. Today’s program was especially good – the host had chosen songs that seemed to me to flow really well together. There are often a couple of surprises as well, and today was no exception. Donovan was a special guest. As a child of the sixties I grew up knowing the sound of his voice, and liking his songs very much. But today I more fully realized how much I was affected by the music he gave us.

Donovan then – from Google Images

 

There was always one song that deeply moved me. When I was seventeen or eighteen I had major surgery to shorten a leg that was mysteriously more than an inch longer than the other leg. (Evidently a genetic thing, as my brother had a similar difference in leg length). Years later it seems a medieval idea to correct this with surgery. Medieval as it may have been, there I was in the hospital, on heavy pain medications and I had a little device to call the nurse if necessary. It was was equipped with a radio, clipped to my pillow (remember that, anyone?) and tuned to sounds of the mid-sixties. I kept it on night and day for company.

One night around midnight I was dreaming waking morphine dreams and Donovan’s new song “Hurdy Gurdy Man” was playing though the tiny speaker. The night nurse had not yet closed the curtains and I could see out into the night. It seemed that I was looking into time and the words of the song reached out and grabbed my imagination. The sweet clear voice seemed to speak directly to me, and I felt that I really understood the role of us performing musicians in everyday lives. There was also a guitar making sounds I simply had never heard the likes of before; unbeautiful, raw, emotional sounds that went right to my heart. At the time I knew nothing about the guitar player – it just seemed then that it had been planned as part of the arrangement of the performance.

And today, in April of 2012, there was Donovan on the air speaking with Chris Carter, the program host, about his recollections of events that had happened many years ago with the Beatles in India and in the recording studio. My impression of him was that he is really an “artist” – a bit fey and clever, and – just, well, different.

Donovan willingly agreed to sing, right there in the studio. He played his acoustic guitar energetically and sang wonderfully well. And he sang  “The sunshine came softly through my window today…” from Sunshine Superman and I was catapulted straight back to the sixties.  He followed that performance later with “Mellow Yellow” (quite right-ly)

Then he sang “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. The host asked him about the “lost verse” of the song that was omitted in the recording. The verse had been written by George Harrison while they were in India. Donovan explained that all the musicians, while they were there together in India had sung for each other, and he had sung the song for George who told him that he, George, could write a verse for the song. Then Donovan recited the verse for us who were listening. It seemed to me to fit perfectly into the song. And Donovan explained why he had not included the verse when he recorded the song. During those days there was an exact length that each commercial song was to have, and the verse would have made the song too long.

Here is George Harrison’s verse:
When the truth gets buried deep
Beneath the thousand years of sleep
Time demands a turn-around
And once again the truth is found
Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Who comes singing songs of love.

As Donovan recited the verse, I wiped away tears for the dead musician who wrote it over 40 years ago, and for the little hole in my life where the words could have been living for decades.

I had never heard of the extra verse. In the sixties I was a young musician hoping and planning to continue music studies. This came to pass (thank you, Mother and Daddy and Grandma). But in those days I knew next to nothing about the details of lives of musicians and the creative, bubbling fermentation of music of the times. I knew the songs, but not their makers. Many years later, Chon told me about how Jeff Beck had been in the studio that day, casually and by chance, and had added the iconic guitar part that had stunned me that night in the hospital. I had had no idea of this collaboration, nor of the friendships of the musicians during that magical time in Britain.

Donovan more recently – from Google Images
So thank you, Donovan, for sharing your recollections, and for singing songs for us today that you must have sung literally hundreds of times in the last 40 years. Thank you for making it as real as when the music was new. It was wonderful to hear your voice again.

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