Throwback Thursday: ‘Sunshine Superman’

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This month’s Throwback Thursday is based on the 1960’s – The decade that changed everything.

This week we look at Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan

This week for Throwback Thursday, it is the turn of Scottish folk legend, Donovan Leitch. Throughout the 60’s, he was referred to by the press as Britain’s answer to fellow folk legend, Bob Dylan. Some say that Dylan was much better than Donovan, however, for me there is no comparison, Donovan was much better, and showed that through his 1966 (1967 in the UK) album, ‘Sunshine Superman’. This album featured some of Donovan’s best songs, and had him take a step away from the folk that had been heard on his debut album ‘What’s Bin Did And What’s Bin Hid’ and then his second album ‘Fairytale’. With the release of “Sunshine Superman’, Donovan started to include more instruments and his recently acquired interest in Indian Music really shone through in the album, especially with ‘Three Kingfishers’, which pairs sitar and guitar beautifully.

Donovan’s interest in Indian music had came to him from spending time with The Beatles, and was further developed in 1968, by accompanying them on their trip to India to see the Maharishi in his meditation retreat. This trip taught both the Beatles and Donovan new meditation techniques, and taught them that drugs aren’t needed to get away from everything. However, it also allowed them to experiment with different musical types, and spawned songs such as ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Mother Natures Son’ and ‘I’m So Tired’ for The Beatles, and ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ and ‘Happiness Runs’ for Donovan.

Back to ‘Sunshine Superman’ though, this album is sometimes considered the album that ‘started flower power’, as it was one of the first Psychedelic Pop records released. Although it’s contribution to the Summer of Love scene in Britain was stalled due to disputes with the record label, it still had it’s impact on the American audiences, and managed to top the Billboard Top 100 chart on it’s release, however, only reached 25th in the British charts due to it’s delayed release, and the summer of love had faded away, and less people were interested in the hippy music that this album featured. The single, ‘Sunshine Superman’ was released in 1966, and managed to get 2nd place, being beat by Tom Jones’ ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’, which had spent 7 weeks at number one.

The UK release featured 12 songs, whereas the original US release only featured 10. Not only was the number of tracks different, but so were some of the songs, for example, ‘Fat Angel’ and ‘Ferris Wheel’ featured on the US release, but they didn’t have tracks 3, 6, 8, 9, and 10 in the list below, this was due to the problems with his record label.

  1. Sunshine Superman
  2. Legend Of A Girl Child Linda
  3. The Observation
  4. Guinevere
  5. Celeste
  6. Writer In The Sun
  7. Season Of The Witch
  8. Hampstead Incident
  9. Sand And Foam
  10. Young Girl Blues
  11. Three Kingfishers
  12. Bert’s Blues

This album featured lots of session musicians, as Donovan could only play Guitar, Sitar and sing. The title track for example featured Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Page also featured on ‘Season Of The Witch’, as this was pre-Zep, and he was working as a noted session musician across England. ‘Season Of The Witch’ also featured Eddie Hoh on drums, who was another highly experience session musician at the time, and also worked with The Monkees, and The Mamas And The Papas.

All in all, this album showed how creative one mind can be, and how someone who was once so rooted in folk and anti-protest songs could then turn into the peace loving psychedelic mastermind that this album shows Donovan to be. Not only does it show how well he works just with his guitar, and his intricate claw-hammer technique which gave him the distinct sound he had in the early days, but it also showed how creative he could be when grouped with the right musicians (and drugs).

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