Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rock of Ages: Donovan - "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (1968)

My mother loves Donovan. She imposed a lot of these early songs into my mind. My father would get me into Talking Heads. More on them when we get to the 80's. Back to the hippie troubadour. Donovan is another one of the hippie generation who gets forgotten. He started off as a take on Dylan in the early 60's and then moved into the psychedelic sounds of the late 60's with relative ease. His stand out album, The Hurdy Gurdy Man spans genres from Eastern sitar laden tracks to groovy sax and bass jazz tracks. The titular track, a smokey blues rock song, stands as Donovan's most recognizable song and as his sonically most interesting. "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is most notable for it's warbley vocal delivery that Donovan gives. The words are almost inaudible the first time you listen. It's mystical and trippy. The echoey vibrations of the lead guitar and the sitar parts add to the ethereal nature of the tune while the pounding drums and bass come in to juxtapose the trippier elements of the track. Very cool, indeed.

There is speculation as to the personell on the track. In most liner notes, the backing band for Donovan on this song is comprised of John Paul Jones on bass and production, John Bohnahm on drums and Jimmy Page on guitar. Other sources say that JPJ is the only one from legends Led Zeppelin on the track, but alas, the fact that 3/4ths of a future legendary rock band got their start with Donovan is cool so I will stick with that as the personell. It also sounds a lot like a Zeppelin track. Donovan's voice is nothing like that of Robert Plant's but this song demands his eerie accent to carry it into the ether. Most recently, "Hurdy Gurdy Man" was used in David Fincher's film Zodiac for both the opening and ending credits. Luckily the song has yet to become aged yet is still a fine capsule of hippie culture before hippies became annoying. Well, except Donovan who is still a huge hippie and yet probably the coolest one alive.

Up Next: King Crimson changes everything on the first track of their first album


Anonymous said...

Donovan is a wonderful person, a true artist.

Race Baker said...

Perfect song.