Category: donovan

On this day in music history: October 24, 1966 – “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan is released. Written by Donovan Leitch, it is the eighth single release for the singer and songwriter from Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland. Fresh off of hitting #1 on the US pop single chart with “Sunshine Superman” in September of 1966, Donovan continues his run of hits. Having abandoned his original Dylanesque folk rock sound for “psychedelia and Flower Power”, the musician’s creativity is in full bloom. He composes the enigmatic “Mellow Yellow”, basing it on a number of sources. Writing it about “being cool and laid back”, the phrase “they call me mellow yellow” comes from Leitch’s natural ability to be a calming influence on his friends. The track is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in September of 1966, and features Leitch with Bobby Orr (drums), Danny Moss, Ronny Moss (horns), and future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who also is the arranger on the song. During one of the sessions, friend Paul McCartney drops in and takes part. McCartney contributes whoops and hollers to the instrumental break, since Donovan himself had sung on the final choruses of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” months earlier. Issued as a single in the US in late October of 1966 (UK in February 1967), the jazzy, swaggering “Mellow Yellow” is an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #65 on November 12, 1966, it rockets to #2 four weeks later on December 10, 1966. “Yellow” hold the runner up position for three weeks, unable to budge The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” or The New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral” from the top spot.  Around this time, a rumor (started by musician Country Joe McDonald) circulates that smoking dried banana skins would induce a mild high. It turns out not to be true, but many years later, Donovan reveals something even more provocative about the song. The lyric “electrical banana” is not about getting high, but actually referring to “a woman’s vibrator”. Following Donovan’s hit version, “Mellow Yellow” is also covered by R&B singer Big Maybelle and by Georgie Fame. In 1999, a re-recorded version of the song produced by The Dust Brothers and featuring Alex Greenwald, Rashida Jones and Jason Thompson, is used in a commercial for clothing retailer The Gap. “Mellow Yellow” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 11, 1969 – “Barabajagal”, the seventh album by Donovan is released. Produced by Mickie Most, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London in May 1968, and American Recording Company in Los Angeles, CA November 1968 and May 1969. The album features musical backing by The Jeff Beck Group (on the title track) as well as background vocals from Graham Nash, Mike McGear (aka Michael McCartney), Rod Stewart, Lesley Duncan and Madeline Bell. It spins off two singles including the double A-sided single “Atlantis” / “To Susan On The West Coast Waiting” (#7 Pop) and the title track (#36 Pop). The album also marks the end of Donovan’s long term collaboration with producer Mickie Most, with Most shifting his attention to his newly formed label RAK Records, signing artists such as Hot Chocolate, The Arrows, Smokie, and Suzi Quatro. “Atlantis” is later used in a memorable scene in director Martin Scoresese’s “Goodfellas” in 1990. Originally released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 2005. The album is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Music On Vinyl in 2013, the first release of the album in that format in nearly thirty years. “Barabajagal” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200.

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Born on this day: May 10, 1946 – Singer, songwriter and musician Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland. Happy 73rd Birthday, Donovan!!

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On this day in music history: April 16, 1968 – “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden”, the fifth album by Donovan is released (US release is in December 1967). Produced by Mickie Most, it is recorded at Pye Studios in London circa 1967. Originally released as two separate albums titled “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and “For Little Ones”, it is one of the first rock albums to be issued as a box set. The songs on “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” are electric based pop songs, while “For Little Ones” are acoustic based children’s songs. The set is lavishly packaged with a full color booklet including photos and printed lyrics, “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden” peaks at number thirteen on the UK album chart, number nineteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Help support the Behind The Grooves music blog with a donation by clicking on the link at: PayPal.Me/jharris1228

On this day in music history: September 3, 1966 – “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Donovan Leitch, it is the biggest US chart single for the Scottish born singer, songwriter and musician. Starting his career off by singing Dylanesque folk songs like his first hit single “Catch The Wind”, Donovan’s songwriting begins to evolve and move in new directions. “Sunshine Superman” is inspired partially by Leitch’s future wife Linda Lawrence, who had previously dated Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Wary of becoming involved with another musician, and the often unpredictable lifestyle it brings, she breaks off the relationship. Not willing to let her go easily, Donovan puts his feelings about winning her back into the song, expressed in the repeated refrain “‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine…”. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in January of 1966, “Sunshine Superman” also features future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones playing guitar and bass respectively. The record marks a major turning point in Donovan’s career, which sees him moving away from his earlier folk oriented material that led the young singer/songwriter to be compared to Bob Dylan by the British press. The two actually meet in 1965 during Dylan’s now legendary tour of the UK captured in the documentary film “Don’t Look Back” and become friends. His first release on Epic Records (his previous records were released by Nashville, TN based indie Hickory Records in the US) in July of 1966, it quickly takes off. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on July 30, 1966, it streaks to the top of the chart five weeks later. The UK release of the single is delayed until December of that year, due to a contractual dispute between Donovan and his British label Pye Records. “Sunshine Superman is a major hit there as well, peaking at #2 on the UK singles chart.

On this day in music history: August 11, 1969 – “Barabajagal”, the seventh album by Donovan is released. Produced by Mickie Most, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London in May 1968, and American Recording Company in Los Angeles, CA November 1968 and May 1969. The album features musical backing by The Jeff Beck Group (on the title track) as well as background vocals from Graham Nash, Mike McGear (aka Michael McCartney), Rod Stewart, Lesley Duncan and Madeline Bell. It spins off two singles including the double A-sided single “Atlantis” / “To Susan On The West Coast Waiting” (#7 Pop) and the title track (#36 Pop). The album also marks the end of Donovan’s long term collaboration with producer Mickie Most, with Most shifting his attention to his newly formed label RAK Records, signing artists such as Hot Chocolate, The Arrows, Smokie, and Suzi Quatro. “Atlantis” is later used in a memorable scene in director Martin Scoresese’s “Goodfellas” in 1990. Originally released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 2005. The album is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Music On Vinyl in 2013, the first release of the album in that format in nearly thirty years. “Barabajagal” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200.

Born on this day: May 10, 1946 – Singer, songwriter and musician Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland. Happy 72nd Birthday, Donovan!!

On this day in music history: April 16, 1968 – “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden”, the fifth album by Donovan is released (US release is in December 1967). Produced by Mickie Most, it is recorded at Pye Studios in London circa 1967. Originally released as two separate albums titled “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and “For Little Ones”, it is one of the first rock albums to be issued as a box set. The songs on “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” are electric based pop songs, while “For Little Ones” are acoustic based children’s songs. The set is lavishly packaged with a full color booklet including photos and printed lyrics, “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden” peaks at number thirteen on the UK album chart, number nineteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.