Thursday, 28 January 2010


I stuck with the Donovan concert to the end (see previous post), although I wish I'd been aware of it when it was actually going out. There would only have been a notional difference, but still. The interval was good fun:  various people, some of whom didn't seem to be expecting it, were roped in to say something. What do you expect in the second half? Er, I dunno. More songs? Possibly a few more of his hits?

The quality of the feed, with a nice, warm acoustic, was excellent, and the venue - a real old, proper-looking theatre - seemed an ideal size for the intimate event of one man and his guitar.

There was an odd moment at the end, though, when he was singing Atlantis (big in Germany but less bouyant in the UK): a bass player came on to add assistance, but then suddenly towards the end we got a blast of the original record and for a moment I thought: are they hearing that in the hall or not? Was Donovan then miming to it or singing along? If it was meant to add extra force it seemed - from the POV of at least one person watching the streamed version, anyway, if not those people in the auditorium - a misjudgment. The bass player didn't seem too sure of things as he was led off the stage by Don. But then again, maybe the sound for the streamed version didn't really pick up the full effect of the audience singing along, though there was visual evidence of them apparently whooping it up at the end - though there always seems an element of coercion at such moments: it's the thing to do; rude not to. But the overall effect - for me, anyway - was that it was a bit of a cop-out.

Of course, it does illustrate perfectly what Mark Shipper was talking about at the end of Paperback Writer (see two posts ago), and you could even argue there was an element of humility on present-day Donovan's part: the audience wanted the memory so he gave them precisely that, rather than trying to match it more than four decades later. But given that he's normally quite happy to go onstage armed only with guitar and harmonica to play songs best known as full productions (plaudits not just to Mickie Most but arranger John Cameron), the decision seemed an odd one unless the recording really is sacrosanct in Germany.

I wonder what it would be like if I listened now to a recording of the 1972 UCS concert? A bootleg was made, which I purchased from someone in Hamilton. The sound quality - at least in the cassette I was given - was truly atrocious, making it hard to discern anything. I sent it back, or sent a letter complaining about it, only to receive an angry phone call: he assumed I was a fellow bootlegger, trying to get something for nothing (the irony of that I'll leave aside, even though he sent me a list of his "unofficial recordings", which I now know were all well-known boots). I was about fourteen at the time, and he'd met me, so I don't know what kind of industry he thought I was the brains behind, though he cooled down when I was able to convince him that this was a genuine grievance.

Still, it means I don't have any record of that first concert beyond my memory - which suggests that the running order for Donovan's setlist that afternoon (taken from a website of memories about Green's Playhouse/Apollo gigs) isn't fully correct, but who knows, other than someone who may or may not still reside in Hamilton?

And the reason I think I complained, incidentally, instead of accepting that I'd been done, wasn't so much out of some juvenile sense of right and wrong as the fact that, clearly eager to maintain a customer base, he had actually sent me a Christmas card saying "Hope you liked the tape!"

Well - as you know - I didn't, but if you ever read this, now I would really love to hear it again, whether or not technology has allowed for some mini-miracle of audio restoration in the the meantime: let me fire up the ol' long-vanished Rigonda and I'll fill in those missing frequencies for myself.

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