Thursday, 28 April 2011

Donalert aka Belated For-Albert-Hall Plea

Suppose I ought to let readers know that Donovan will be performing the whole of the Sunshine Superman album at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday June 3rd. I had known about this already, but reading the new edition of Mojo magazine I see that John Cameron, responsible for the arrangments on Donovan's classic 60s recordings, will be part of this and there is an orchestra to back him - in other words, this is not just yet another night with guitar. I had a look at the Royal Albert Hall website, and saw that the cheapest tickets are £20 but couldn't actually see any available: £30 looks more likely.

And I suppose the question is do I now care enough, or am I willing to take the risk of disappointment, to schlep out there and back? The answer is probably not - and if you have read my earlier post about Donovan performing at the Festival Hall you will understand why.

But I am tempted - if only to have my disappointment confirmed in a masochistic sort of way. Or maybe I should accept that my experience of Donovan live has already been bookended by the Green's Playhouse and Festival Hall gigs.

With reference to something mentioned in that post, I was fitfully clearing up yesterday when I came across a printout of a message to a Donovan forum which is no longer online. I said something to the effect that its gushing nature meant it was probably better left in cyberspace but I'll reproduce it below anyway. This dates from the days when, as with the Kewl Steve posts, I was accessing the internet via TV and the only way to archive anything was to print it out, so this was rationed. So at the time - and I think this dates from September 2000, around the same time I was starting to contribute to the Doo Wop Shop board - I must have thought this post was important.

I'm still listening to Gift ... and want to move out of quiz mode to talk to everyone about why this record matters to me. It's partly what I said in my previous posting: a sense of being connected to my younger self. I first bought a Donovan LP at about the age of fourteen - a cheapo reissue of Fairytale with a psychedelic cover - the first record I ever bought. Now the songs have become overfamiliar, and I can't listen with the same sense of wonder. But Gift was out of my price range and although a friend lent me a tape of the first half in 1976, I never heard the whole thing till about 1998. Hearing stuff like Epistle to Derroll was a joy because I could hear Ballad of Geraldine in it - the playing and the style of writing - but it was new and fresh to me, as though recorded yesterday. The simplicity yet the sense that this is a perfect, rounded composition, especially the way he intones "in my dreaming bed" at the end.

Recently I've become more drawn to friends and places from the past and Donovan seems the perfect soundtrack: a sense of simple wonder at things, time taken to listen. I was making a tape for a friend I'd lost touch with until a chance meeting in 1999 - a gap of fourteen years. Voyage Into the Golden Screen seemed the best way to say "I feel there is something special and magical about meeting you again." This was one of the songs I'd heard in 1976 when our friendship was close. I also associate Donovan with adolescence in a slightly sad way: I remember my mother's disappointment when I bought a music paper with an interview with Donovan in it: a sign I was moving away from comics and away from her; pop music united myself and my brothers but my mother was excluded: secret, new thoughts. I remember my father's anger at my listening to Open Road in the dark. Seeing Donovan in Glasgow in 1973 was my first gig: an incredible experience.

Now I am a middle-aged man with a copy of Open Road on CD, bought recently, not quite as good as I remember and HMS Donovan seems to me very patchy but Gift seems the real thing: simple, unaffected, somehow capturing what it means to be young. And it's not, or not only, the words, it's the invitation to be calm, be still, to take in the moment. Maybe my articulating this for myself has rung a few bells for others; hope so. Now I can hear Voyage again on my headphones: full circle. Thanks, Donovan, for being part of my past - and present. Tony
Yes, well ... What I didn't mention in in the main post about Donovan on this blog was that I had some contact in the last few years with someone who had been one of Donovan's friends around the time he renewed contact with Linda Lawrence. This friend's disillusion probably mixed in with the Festival Hall gig - but the recent documentary certainly didn't help. In a sense, none of that ought to matter any more than the manner in which Hardy treated his wife invalidates his Poems of 1912-13: the self who appears through writing may be idealised but it's what we're capable of being.

But do I want to be in the Royal Albert Hall, gazing at a distant speck and being pained yet again (however good the backing may be) that overdone vibrato? Wouldn't it be better to sit in the darkness at home, headphones on (and- hah! -my father can't stop me now, on account of he's dead) and listen to the CD? Or do I need to shell out and schlep out so I can delude myself that I haven't altogether lost faith in the possibility of transformation as indicated in that ten year old message, despite the evidence in my life to the contrary? (There were no more mixtapes.)

Yeah, yeah, okay, I get it: symbolically it's important I should go, even if he sounds like he's singing while perched on a washing machine stuck on "spin." And if this was a short story or the end of Manhattan or whatever, there'd be a wry, all-absolving smile which would play about my features. But ...

Ah. There is one thing which could make this work, and give me my mojo (not the publication) back. Why doesn't someone out there in blogreading land buy a ticket for me and get in touch to tell me about it? That simple (but not inexpensive) act of kindness might just be enough to restore my naive belief in ... ooh, everything, really. Even if the gesture has already been soiled by the shameless manner in which I have solicited it.

Anyway, let's see. I will keep that Friday evening free. Ooh, I'm all excited now. Just hope my readership are fully aware of the terrible responsibility they have assumed.

Handy link to the Royal Albert Hall website here. Earlier Donovan post here.


  1. since I'm your only bloody reader and I'm not shelling out for a ticket, it's you and the headphones pismo.

  2. Au contraire, Mr F, I get between 40-50 hits a day - even if most of these are probably people in search of non-existent downloads.