Those who have read an earlier post about Donovan's 1972 concert to raise funds for Upper Clyde Shipbuilders may be interested in a radio documentary which fills in more of the background to that event.
Entitled When the Eyes of the World Were on the Clyde, the programme was originally broadcast in 2011, not long after the death of Jimmy Reid, one of the prime movers in the story. He was the shop steward who, before the "work-in", famously said:
There will be no hooliganism. There will be no vandalism. There will be no bevvying ... because the world is watching us.It was repeated today on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and as far as I can tell will remain available, for UK and US listeners alike, for at least a month - very possibly longer.
I provided some basic details in that earlier piece, drawing on a memoir by Jimmy Reid kindly provided by Doug Holton, but the opportunity to hear the voices of those directly involved in the struggle for survival, the rawness of their emotion and anger, undoubtedly gives the tale a far greater immediacy.
Some all-too-human details emerge during the programme. The story about John and Yoko donating a bouquet of roses along with financial support is corroborated - the sum is £1000 in this telling - although there is no word either way on whether the Lennons really attended the show in body. I've been listening to some old Lennon interviews which suggest he and Yoko gave financial support to any number of causes in those times, though the personal connection with Donovan means that his presence at Green's Playhouse that day can't be ruled out - unless a chronicler of Lennon's solo years with a Lewisohn-like tenacity can account for his movements on the afternoon of the 30th of April. (If you are out there, please get in touch.)
But that's just setting the scene. The detail which leapt out for me is that the ex-Beatle's flowers were not kept by UCS but given away to a local hospital. A lovely touch, you might think, but no: the female staff just couldn't agree among themselves about who was going to keep them.
Donovan has been on my mind over the past few weeks for reasons unconnected to the above. He was due to play a concert at London's Cadogan Hall in April, and despite the my reservations when seeing him perform in recent years, chronicled elsewhere in this blog, I went ahead and bought tickets, wanting to see him at least one last time - especially as it is approaching half a century since the Sunday afternoon of that UCS gig, my first ever rock performance - just as Donovan's early album Fairytale was the first LP I ever bought.
I kept revisiting the Cadogan website: concert after concert at the hall was officially cancelled but Donovan's show seemed to be hanging on, almost as though he still believed that asking the audience to clap their hands would be enough to make it stop raining. But it was eventually postponed for six months - and we can only hope that it will indeed happen then.
But in time-honoured news announcer fashion let's end on a happier note (UK readers of a certain age, please to picture the rictus grin of Alastair Burnet as he prepares to dangle the latest Royal titbit).
Those who have read some of the other Donovan posts (there are quite a few of them) may remember that after the disappointment of buying a lo-fi tape of the UCS concert - not to mention the experience of being berated by the bootlegger when I dared to complain - I cut out the middleman and made my own illicit cassette recording of a later Dono-gig at the same venue, by then renamed the Apollo.
In all probability the quality wasn't that much better than the shoddy souvenir of 1972 - but it was mine, and listening to the concert in my darkened bedroom through the warmth of a valve amplifier my memory was just about able to fill in the gaps.
And then, at some unspecified point, that precious cassette ... just ... disappeared.
(Actually, my father probably threw it out along with other items unwisely left behind in the family home, but that's not such a good story.)
What? No, I didn't suddenly unearth the tape yesterday, sounding an unlikely note of hope amidst the uncertainty which now faces us all, but - well, the next best thing, I suppose.
I found, on the Sugarmegs website, a fairly well recorded gig from around the same time, and recognised roughly the same order of songs, beginning with Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and going through quite a lot of the Essence to Essence album, only far more appealing in barebones form. He steadily plays quite a lot of new or newish material before making with the hits and it's a strong, assured performance.
My only regret is that no performance of There Is A Mountain has ever matched the one committed to my little cassette recorder that evening at the Apollo. In addition to the different stresses I have heard on various live renditions - "lock upon my garden gate's a snail" - he bursts into scatting. I have a feeling that this was earlier in the show than the one available online - possibly he felt he had to seize his home audience more firmly - and I've never heard it the same way since. "Nought happens twice thus", as Ramblin' Tom Hardy so rightly said.
Since writing the above yesterday, I have been idly searching for more Dono-stuff on youtube and discovered tracks from a tribute album to Harry Belafonte in, I think, 2019, therefore representing Donovan's voice pretty much as it is now.
Listening is an odd experience: strain is often apparent, but there is still something moving in the experience. Donovan has been part of my life for so long, and whatever the joshing in some of the pieces listed below he always will be.
Here's his take on Scarlet Ribbons. I've chosen it partly because it's less demanding vocally than some of the other selections but also because it describes a moment of simple magic. Or idiotic, irrational hope, if you will. You remember idiotic, irrational hope, dontcha?
When the Eyes of the World Were on the Clyde can be found here.
Other posts about Donovan - best read in chronological order:
The TRUE story of how I fell out of love with Donovan
Donovanagain - again
Donalert aka Belated For-Albert-Hall Plea
Donalert Part Two: A Sign
Donovan: why I'm not going tonight. Probably.
Donovan Albert Hall reviews or How Do You Like Them Gold Apples?
Of Lame and Pregnant Ducks: Donovan's UCS Benefit Concert at Green's Playhouse, 1972
He just went grey all of a sudden ...