Donovan at the Rose

Went to see Donovan at The Rose in Pasadena last night, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his involvement in the music business (and his 70th birthday).

Amidst a dozen of his greatest hits, this generational high priest tossed in a half-dozen lovely, mystically-tinged tunes from Scotland, Wales and Ireland. These were songs of light and love and hopeful melancholy, with a couple 200 to 300 years old. He also made a point of singing some of his oldest songs, and though not well known by the crowd, were received in the sweet light they were delivered. Understandably the man has lost some of his range, but still has the emotional, haunting vibrato that characterizes so many of his songs.

A most likable fellow, the Glasgow-born troubadour also told a number of longer stories from the earliest times in his career, including a cool story about Paul McCartney visiting him in his London flat and how he came up with lyrics for Yellow Submarine for Sir Paul when he was stuck for a line. He mentioned quite a few times how all of the upcoming stars all hung out together in those days.

The Sunshine Superman also told a comical tale of beginnings back in Ireland when he performed with a half dozen stars-to-be at some beach-side cabaret. He told of how, when he began to play his allotted two songs, it appeared to be raining right on stage. He couldn’t understand it until he noticed Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon shooting him with squirt guns from the front row.

The last story was about the banana skin smoking hoax from those days and its origin. According to Donovan (born Donovan Leitch, May 10, 1946), Country Joe McDonald started the myth by placing a large banana on his band’s touring van to promote his upcoming show in San Francisco, by broadcasting it all across The City. “Don” said it would have died right there except that a week later he released Mellow Yellow.

All in all, it was a very “hippie” experience, sans the marijuana, flowers and sitting cross-legged on the floor, and made for a very enjoyable evening.

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