Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) HQ
Published on Aug 4, 2016
MONSTER psychedelic hit time! At least I think so. Most psychedelic bands began as folk rock groups (just ask Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane who said so in an interview). Even Sean Cunningham of garage/psychedelic rock band Music Machine began as a folk singer. For that matter, so did Blondie vocalist Deborah Harry. Add a little fuzz guitar and some feedback, amp up the vocals and — voila! — folk rock suddenly is transformed into psychedelic rock. Mr. Balin, by the way, cited the Kingston Trio as an early influence. For that matter Arthur Lee of Love decided quite intentionally to take psychedelic music back to its folk music roots on his third LP, Forever Changes. I have always LOVED folk music, especially the Kingston Trio, but also Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and this iconic 60’s performer and songwriter, Donovan.
Donovan, perhaps, is the most radical example of someone who went from folk to psychedelic rock in practically no time at all. He’s the proof in the pudding of psychedelic’s folk and folk rock beginnings. And his was a success story.
Enter this GIANT psychedelic classic from 1968: “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” This is one of those hits that actually came to personify psychedelic music and the era. It is one heavy tune. It is one of many reasons I think 1968 was a bigger year than “the Summer of Love” year, 1967. Of course, some of the major music of 1968 was recorded in 1967, so let’s keep that in mind too.
Some famous musicians played on this song, but I will quote from Wikipedia now because there appears to be some disagreements as to who: “In the booklet that came with Donovan’s 1992 double CD, Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964–1976, Allan Holdsworth and Jimmy Page are listed as the electric guitar players and John Bonham and Clem Cattini (spelled as “Clem Clatini”) as drummers on the recording. However, according to John Paul Jones, who arranged and played bass on the track (and also booked the session musicians), Clem Cattini played the drums and Alan Parker played the electric guitar. This line-up was confirmed by Cattini. In Donovan’s autobiography, he credits Cattini (spelled as “Catini”) and Bonham for the drums. On Jimmy Page’s website, he lists this song as one on which he plays. Donovan said that Page was the guitarist in Hannes Rossacher’s 2008 documentary Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan, where he also asserted that the song ushered in the Celtic rock sound which would lead to Page, Jones, and Bonham forming Led Zeppelin soon afterwards. In Donovan’s autobiography, he credited both Page and “Allen Hollsworth” as the “guitar wizards” for the song. However, he also says that “Hollsworth” had played with Blue Mink, which was a band that Alan Parker had played in. In the autobiography, Donovan said that perhaps this session inspired the creation of Led Zeppelin.”
“Hurdy Gurdy Man” was recorded April 3, 1968, and was released in May 1968 (UK) and June 1968 (US) as a single. It reached #4 in the UK, and peaked at #3 on the US chart Cash Box (#5 on the Billboard Hot 100) on August 10, 1968.