After paddling in the backwaters ofthe music business since the 705, DONOVAN is suddenly everywhere again. Happy Mondays, especially, are keen to show him off, taking him on tour and naming a song on their new album after him. Alastair Mabbott had a bellow with the mellow fellow.
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18—The List 23 November ‘- m _
verything comes back, they say, and invariably they‘re right. Sandie Shaw and Dusty Springfield both recovered some of their former glories with the help of younger stars. But Donovan? The man whose early shows brought the term ‘Flower Power‘ into being, and for whom the tag ‘Old Hippy‘ might just as easily have been invented? Yes. Donovan. Once more he walks among us.
Actually, the Donovan comeback. or (1 Donovan comeback, was already in the planning stages. Nineteen- ninety—one, his 25th year in show business, was to be the year that the mellow-yellow vibe throbbed anew.
However, unforeseen events in the last few months have brought that date forward. Nigel Kennedy, Brix Smith and The Lilac Time‘s Stephen Duffy have collaborated on a version of ‘I lurdy Gurdy Man‘, The Butthole Surfers have just released their version of the same song and Going Live‘s Trevor and Simon. aka The Singing Corner— currently the best reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning — have joined forces with Donovan for a re-run of ‘Jennifer Juniper‘. It‘s highly irreverent, and not the most auspicious return to the limelight, but Donovan doesn‘t mind a ribbing as long as he‘s raising money for charity at the same time. In the video, he sports a T-shirt from Shelter. the charity for the homeless. to whom he‘s donating his share of the royalties. ‘I wanted the audience to see that there was a reason behind Donovan choosing to parody himself,‘ he says. ‘For me, it took the edge offthe parody being the only thing Donovan‘s doing right now.‘
There is. as it happens, a new live album. featuring old recordings of the singer playing with such musicians as flautist Paul Horn. but it‘s his adoption by Happy Mondays. and their request that he join them on five dates of their current tour, that has thrown him back into the spotlight with only an acoustic guitar for company.
So. after a quarter—century ofperforming, Donovan admits to feeling pretty good about life. His two daughters (including River‘s Edge actress lone Skye Leitch) and his wife Linda‘s 26-year-old son Julian have left the nest. leaving
their parents to come to terms with this ‘natural change for a family like ours‘. Damn. he sounds contented.
‘Linda and I are feeling healthy, reasonably wealthy, reasonably wise and ready to be a couple rather than a family and get out there and do lots of work. And I‘m feeling very encouraged. Even in that vacuum of having no records out. the interest has grown so strong in a revival sense.‘
Donovan is quite easy-going about using awful phrases like ‘in a revival sense‘ and. despite living in 1990 like the rest ofus. ‘60s legend‘. Doesn‘t it niggle, the thought that you‘re bracketed as a talent from a bygone age‘.’ No — perhaps because he‘s spent a lot of time preparing his autobiography. he concludes that ‘it doesn‘t feel uncomfortable to be nostalgic.‘
‘It‘s true that I started offin the (ills, sure, and the 60s is very much in vogue again. and the view ofthe young musician is very much focused on the early music of the ()(IS and 70s. I certainly feel that‘s where I began — in fact. very luckily so, because of the amount of music that we were absorbing from blues. folk. jazz. rock — everything for me was a fusion. and when I write now I feel part ofthe same root. I feel the same songwriter as I always was. I just keep writing and it just so happens that it‘s 1990.‘
But the 70s. ‘Well . . . they became the 7()s‘. and Donovan‘s topics became. he feels. taboo. The environment. the peace movement. relationships — these he continued to sing about in frequent but poorly-selling albums. ‘One particular one sticks out,‘ he says proudly. ‘Neutroniea. which was a basic reﬂection of the peace movement which was growing again. And who would have thought of the peace movement in 1980. but it was incredibly powerful in Germany. And that issue. ofcourse. is now everywhere.‘
So are, or were. brightly-clad young people in their thousands. getting out oftheir collective tree in fields. and mumbling with varying degrees of coherence about love and peace. One might expect Donovan to be jaded. nay downright cynical at the prospect. He has. after all. been here before. and as he says. seen the 70s turn into the 70s. Not a bit ofit. Sure, he says. their dreams will be dashed. but that‘s part of what youth is all about. and this is what all tribes have done in the past. danced themselves into a trance en masse.
‘It‘s better than lager-louting. There‘s no violence. all round it‘s a good feeling. lcan‘t say much against it. I don‘t think it‘s naive. I don‘t think it‘s a throwback. I think it‘s a reaction to the stressful times. And more and more. a good feeling between people is going to be needed. Perhaps that‘s part of my resurgence. my music is a lulling. calming. trance kind of music. The best groove around is. I believe. Happy Mondays. I‘ve always loved reggae — that also has a lulling. soothing. constant trance feel to it. This is better. obviously. than the high-decibel. screaming. edgy. stressful rock music that lots of people. one of my daughters included. listen to.‘
And as for the Mondays. he‘s amused by the idea that the old pro might have some advice to the young lions.
‘I think they‘ve got the parts that will protect them through anything. They‘ve got family and they are a family; they have done the best thing. I think. in remaining independent from the major labels and they‘re a unit. like a band ol'gypsies. and they all look out for each other as far as I can tell. So they look like they're going to be all right.
They seem to be disaster-proof.‘
Happy Mondays and [)(mm'an play [hex/:1 '( ', Glasgow on Tue 2 7 and Sun 2.