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Book Review: “The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan Leitch

Last week, while I was returning my book about Franz Liszt to the local library, I spotted The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man (2005) by Donovan Leitch on the shelf. Having heard how much so many other Beatles freaks liked his music, I said to my husband, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Donovan Phillips Leitch was born May 10, 1946 in Scotland. He shot to fame in 1965 at the tender age of 19 and is probably best known for his hit single “Mellow Yellow”. By the time he was 24, he dropped out of the music scene all together.

 

 

After getting about halfway through this far out and psychedelic tour of Donovan’s life and his encounters with The Beatles, Rolling Stone, The Who, Dylan, Hendrix, etc., I decided it would be best if I took a new approach to writing this review as compared to my past ones. I’m going to let you, my readers, be the judge.

Here are several quotes from Donovan in this book:

  • Page 88: Talking about being in a suite with Alan Price (The Animals keyboardist) and Dylan – “He (Alan) comments directly to Bob on the Donovan-Dylan comparison. ‘He’s not a fake [Donovan], and he plays better than you.’ Alan was right. My guess is Bobbie would accept that.”
  • Page 98: Talking about other folksingers – “I was the only other big solo success apart from Dylan. His lyrics are without equal in all of popular music, but I think musically I am more creative and influential. I was dynamic, obsessed with developing pop style, creating new combinations, mantras for a questing youth.”
  • Page 102: On this page, Donovan blesses his readers with an entire list of every famous band/artist that has covered his songs.
  • Page 141: Talking of his first use of the drug mescaline – “The trip with mescaline is softer than LSD. Ever so slowly the Paradise appeared before me. I was in the Garden of Eden – no, I was the Garden.”
  • Page 153: When Paul McCartney paid Donovan a visit – “Another song he sang to me was a little ditty with a chorus about a yellow submarine. He was missing a verse for the tune and asked me to get one in there. So I said, give me minute, and left the room. What I came back with was not world-shattering, but he liked it. ‘Sky of blue and sea of green/in our yellow submarine… – Donovan Leitch'”
  • Page 153: Mickie Most was Donovan’s producer – “Mickie Most later said that the music we made in late 1965 and 1966 influenced the Beatles to experiment more adventurously on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This may well be. I also stirred the Celtic cauldron and encouraged Led Zeppelin to express himself with images and sounds from our Celto-European roots.”
  • Page 165: Talking about two women that moved into an apartment with him and his friend – “Not that we didn’t love the “little darlings.” How could we not, as they floated in and out of bedrooms and bathroom in no more than a top and panties – bath time would never be the same. Not that we didn’t like the variety of meals that were prepared for us…”

At this point in my reading I was just about halfway through the book and that’s when I started to really think to myself – is this guy for real? He’s nothing more than a misogynist with a Napoleon complex! But his incessant bragging and demeaning of women didn’t end there…I forced myself to read on and finish the book.

  • Page 210: While at the ashram of the Maharishi in India with the Beatles, and after teaching John Lennon a new way of finger-picking on guitar – “In this way John began to write in a whole new way, composing “Dear Prudence” and “Julia” in no time flat. John asked me for some help with the lyrics of “Julia,” a song for his lost mother and the childhood he’d never had.”
  • Page 213: While hanging out with Paul Horn in India – “Paul Horn went on to record an album in both the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Between the two of us, we probably invented what is loosely called “New Age Music,” music that induces a meditative state.”
  • Page 219: Describing a recording session for his album Hurdy Gurdy Man on which Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham all played on – “Layers of guitar were added by Page and Hollsworth, and a new kind of metal folk was created. The term metal had not been coined for music yet, but perhaps Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham were inspired by this session to form Led Zeppelin.”
  • Page 239: In 1968 (after Beatlemania was well underway) – “As I toured I endeavored to improve sound and lights production as well as protect the fans from their own excitement, pointing the way to today’s standards.”

Now, seriously readers…is it just me or does Donovan Leitch think very highly of himself? And apparently there was a glitch in the matrix in the 60’s because at two separate concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, a cop tackled a young girl and fell into the lake drawing laughter from the audience. Twice, Donovan made love to his girlfriend Enid for the very last time.

All I can say is…thank god for Donovan Leitch! Without him, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Flower Power, metal and new age music would have never become popular! I wouldn’t be at all surprise if Donovan showed Al Gore how to invent the internet too! And for that reason,…

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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Almost forgot to mention…the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card from last week’s contest is: Linda Sherman!

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Movie Review: “Lisztomania” (1975)

Several months ago, I went to a lecture that compared the Beatles to classical composer Franz Liszt.  It would seem that Mr. Liszt (b. 1811 – d. 1886) was the rock star of his day!  In April 1844, while reviewing the European music scene that season, writer Heinrich Heine coined the term ‘Lisztomania‘ to describe the frenzy and fainting that occurred when Liszt performed.

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Franz Liszt and you’ve probably heard it yourself.  Here is a video of Liebestraum:

Or, if you prefer, here is a video of Bugs Bunny playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody:

Lisztomania, was written and directed by Ken Russell, the same guy who had already directed The Who’s classic – Tommy.  The posters for Lisztomania even promoted this movies as ‘Tommy’s Tommy‘!  Unfortunately, even with Roger Daltrey as the star in this film too, this movie doesn’t even come close to the genius of Tommy and makes one think that Russell should have quit while he was ahead.  Even Ringo Starr, who plays the part of The Pope and who had been praised for many of his previous acting roles is mediocre at best.

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Both the acting and the music in this film are terrible.  The only redeeming quality is seeing a naked, young Roger Daltrey!  I can also say that all of Liszt’s women/lovers in the film actually existed in real life and that his daughter really married composer Richard Wagner.  But where Ken Russell came up with idea to put Nazis and Hitler in the film…I’ll never understand.  And for that reason…

I rate this movie, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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I rate Roger Daltrey’s naked boday, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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