Monday, 3 February 2014

Donovan: The Song of Wandering Aengus (1971)

Haunting music to the poetry of W. B. Yeats

I wish out to the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head
And I cut and peeled a hazel wand
And hooked a berry with a thread

And when white moths were on the wing
And moth-like stars were flickering out
I dropped a berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame
But something rustled on the door
And someone called me by my name.

It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossoms in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands
I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands

And walk among long dappled grass
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

I have only started reading Rob Young’s Electric Eden: A History of Britain’s Visionary Music (for my purposes read: acid folk), but Donovan gets an early mention which alludes to the milieu in which he wrote this otherworldly and inspired music, quoted below.

Donovan’s success after the Dylan- influenced singles such as ‘Catch The Wind’, ‘Colours’, and ‘Universal Soldier’ was in part due to some steerage by his new producer/ svengali Mickie Most, who had urged the young artist to trick out his acoustic folkiness with generous helpings from the new palette of psychedelic colours creeping into pop production in the wake of such records as The Beatles’ Revolver and The Kinks Face To Face. In 1965 he was still immersed in the Woody Guthrie/ Dylan knock- off protest folk of his first LP What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Did, while on his second, Fairytale, he began to inch towards a more bucolic mode.

… From a landowner named Donald MacDonald, he had just purchased three remote Scottish islands; Islay, Mingay, and Clett, near Skye’s north- west Vaternish peninsula, where he and his friend/ ‘manager’ Gypsy Dave intended to set up a ‘Renaissance community’ of artists, musicians, and poets in a row of tumbledown shepherds’ cottages.

[and of his consequent dreamy musical projects]… These benignly stoned odes fondly and naively imagined a long- lost, bucolic Avalon where like minds of a forever young Flower Generation might gather in peace, singing, dancing, smoking, making love and contemplating the universe in a guilt- free environment.

[after collaboration with the Beatles and Maharishi Yogi in India]… He flew back high as a magic carpet with a pipe- load of Eastern mysticism, and a newly piqued interest in Celtic medievalism and Victoriana, manifested in songs such as ‘Guinevere’, ‘Legend of a Child Girl Linda’, and ‘Season of the Witch’… now with his purchase of a far away island kingdom, Donovan was planning to use his status as a counter- cultural guru to convert the pipedream into a living experiment.

This then was the artist who brought his own stab at Wonderland, the pied piper whose master plan was to sail off to his private fiefdom singing Lewis Carroll’s line ‘Won’t You Join The Dancer?’ and who put up the money for potential acolytes like Vashti Bunyan and Robert Lewis to make the pilgrimage.

The Song of Wandering Aengus appeared on the album H.M.S Donovan, the second album of Donovan's children's music, and was recorded between 1968- 1971.

By South Utsire

No comments:

Post a Comment