HOME      ARTIST      NEXT      PREVIOUS      CONTACT

*2.19-THE FAT ANGEL (Donovan)

Donovan

LISTEN

[Intro]

He will bring happiness in the pipe.
He'll ride away on his silver bike.
And apart from that, he'll be so kind
In consenting to blow your mind.

        Fly Translove Airways, getcha there on time.(2x)

He will bring orchids for my lady.
The perfume will be of an excellent style.
[Refrain]

        [Chorus 2x]

[Break]

[Repeat first verse]
[Refrain]

        Fly Jefferson Airplane, getcha there on time.(2x)

[Repeat first verse]
[Refrain]

        [Chorus 2x]

        We'll be flying at an altitude of thirty-nine thousand feet.
        Captain High at your service.


The Fat Angel uses a beatnik improvisational rhythm to conjure up lyrics, an exercise one might attempt stoned just to see what comes out. The style, so much like Donovan's later hit First There Is a Mountain, enables one of the most concise recordings of early psychedelic period optimism. Donovan didn't hedge his dope references; the first lines are about a pot or hash dealer, who makes deliveries on his bike like a pizza boy. It's an innocent image, and because he "consents" to bring happiness to the singer, the dealer is even admired. There follows a sensual image of visual and olfactory lushness, which gives the song a romantic touch but he does not return to the image. Instead he returns to the boy on his bike, over and over again, and it's the chorus that begins to change and take on an improvisational tone. He name drops the Jefferson Airplane, a group that no one knew about at the time that hadn't participated in the San Francisco music scene. Donovan had been visiting California in May 1966. Donovan, of course, had no way of knowing how important the Jefferson Airplane would be in the history of psychedelic music. Though he ended up sounding prophetic, he may have been expressing here a mere delight in the fantastic name of the group. There follows a closing lyric that continues the fantasy of flying...at an altitude approximately eight miles high, but our Captain (the boy on the silver bike?) would give us our altitude in feet. It seems that Captain High sings the last lines of the song in his character; but I always understood it as a courtly bow in adieu, "Captain, I'm at your service."

Sunshine SupermanThe album Sunshine Superman contains more sitar playing than any other pop album I'm aware of, played by Texas-born American folk singer, Shawn Phillips. I have to admire the guy, who according to Wikipedia, has always been an adventuresome fellow, somehow managing to be in London during the psychedelic period, at age 23, and would later live in such places as Positano, Italy and Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where he served on the fire department and as an emergency medical technician. Although Phillips evidently didn't learn how to play sitar in the modes for which it was designed, he adjusted the instrument to folk music much as Harrison had done in Norwegian Wood. The main differences are that Harrison is less atmospheric, more in your face; and that Phillips was lucky to have Donovan's compositions to work with, for Donovan's songs sometimes draw from gypsy folk music, which at least maintains a kissing cousin resemblance to Middle Eastern and South Asian music.

Something must be said here about Sunshine Superman's producer, Mickie Most. He also produced works by the Animals and the Hollies that appear in Psychedelic Masterworks. And though he also produced more of Donovan's albums, I hear Sunshine Superman as the best production of his career. The Beach Boy's Pet Sounds had a consistent feel in pop music for the first time, but its total effect wasn't psychedelic; it was more in the field of what I would call now art rock (though such a category didn't exist at the time).The Beatles' Revolver had formal and abstract counterbalances but not sonic unity. For the first time, with Sunshine Superman, a psychedelic album felt sonically "psychedelic" through the majority of its tracks. Anyone unfamiliar with psychedelic music would immediately recognize songs as this album as an expression of hippie "flower power". Though Shawn Phillips' sitar playing was not on every cut on the album, he appears on Fat Angel, and several other Sunshine Superman songs. Two other sonic continuities are the several harpsichord songs played by John Cameron (at 22, this seems the breakthrough of his career, which culminates in the arrangement of disco era hits Boogie Nights and The Groove Line), and the electric guitar playing of Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds, and later, Led Zeppelin. Mickie Most hosted a lot of new talent on this album. Most has been criticized over his career for an insistence on extraverted productions which tended to produce songs that sounded like "hits" but didn't hang together in an album format [see John Bush, allmusic]. It's a fair criticism about some of his later production. The album Sunshine Superman is an exception, and hangs together in a weave of chamber and combo styles.

TOP      NEXT      PREVIOUS      CONTACT