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*6.24-THE LAND OF DOESN'T HAVE TO BE (Donovan)

Donovan

LISTEN

There is a land not far from the ears of sound--
The eyes of sight can't see
It's over the trees--
You'll be there by tomorrow's breeze.

Few people get there quick by their chosen road--
They don't know
It’s quicker to go
By natural velocity.

There is a wall of doubt surrounding everything that’s there--
Children fair
They ride there
On the dreamy mare.

And at the great big gate waiters wait--
They must fill the form, denounce the norm,
They are torn
Twixt praise and scorn.

[Repeat 1st verse]

[Break]

[Repeat 2nd verse]

[Repeat 1st verse]

[Coda]


Also on the album Wear Your Love Like Heaven is the song The Land That Doesn’t Have To Be. This title, as well as There Was a Time, are oddly prosaic, using words that don’t stand out in any search engine; but I believe The Land doesn’t have to be, not in the sense of avoidance, but in the sense of it can’t be reached by sensory fact, only by belief. The first stanza implies that this land cannot be seen, it’s in the heavens, but the ears can almost find it. I feel that this sentiment about the special properties of music were indicative of the psychedelic era. There was still a strong feeling that music granted access to truth. Eric Burdon about this same time was singing “If you want to find the truth in life, don’t pass music by” in the Animals’ charted hit Monterey. Music was more than entertainment; it was the way of easiest access to the spiritual, as LSD had been in earlier manifestations of psychedelia. There wouldn’t be many claims of LSD enlightenment in song from here on out.

The poet ends the first verse with a wry observation that we will all arrive in this Land through death, which, in terms of the life of this planet, is “tomorrow” or quite soon enough. The second verse however urges that the arrival can’t be speeded up, there is no way to get there early, and it’s best to just keep on living at “natural velocity”. While on earth, few people get to see beyond “the wall of doubt” that surrounds this magical Land. Only children can visit in their dreams.

The fourth verse is a little more difficult to interpret. Instead of St. Peter, there are “waiters” at the Pearly Gate who serve to judge if your arrival will receive praise or scorn for the life lived below. Since this is the only description of what can actually be found in this heavenly Land, it is a bit odd that the poet only tells us of the officiousness of those that guard the gate and decide who may enter. Because of the use of “waiters”, the verse feels like we’re standing at the door of an exclusive restaurant. Forms must be filled out, credit ratings checked. Here the “normal” is “denounced”, as if only the extraordinary were allowed in. This is a different slant on “normal” than recently used by Arthur Lee in the Love song Red Telephone: “We’re all normal and we want our freedom” [here on earth]. Why this uptick of concern about “normalcy”? Only a year before psychedelia had been obsessed with madness; several songs in 1966 seemed to be in response to They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha (Napoleon XIV). “Crazy” has perhaps lost its charm for freaks, but Donovan suggests there are other ways to escape conformity.

The music is supplied by piano swinging between two chords, a jazzy pipe organ - featured in the break and coda - and drums with a sprightly beat. Were it not for the musical arrangement; that is, had the song been written for acoustic guitar rather than keyboards, The Land of Doesn’t Have to Be could have easily found a place in the companion album For Little Ones as a sort of Never Never Land, especially as children figure in the lyric.

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