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*2.17-SUNSHINE SUPERMAN (Donovan)

Donovan

LISTEN

[Intro]

Sunshine came softly through my window today.
Could've tripped out easy but I've changed my ways.
It'll take time, I know it, but in a while
You're gonna be mine, and I know it. We'll do it in style
'Cause I made my mind up you're going to be mine.

I'll tell you right now
Any trick in the book now, baby,that I can find.

Superman or Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on me.
I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yep!
You can just sit there thinking on your velvet throne
'Bout all the rainbows you can have for your own
Cause I made my mind up you're going to be mine.

[Refrain]

Everybody's hustlin' just to have a little scene.
When I say we'll be cool--I think that--you know what I mean.
We stood on a beach at sunset. Do you remember when?
I know a beach where, baby, it never ends
When you've made your mind up forever to be mine.

I'll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind
'Cause I made my mind up you're going to be mine.

[Refrain]

[Break]

[Repeat 2nd verse]

I'll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind
When you've made your mind up forever to be mine.

I'll pick up your hand…(2x and scat)


The same month as Revolver was released in America by the Beatles, Donovan broke into the American market with a number one hit, Sunshine Superman, and soon afterward an album of the same name. Though Donovan had been a folk singer, and somewhat known in England as Britain’s Bob Dylan, this record marks the first time a top level psychedelic artist began a career on American Top 40 with a psychedelic tune. At the time, Donovan was modeled as a sort of “Pied Piper” to the early hippie kids, perhaps depicted as such by a media that was worried that the youth would be led into drug culture and destruction. During the Summer of 1966 there was a song on the Top 40 by Crispian St. Peters named The Pied Piper so the idea was in the air.

Donovan early on became the figurehead for an innocent psychedelia, full of fairy tales, as if sprung directly from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. His lyrics introduced an art of childlike wonder, an important source of a certain strand of psychedelia (which the Beatles often recorded) that insisted, in Wordsworthian manner, that the best vision is that which is stripped of adult habits of seeing. LSD at the time seemed to offer the hippies a means to regain that innocent vision.

The song Sunshine Superman mentions “tripped out” early in the lyric, and this would prove to be the subject of much of the same titled album. The Beatles had introduced “tripping” with Day Tripper in early 1966 but the American audience during the time didn’t associate the word with LSD (though John Lennon himself seemed to mean “tripper” in this sense); further, Day Tripper’s music with its rock driven repetition of a guitar riff, didn’t seem to suggest a drug experience. With Sunshine Superman, an electric guitar drone is set up, along with the words “Sunshine shone softly…”, so that the dawning light is associated with an LSD experience, an awakening. Another aural reminder of heightened consciousness is the clarity of the harpsichord, suggesting crystalline light. These are precisely two of the natural associations that were contained in the sound of the sitar as well: light & clarity. Donovan himself admitted in Mojo magazine (June 2011) that “sunshine” was a kind of acid (Orange Sunshine) and that the song was at least in part in praise of the LSD experience.

However, like George Harrison’s Love You To, the initial concern of the “tripper” seems to be making love to a woman, who has a “little mind”—one hopes this diminishment of a woman’s mind is just being dear. There’s vague “coolness” ascribed to the listener in the phrase “you know what I mean” (a term that was liberally sprinkled in John Phillip’s lyrics for the Mamas & the Papas, and lambasted by Peter, Paul and Mary’s I Dig Rock & Roll Music in the Summer of 1967). “Blow your mind” is another tripping term that shows up for the first time in pop music. Rainbows appear, with their colors, so often a subject of psychedelic music to come. But somewhat unique to Donovan’s perspective is the natural mythology (where eroticism is suggested by “I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls”)—a rarity in successful pop records of the day, though the Incredible String Band (without popular success in the U.S.) seemed to feast on such imagery. The “velvet throne” too, is a matter of Donovan’s romanticism, which often tended to liken his women to “ladies” in a chivalric fashion, especially in the album Sunshine Superman, which seems to depict the Middle Ages sometimes. Young women in early adolescence seemed to like these medieval images, and in his love of girls (in Mellow Yellow they’re 13 years old) I’m afraid that Donovan may be at least partially responsible for some of the abuses of the psychedelic movement that would lead to “bubble gum” music by 1968.

The comic book characters of Superman and Green Lantern could also be considered as aiming at a young (albeit male) audience. But psychedelic music is part of a larger movement in which “high” and “low” culture were beginning to intermingle in pop art; that is, Sunshine Superman is part of a historical moment in which certain comic books were beginning to be reassessed as art forms. (Batman is said to have influenced the Beatles’ Taxman.) So Donovan’s initial hit record in the U.S. celebrates the cool of having Superman and Green Lantern comic book collections. These characters may also offer perspective on the “super powers” sometimes felt under the influence of LSD. Because the singer has made his mind up, the girl is going to be his. It’s a matter of mind over matter. “Mind” and “mine” get a lot of interplay in the Sunshine Superman lyrics.

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