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*2.18-THE TRIP (Donovan)

Dylan / Donovan / Mary Travers
Dylan / Donovan / Mary Travers

LISTEN

[Intro]

We was drivin' downtown L.A.
About midnight hour
And it almost blew my mind
I got caught in a colored shower.
All those lights were twinkling on Sunset.
I saw a sign in the sky.
It said, "Trip a trip, a trip trip, I trip, trip,"
I couldn't keep up if I tried.

        Ah, we stepped down to reality company
        To get some instant sleep
        And the driver turned, and said, "Welcome back"
        Smiled and he said, "Beep beep".

                What goes on? Cheek-a-cheek.
                What goes on? I really wanna know.
                What goes on all around me?
                What goes on? I really wanna know.

When in should come my dream woman.
She got sequins in her hair.
Like she stepped out off of a Fellini film,
She sat in a white straw chair.
But I thought I'd take a second look
Just to see what I could see
And my scene had popped like a bubble does
There was nobody there but me.

        I said, "Girl, you drank a lot of Drink Me,
        But you ain't in a Wonderland.
        You know I'll be right there to greet you, child
        When your trippin' shell touches sand."

                [Chorus]

A silver goblet of wine is to be
Held in a bejeweled glove
And her knights they toast the tournament.
The falcons they fly above.
The queen will drink of the dew tonight
But the jester he cries alone
Because Merlin spoke of an instant spell
To make the devil's white knights moan.

        "And all in all," the seagull said,
        "As I look to where I've been,
        The whole wide human race
        Has taken far too much Methedrine".

                [Chorus]

[Break]

We sat in a velvet jewel case
With sparkles everywhere
And Julian he sat on a diamond ring
And talked of the days gone by.
We spoke of a common kaleidoscope
And the pros and the cons of Zen
And he spoke and said for a piece of cake
He really did have a yen.

        Bobby Dylan he sat, "the Mad Hatter"
        A broken hour glass in his hand.
        And Joannie sat in white lace
        Looking cool with a black lace fan.

                [Chorus]


The Trip was the flip side of the single record Sunshine Superman. Despite the electric guitars (which drone like buzzing mosquitoes), the form of the record is more Dylanesque than the hit single, and indeed, the chorus seems to refer to Ballad of the Thin Man, where "Something is happening, but you don't know what it is." Bob Dylan shows up in the lyric as the Mad Hatter, making a link with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland that is also echoed in "You drank a lot of Drink Me". Alice in Wonderland would provide imagery for numerous psychedelic songs that followed, most especially the Beatles' I Am the Walrus and Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit.

The music is rather pedestrian for psychedelia, but the lyrics describe an LSD trip straightforwardly for the first time on a pop record, almost in journalistic fashion as a series of events in an evening. The singer "almost blew [his] mind" and "got caught in a colored shower". He stammers as if uncertain of his words and puts together nonsense syllables like "cheek a cheek" and "trip a trip trip", being pulled along by the rhythm. Donovan gives us medieval images along with Merlin the magician, but he also mentions Zen; his mind seems to be freely ranging, and he can hardly keep up. He name drops a couple of pop stars who are part of his evening, but then he has a "seagull" blurt out (from high above?) that the world is taking "far too much Methadrine", as he observes speed freaks around him. Donovan doesn't describe here a bad trip, but it is certainly one that is rather confused and unclear. He introduces here the idea of a "tripping shell" (something many a hippie discovered for themselves as a precious tactile companion, like a "worry rock", on LSD), which makes the desirable woman in the song something drawn from Botticelli's Venus.

Rarely in psychedelic music is LSD sung about so forthrightly; artists were usually rather coy about it (like the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). But in the early days of the psychedelic movement, LSD was not yet illegal and so one could more freely talk about its use. LSD became a controlled substance (with threat of imprisonment for its usage) in California and the UK roughly about the same time, around October 1966. (In fact, Donovan became the first widely known pop star to be arrested under the new prohibition.) The only other psychedelic album I'm aware of that speaks as forthrightly about LSD is Electric Music for the Mind and Body by Country Joe and the Fish, which in May 1967 was one of the earliest psychedelic albums released from San Francisco. I assume that Country Joe songs like Bass Strings were recorded before LSD was proclaimed illegal in California, and that Vanguard records, with its reputation of supporting black listed acts and protest groups, supported the notoriety of including songs that were explicit about LSD use on the album.

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