Wednesday, May 04, 2011

“Barabajagal” by Donovan

The music of Donovan (b. 1946, Glasgow, Scotland) has long remained a perverse and pervasive fascination for me. Like most “flower power” hits of the sixties, “Mellow Yellow” and “Sunshine Superman” are emblazoned upon my musical transom. But whether it’s the dated oddities of either song or the mere fact that we’ve all heard them a zillion times, I never took Donovan too seriously.

Then I heard Gabor Szabo’s frightfully moving cover of Donovan’s “Ferris Wheel” (from the guitarist’s 1968 album Dreams) in the ‘80s and discovered Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll (now Julie Tippets) and The Trinity’s stirringly hypnotic cover of “Season of the Witch” from their 1967 album Open in the ‘90s.

Both tunes originally appeared on Donovan’s 1966 breakout album Sunshine Superman. Szabo also covered this record’s “Sunshine Superman” (as did Les McCann, Lionel Hampton, Lonnie Smith and Eric Kloss) and “Three King Fishers,” both on the guitarist’s 1968 album Bacchanal while plenty of jazzers covered “Mellow Yellow” too, including Young-Holt Unlimited, Odell Brown and the Organ-izers, Tom Scott, Steve Marcus, Herbie Mann and Gary Bartz.

A couple of years and several hits later, Donovan released his utterly original Barabajagal, an album which yielded the hit “Atlantis.” The album’s title track was the first of the album’s hits and first appeared as “Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love is Hot),” a terrific slice of psych-rock, jazz-funk, psych-jazz, funk-rock, whatever you want to call it.

Donovan’s producer Mickie Most (1938-2003), who had huge hits at the time for The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds, Brenda Lee, Lulu and Nancy Sinatra, heard Donovan’s song and suggested that the Jeff Beck Group (who Most was also producing at the time) back the singer/songwriter on the track, to give it that rock/jazz feel he felt the song needed.

The original single credited the song to both Donovan and Jeff Beck Group and the line-up probably includes Donovan on vocals and guitar, Jeff Beck on electric guitar, (future Rolling Stones bassist) Ron Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, Tony Newman on drums and Lesley Duncan, Madeline Bell and Suzi Quatro on background vocals (although Rod Stewart was part of the Jeff Beck Group at the time, he is apparently not singing on this track). The song reached number 12 on the UK chars and number 36 on the US charts.

It’s a highly intoxicating groove that hasn’t gotten nearly the attention in jazz that Donovan’s other pop hits received at the time. Japanese drummer Sadakazu Tabata covered it on a 1970 Polydor album (featuring pianist Masahiko Satoh) issued only in Japan. And British bandleader Vic Lewis’s album-length Donovan tribute, Donovan My Way, was actually recorded a year before “Barabajagal” was issued.

While Donovan’s songs are also often tapped for film and TV (“Jennifer Juniper” was heard recently in the hilarious The Simpsons episode “Flaming Moe”), “Barabajagal” is only known to have featured in the 2009 episode of Nip/Tuck called “Ronnie Chase.”

The lyrics are beyond my comprehension, but are worth following along with. Somehow they help bring out the joy in the musical enjoyment of the song:

She came, she came to meet a man, she found an angel.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.

He very wise in the herbal lores, got your cure now.
She came, she came to free the pain with his wild flower.

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.

Fine fine, fine fine Acelandine be prepared for her.
Tea tea, tea tea to make her free while incense burned.

In love pool eyes float feathers after the struggle.
The hopes burst and shot joy all through the mind
Sorrow more distant than a star.
Multi colour run down over your body,
Then the liquid passing all into all
Love is hot truth is molten.

True true, true true the song he sang her while the leaves cooked
Ting ting, ting little bell he rang her, sleepily she looked.
He filled, he filled a leather cup, holding her gaze
She took, she took a little sip while this song he sang:

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was his name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name,
Was my name, was my name,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now,
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.

Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal was my name now.
Goo goo, goo goo Barabajagal

2 comments:

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dylan oliver said...

yes, crazy groove for a 'pop' song: kind of rhythm that keeps going and going. would be a good sample for a hip-hop joint. your blog has been providing me with lots of good reading/listening lately.