January 15 – Was A Time Everybody Was Talkin’ About Harry

One of several men sometimes referred to as the “fifth Beatle” died this day in 1994. Harry Nilsson passed away at age 52 after succumbing to his second major heart attack in a year.

Nilsson had an outstanding, expressive voice that spanned over three octaves and was a solid song-writer, writing hits for the likes of Three Dog Night (their hit “One”) and the Monkees besides himself but is best-remembered for a couple of hits he sang covers of : “Without You” (a Badfinger song) and “Everybody’s Talking”, a Fred Neil song Nilsson made popular when it made it onto The Graduate soundtrack. Both songs won Harry Grammys and were top 10 hits in the U.S., but  oddly enough the New Yorker had his greatest success in Canada where he managed ten top 10s and “Without You” hit #1. John Lennon and Paul McCartney both named him as their favorite American artist, but an attempted collaboration with Lennon in ’75 resulted in much partying but little music.

His heavy drinking and partying in the ’70s, his dislike of playing live shows caused his career to dive by the mid-’70s, and the death of Elvis Presley nearly destroyed what was left of it. That’s a confusing point, but in 1977, he’d recorded his 14th studio album, Knnillssonn, which he considered his personal best. He’d also damaged his vocal chords making him uncertain as to being able to sing much more in the future. RCA had high hopes for the LP, but through a bad coincidence of timing, it came out right about when Presley died. RCA also had the Elvis catalog and suddenly shifted most of its marketing money and record production capabilities to churning out vast quantities of the back catalog for “The King”. Nilsson’s album took a back seat and didn’t make the top 100; RCA dropped him after that. However, his legacy lives on. Rolling Stone ranked him as the 61st greatest songwriter of all-time and just after his death there was a tribute album. The 1995 For the Love of Harry had artists covering his work including Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Marc Cohn, Jimmy Webb and Fred Schneider of the B52s who did the suitably quirky 1972 hit “Coconut.” The 1998 Tom Hanks romcom You’ve Got Mail kept his name in the public’s mind, using several of his songs including the “Puppy Song. and a Sinead O’Connor cover of his “The Lord Must Be In New York City”, his first chart hit from 30 years prior.

Fifth Beatle? Probably not, if anyone should come close to really meriting that title it would be George Martin or Billy Preston. But First Harry? That’s not Schmilsson, Nilsson.

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January 13 – Turntable Talk 10 : This River Wasn’t Exactly One Of Dreams

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Max from Power Pop Blog. There he gives us a great song or two daily with a great writeup, and coming soon apparently an episode-by-episode look at Star Trek. Will he pick a great power pop song, or might he go where no man has gone before?

Dave stated, “I just want you to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.”

I went through many songs to get to this one. Dylan songs mostly before I realized this one hit home. This was the title track to Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 double album The River. I picked this song because it is so easy to relate to. I’ve known friends who have lived this song. This is not a party starter song by any stretch of the imagination. The lyrics are downright sad because they are so damn real. It contains one of my favorite Springsteen lines “And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

I grew up in a small town with a population of around a thousand or so at the time. The jobs there were dead end jobs and the pay was even worse. I saw a cycle even at an early age by seeing parents and their kids doing the same thing generation after generation. It was enough inspiration for me to explore and find new things…and to get out. Some of my friends never made it out. They are doing now what they swore they wouldn’t do before.

I saw my sister get into the same position as the Mary character in the song. It ended many years later in a divorce but at least she is happy now so there are good endings! Her son was the best thing that happened to her. The funny thing is I ended up moving back near that town but I’m doing what I want to be doing not in a job or rut that I hate. Some of my old friends are not in that position.

I came to realize…it wasn’t the location at all. It was and still is a nice small town. No that wasn’t it. It was the lack of expectations at the time set upon everyone that made it seem pre-ordained for bad choices to happen.

The wedding in the song relates to Springsteen’s sister, who got married when she was still a teenager. She knew it was about her and her husband the first time she heard it. It was also based on conversations Springsteen had with his brother-in-law. After losing his construction job, he worked hard to support his wife and young child but never complained.

The songs lyrics are outstanding. Even the opening lines are so close to how I grew up. I did grow up in a valley. I come from down in the valley,
Where mister when you’re young, They bring you up to do like your daddy done.

It’s so easy to relate to. I’m sure many people can relate to this song with completely different circumstances than me.

Bruce saves the best for last though. He is talking about the dreams we have when we are younger about what we are going to do in life until life wakes you up with a bang.

Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse

The song didn’t chart in America or Canada but did make it to #35 in the UK. The album was #1 in the Billboard album charts, #1 in Canada, and #2 in the UK.

The River

I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you’re young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
When she was just seventeen
We’d ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

We’d go down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we’d ride

Then I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

January 12 – Turntable Talk 10 : NY Landmark Inspired Landmark Song

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Christian from Christian’s Music Musings. There he keeps his ear to the ground for new music worth listening, reviews concerts and shares Spotify lists to keep you listening. With an international background, will his pick originate from offshore?

Thanks for having me back again to share my thoughts for Turntable Talk about yet another interesting topic.

When it comes to songs, typically, I focus on melody, rhythm and sound before paying any attention to lyrics. This still goes back to the very beginning of my music journey as a seven or eight-year-old growing up in my native country Germany, i.e., a time when I essentially did not understand or speak one word of English. While as such, writing about favorite song lyrics may seem to be a tricky proposition, surprisingly, I knew right away which tune I would cover.

Some songs with great lyrics that come to mind are related to my all-time favorite band and its members: The Beatles’ The Inner Light (I always loved George Harrison’s wisdom), John Lennon’s Mother (you can literally feel John’s pain in his words and screaming) and Paul McCartney’s Here Today (one of the best tributes to John, which can still make me well up). I also love songs with a cinematic feel like Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down – in fact, I almost would have picked that tune. Finally, a great protest song like Neil Young’s Ohio (first released in June 1970 as a single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) can get my attention as well.

Any of the aforementioned tunes would have been a good choice. Instead, I decided to go with a song that only became widely known with a remake that ended up topping the charts in various European countries. I’m happy to report I knew and came to dig the original long before that hit version came out. The song is Tom’s Diner by American folk singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega.

There are two versions of the tune that bookend Vega’s excellent sophomore album Solitude Standing, which came out in April 1987. Only the opener, an a cappella rendition, is relevant for the topic of this post. The closer, appropriately titled Tom’s Diner (Reprise), is an instrumental.

Tom’s Diner is like a mini movie, describing observations and memories by the narrator while having a cup of coffee at a diner. If you’ve ever been to a diner in New York City during the morning rush, you realize how brilliantly Vega captures the atmosphere. That’s why I love the lyrics of this tune.

Featuring Vega’s vocals only without any other singers also make Tom’s Diner an unusual a cappella song. While as such it’s very bare bones, I feel this approach works very well.

Initially, Tom’s Diner only appeared on Vega’s second album. Following the success of the record’s second single Luka, the tune was also released separately as a single in Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tom’s Diner didn’t match the success of Luka, reaching no. 58 in the UK and no. 26 in Ireland – that is at first.

In 1990, British electronic outfit DNA created a dance remix. Initially, it was released unauthorized by Vega, her label A&M or her publisher on a limited basis for distribution to clubs as “Oh Suzanne” – a pretty gutsy move in the litigious music industry! After consulting with Vega who apparently liked the interpretation, A&M (her record company) decided to buy the song from DNA rather than taking them to court for copyright infringement.

It turned out to be a smart decision. The remix ended up topping the charts in Austria, Germany, Greece and Switzerland. It also climbed to no. 2 in the UK on the Official Singles Chart and no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. That said, I find it pretty atrocious!

Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:

Suzanne Vega wrote this song while eating breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street in New York City. Tom’s has another famous place in pop culture as well: it was Jerry Seinfeld’s hangout in his hit sitcom Seinfeld. On the show, where it was called “Monk’s Cafe,” the “Tom’s” was cropped out so the exterior sign just said “Restaurant,” and the interior shots were done with TV magic on a sound stage.

The song has been sampled many times by other artists, including Tupac for his track “Dopefiend’s Diner,” Aaliyah on her single “Hot Like Fire”, Drake on a cut titled “Juice” and David Guetta on his tune “Let It Be Me.”

Giorgio Moroder covered the song for his 2015 Déjà Vu album. His version features vocals by Britney Spears. “The song doesn’t have a big range, and I added a bridge and some instrumental stuff,” the EDM godfather told Billboard magazine. “Britney sounds so good, you would hardly recognize her.”

When German engineers were developing the MP3 file format, they used this song to test their creation, checking for loss of fidelity. They picked an a cappella tune because they were particularly concerned about degrading the human voice.

Fall Out Boy sampled this song and used various elements from it on their 2014 hit “Centuries.”

The German rock groups AnnenMayKantereit and Giant Rooks recorded a cover of the song in 2019 that went viral on TikTok in March 2022 as people used the singing duo’s unique and expressive vocals to soundtrack videos on the platform. Their version peaked at #63 on the UK singles chart and #78 on the Hot 100.

November 28 – No Secrets Kept One Big Secret

The album was called No Secrets, but in fact there still is one…one that’s been much speculated on and debated for 50 years! Carly Simon‘s third album came out this day in 1972.

Carly had made herself known the previous year with her first couple of albums and a pair of minor hit singles, “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Anticipation”. And she’d made herself quite popular in the music world, having relationships with artists including Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens and Kris Kristofferson and actor Warren Beatty in that time period, as well as James Taylor who she married just before this one came out.

Elektra Records sent her to London to record the album, with up-and-coming producer Richard Perry, who had come to some fame the previous year himself, producing Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson. While Carly herself played some acoustic guitar, piano and synthesizers on No Secrets, they brought in some extra star-power talent to fill it in. That included Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, Beatles friend Klaus Voortman on bass, future Roxy Music drummer Andy Newmark, as well as Jim Gordon who drummed on the album’s bit hit, and even Paul & Linda McCartney who added backing vocals to “Night Owl”, the one of ten tracks on the album not written by Simon, it being a James Taylor cover instead.

The resulting album wasn’t a huge stretch from her previous work or several other popular singer/songwriters of the time; largely confessional-sounding ballads about love and hate. Among the titles were “It Was So Easy”, “The Right Thing To Do” ( the second single and a North American top 20 hit) and “His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin”. All pleasant enough listening that might have more or less fallen by the wayside were it not for one song – “You’re So Vain.”

The song had been pre-released to radio and was already becoming popular when the LP arrived in stores. But few likely anticipated just how popular the song would become, or how it would be Carly’s signature song five decades later. It hit #1 in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and several other lands. In the UK, it topped out at #3 but won a platinum single for her. Later she’d ben nominated for three Grammys for it including Record of the Year and Song of the Year (losing in both cases to Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” To this day it remains one of Billboard‘s 100 biggest-selling singles ever…and a mystery. Just who was so vain?

Many rumors abounded then, and now. Carly has said ”it’s not just about one particular person” although she has admitted the second verse (“You had me several years ago…”) was about Beatty, and he was in fact so vain he “thinks the whole thing is about him.” Other rumors about who the other guys are, including the one rich enough to have his own Lear Jet which he flew to Nova Scotia to watch an eclipse in, include almost all the men she dated. She says it is not about Taylor however, but many things point towards Jagger. Who happens to sing backing vocals on the record!

Critics were mixed about it when it came out. Curmudgeonly Robert Christgau opined that “if a horse could sing in a monotone,that horse would sing like Carly Simon.” Rolling Stone however, thought “what finally makes No Secrets so refreshing is her singing.” With the benefit of hindsight, allmusic give it 4.5-stars, and say it’s clearly her “best album” with its “saucy tone with its air of sexually frank autobiography and reflections of the jet set lifestyle.” They also praise Perry’s “simple, elegant pop-rock production.” Something Carly should be thankful for too. Apparently she “played it mucch slower” but Perry raised the tempo and emotion in it.

Soon it was no secret that Simon was an emerging major star. The album became her first platinum one in the U.S. and her first #1 album there, as well as Canada and Australia.

By now, she might have forgotten exactly who “You’re So Vain” was about. But the public haven’t forgotten the song! Only this month, the reining “queen of pop”, Taylor Swift called it “the best song that’s ever been written. That is the best way anyone has addressed a breakup.”

November 25 – Shy Drake Ducked Spotlight

Remembering moody singer/songwriter Nick Drake who passed away on this day in 1974 at age 26, long before VW had introduced his moody music to most of us.

Drake was born in Burma in 1948, but his parents moved to the UK when the youth was only two. He loved poetry and studied English lit at college, learned to play piano and sax at school and guitar shortly thereafter. By 20 he’d got a recording contract with Island Records and had released his first (of only three) album, Five Leaves Left. His shy, awkward demeanour made him a less than rivoting live performer however, and his meandering melodies and downbeat lyrics didn’t seem catchy enough to grab the folk crowds of the day. By the time Pink Moonthe title track of which eventually became his “signature tune” – was released in 1972 (to sales of fewer than 5000 at the time, although all three of his studio albums have since gone gold in Britain), he’d stopped touring, withdrawn to his parents house and was smoking massive amounts of pot. He died of an overdose of anti-depressant pills, the coroner never ruled on whether it was accidental or suicide.

Like quite a few other acts (Velvet Underground comes to mind), the few fans he did have really liked his stuff and cite him as an inspiration; Robert Smith of The Cure and Peter Buck of R.E.M. being two noteworthy examples of those influenced by Drake. A Volkswagen commercial using “Pink Moon” introduced him to a wider audience at the beginning of this century, and since then his work has been heard in a number of movies including Serendipity (“Northern Sky”), Me Without You (“Cello Song”) and The Lake House (“Pink Moon”). Definitely a pre-MTV artist, there is no known video footage of Nick performing.

November 18 – Lobo Charged Towards Top 50 Years Ago

Long before Cheap Trick “want”ed you to want them, Lobo did them one better. The Floridian singer hit #2 this day in 1972 with “I’d Love You To Want Me.” It was the second of three American top 10 hits he scored in the early-’70s, and ended up being his biggest.

Lobo’s real name was Kent LaVoie, a singer-songwriter who was in a band called the Rumours with Gram Parsons and Jim Stafford while still a teen. He was one of the first signings to Big Tree Records, a label distributed by the now long-gone Bell Records which would soon boast the likes of England Dan & John Ford Coley and Johnny Rivers on its roster as well. Although his 1971 debut album didn’t sell many copies, it did give him a hit single with “Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” and set him up, briefly as one of the better-known and received easy-listening troubadours.

I’d Love You To Want Me” was off his second album, Of A Simple Man, which was his only to make the American top 40. Like the debut, it was produced by his friend Phil Gernhard, a senior executive of Big Tree.

He got his wish. Fans wanted Lobo and his mournful song of unrequited love. It earned him a gold single. Johnny Nash’s upbeat “I Can See Clearly Now” (some have noted that the latter was unusual for that time of ’72 in being upbeat and happy as most of the other hits were rather sad at the time, like Lobo’s and of course, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s not so upbeat “Alone Again Naturally”) kept Lobo out of the #1 position, but he did get to the top of Australian and Canadian charts.

Although Lobo’s time in the spotlight was brief, at 77 he still performs sometimes. He never disappeared entirely mind you. A couple of years after the song was a hit here, it became a top 10 hit in the UK, Switzerland and other parts of Europe, and in the ’80s he began his own label in Nashville, shifting more towards a country sound. Most odd of all, he had a fair bit of success in various Asian markets in the ’90s with his old music and re-recordings of it!

November 11 – Forgotten Gems : Stan Ridgway

It’s the day to be sure we remember the Veterans around us and their efforts and sacrifices on behalf of the country. They shouldn’t be forgotten – and neither should this tune! This month’s Forgotten Gem comes from the “jungle wars of ’65”…via 1986. Let’s remember the big Marine the boys call “Camouflage”, a larger-than-life figure in the imagination of Stan Ridgway.

Ridgway is the quirky singer/songwriter/guitarist from southern California who loves to tell stories, rather a latter-day Harry Chapin with a slightly askew view of life. Wikipedia put it perfectly, describing him as a creator of “highly stylized, cinematic narratives…from the perspective of ordinary people and characters wrestling with ironies inside the American Dream.” As was the case with “Mexican Radio”, where Ridgway rose to fame through his band Wall of Voodoo. However, after appearing at the huge Us Festival in ’83, Wall of Voodoo called it quits but Ridgway carried on, unhindered, with his unique, quirky, often country-tinged stories.

This one came from The Big Heat, his first solo album, released on IRS Records, who’d also put of the Wall of Voodoo records. Curiously, despite the difficulty getting good distribution in Europe (which in part led to R.E.M. departing the company), the album did moderately well there but was all-but-unnoticed at home. It made the year-end “best of” charts in Britain’s Q and Sounds magazines. The song itself hit #2 in both the UK and Poland, and #4 in Ireland, released as a slightly shortened version of the seven minute album cut.

“Camouflage” tells of a young Army private lost in the jungle during the Vietnam War, surrounded by the enemy, who happens to make a friend – a very big Marine who comes across him. We won’t elaborate more so as not to spoil any surprises to those new to the song, but will say it truly is, as Wiki said “cinematic”, suspenseful and oddly witty. Allmusic called it “over the top”, but label it the “standout” on the album.

Remember our vets, enjoy the song and … Semper Fi.

October 9 – Remembering John

The concept of positive prayer…if you can imagine a world at peace, without denominations…not a world without religion, but without this ‘My God is bigger than your God’ thing, then it can be true.” So said John Lennon in an interview not long before he was killed, speaking about his best-selling and best-known solo song. (“Imagine”, obviously.) He said it was largely inspired by poems his wife Yoko Ono had written, and she has been given co-credit for the writing of that song since. Today we remember John on what would have been his 82nd birthday.

Needless to say, as famous as John was on his own, he was better known for his work in The Beatles, and more specifically, with Paul McCartney, as half of the most successful and beloved writing teams of rock and pop history . Here’s what he said about coming up with what would be their biggest-selling single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” : “We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball…I remember we got that chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had the ‘oh youuuuu, got that something’ then Paul hits this chord and I turn to him and say ‘that’s it! do that again!’ In those days we used to absolutely write like that.”

Two memorable tracks that still resonate 50 years or more after they were first heard. Something many artists dream of achieving, but for John, just a small part of the legacy. For example, while “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was a smash #1 hit in both Britain – where he was born and grew up – and the U.S. – where he of course lived and died after The Beatles -, “Imagine” surprisingly hit #1 in the UK but stopped at #3 in the States. But consider the list of songs John either wrote (entirely or co-wrote) or sang on that topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, beyond “I Want to Hold Your Hand” –

with the Beatles-

She Loves You”

Can’t Buy Me Love”

A Hard Day’s Night”

I Feel Fine”

Ticket to Ride”

Help”

We Can Work It Out”

Paperback Writer”

Hello, Goodbye”

Hey Jude”

Get Back”

and solo –

Starting Over”

and then the songs which hit #1 in Britain, but not the States:

From Me to You”

Yellow Submarine”

Lady Madonna”

The Ballad of John and Yoko”

Imagine” (solo)

Woman” (solo)

and then the opposite, #1 hits in the U.S. but not UK

Love Me Do”

Eight Days A Week”

Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever”

Let It Be”

The Long & Winding Road”

Whatever Gets You Through the Night” (solo)

Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” (Elton John)

Fame” (David Bowie)

With a legacy like that, no wonder he’s been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice. The sad part of course is one wonders just how much greater the legacy would have been had he gotten to live out the second half of the 80+ years since his birth.

September 5 – The ‘Other’ Famous Scottish Stewart Storyteller

Maybe we’ll hear a song on the radio by this guy today. After all, it’s the day of the year of the cat…happy birthday Al Stewart! The literate Scottish folkie turns 77 today.

Last week we mentioned how there were two fine bands – the Proclaimers and Jesus & Mary Chain – that were built around a pair of Scottish brothers with the name “Reid.” Well, turns out there were also two highly successful Scottish singer/songwriters named “Stewart” who came into their own in the ’70s – Rod and Al. Rod sold more records and likely had more women swooning over him, but Stewart may have been the one who won critic’s hearts. He’s put out 19 studio albums from 1967 through 2008 but is best known for the album and single “Year of the Cat.” That album and its follow-up, Time Passages, both went platinum in the U.S. and gave him top 10 hits in the States and Canada with the title tracks. Stewart developed his musical chops as part of the London folk scene of the late-’60s along with Van Morrison and Cat Stevens, Andy Summers (who was in the Police years later) as well as briefly being Paul Simon’s roommate when the New Yorker moved to England. Along the way he played the first Glastonbury Festival, and met Alan Parsons, who produced a trio of his records including the two smash hit ones. Perhaps not uncoincidentally, when he switched producers in ’80 for 24 Carrots, sales dropped significantly.

Stewart’s singles seldom sound like conventional pop hits. He’s said “I don’t like repetition” when it comes to music and while others are singing about love and old Chevys, Stewart has written songs about things like travel (his two best known songs, “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages” both refer to travel and being in exotic places) World War I battles, the Spanish Basque separation movement, Lord Mountbatten, Kurt Vonnegut novels and the French Revolution. As he puts it, “making a leap forward often entails taking a step backward.”

77 or not, he’s currently on the road, playing shows in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois later this month and in Britain in October.

August 13 – Fans Thought Donovan Was Super, Man

Psychedelia met folk and the world met the “new Dylan.” Donovan Leitch’s “Sunshine Superman” hit the U.S, top 40 this day in 1966 ; his first significant hit in North America.

The 20 year-old Scot had already scored a trio of top 10 hits in the UK the previous year and had just signed to Epic Records, the first artist signed by then-young Clive Davis (who recalls Donovan being “like his music – gentle, smart and engaging”). Although many compared him to Bob Dylan, Donovan – who went by just his first name – had a voice of his own and blended musical genres in a way highly-appropriate for a year when #1 songs ranged from Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” to Motown to “96 Tears”. This record had some star power making people feel good – John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were studio musicians on it! Little wonder then that later Donovan referred to it as “my masterwork” and admitted he was worried about The Beatles hearing it because he thought Paul McCartney would plagiarize it. He may have been close on that; The Beatles were fans and showed the record on a turntable in a video they made for “A Day in the Life.” Like many songs in the psychedelic ’60s, it was one with multiple interpretations. While on one hand it was a simple love song he wrote for his new girlfriend at the time and an expression of joy at a nice day with her, on the other there was a counter-culture aspect as well. “Sunshine is a nickname for acid,” he admitted, “and the superman is the person capable of entering the higher state because it’s not easy to go into the fourth dimension.”

Probably not Honda had in mind when they used it in a car ad years later! The song would end up being Donovan’s only #1 hit in the U.S. (it topped out at #2 in the UK, Canada and other countries) although he came ever-so-close months later with the #2 hit “Mellow Yellow.”