Friday Freak-Out: Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (1970)

Friday Freak-Out: Donovan peforms "Hurdy Gurdy Man" at L'Olympia, Paris, 1970.


  1. I will never be able to hear that song the same way again after seeing Zodiac. I’m currently hiding under a blanket right now, afraid to look out. It makes it hard to type…

    1. Funny that, I’ve never been able to think of this song the same way since watching L.I.E.

  2. Glad to see Donovan get some exposure here, he’s got a lot of fantastic stuff that’s mostly forgotten these days (including a lot of stuff way more “freaked out” than this).

    I’ve seen him in concert three times (all within the past 7 years or so – I’m not talking 60’s concerts) and while his voice does sound strained sometimes, it’s still remarkably good and not really deteriorated like most others from the 60’s and 70’s who are still around.

    Of course, from the late 70’s to the early 90’s he was a total recluse, so it’s not like he was out touring all the time ruining his voice like everyone else was :)

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Donovan! Never heard this version before either. Until now the most super-special version I knew of this song was the live one with this interlude (spoken in time with strumming the chords the whole time):

    “When I wrote this song, I was in India, with four Beatles, one Beach Boy and Mia Farrow. We were gathered together, one day, in Maharishi’s bungalow; these four Beatles, one Beach Boy and Mia Farrow. There was an embarrassing silence in the room. Maharishi, he sat, cross-legged on the floor, on his disk, as was his wont. And John Lennon, the wit and the humorist, he decided to break the silence. So he walked up to Maharishi, as he sat on the floor and he patted him on the head, and he said “there’s a good guru”. We all laughed, and Maharishi laughed the loudest. Later that night, as we gathered together on the roofs of our bungalows, under the tropical Indian stars, we broke out the guitars, and I started to write this song, it went like this…(hums and plays intro) And George Harrison he turned to me and he said, “I could write a verse for that song, Don”. And he did, but I didn’t record it. But would you like to hear the long lost verse of George? Okay, George, he wrote – we loved George – he said this…

    When truth gets buried deep
    Beneath a thousand years of sleep
    Time demands a turn around
    And once again the truth is found

    Yeah, George

    Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man…”

  4. Hella sound for just one guy and a guitar. I fondly remember the Butthole Surfers’ version of this song also.

  5. Loves me some Donovan. I think half of Led Zeppelin played the backing track on the original recording:

  6. One night when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was sneaking a listen in bed to WABC in New York (past my bedtime). Just before playing this song, the DJ said, “Remember… Donovan spelled backwards is NAVONOD”. Forty years later, I still think of that and chuckle.

  7. I loves me some Donovan, especially when I can sample ala carte and remove the filler songs from the classics. Epistle to Dippy is a desert island disc. Try not to get happy when you listen to that. Dig the Jimmy Page electric guitar.

  8. I was always struck by the Butthole’s version of this song. It seemed to be one of the few instances when they played anything straight. They were such incurable smartasses (which I loved them for), but not in this case. I vaguely recall reading or seeing an interview with Gibby Haynes where he sang the praises of Donovan. At the time, it made be run out and get a Donovan disc, and I have been a fan ever since.

  9. Donovan, Bill Fay and Sydney Carter are all excellent (though different) examples of that later-period folk music to come out of England, which strong psych overtones. Donovan’s 3 Kingfishers, Bill Fay’s Screams In My Ears or The Room, and Sydney Carter’s Friday Morning are all excellent examples of that. Fairport Convention too, in their own way.

  10. Donavan would not have been half as famous if not for Shawn Phillips teaching him guitar.
    If you are unsure who Shawn is – hit up his site. I’d advise you to purchase his Second Contribution album (CD) first. Amazing. Shawn also played backup with the Beatles.

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