Donovan: Season of the Witch (1966)

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Donovan: Season of the Witch (1966)

When the world was getting very mellow in the mid Sixties, Donovan -- who would subsequently sing Mellow Yellow and had already embarked on a folkadelic path --recorded the dark side of the changing world in this prescient single which seemed, in retrospect, to anticipate Charles Manson and Neil Young's Revolution Blues.

It would be a year before George Harrison went to San Francisco and instead of finding groovy hippies encountered "horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs". He quit using LSD.

Donovan however had been thinking about the flipside of freedom for some time and, inspired by the 1962 British horror film The Night of the Eagle (aka Burn Witch Burn, see below) considered witchcraft and the power of the occult on gullible flower children.

The song begins painting a rosy picture of the sights outside the window (although the music suggests what is to come) but notes how there "are many different people to be" when you look at yourself. The metaphors then snake their way in: he looks over his shoulder and sees someone strange looking at him; warns of those "beatniks out to make it rich" and hints of false prophets and fellow travelers with a less benign agenda ("rabbits running in the ditch").

The music is eerie also, his repeated guitar figure is unsettling and the image of a season of the witch suggests this dark stuff isn't going to go away overnight. The Age of Aquarius could also usher in the others out to manipulate, exploit and corrupt.

As a warning it was timely, but it also appeard on his Sunshine Superman album so was placed in the context of some pretty magical sounding and very optimistic songs.

Paranoia was but a bad trip away, and in the years to come there would be enough of them.

Jumpin' Jack Flash would emerge out of the occult in the violent and disturbing season to come.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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