London was abuzz with Donovan’s concert at The Royal Albert Hall Friday evening, June 3rd. Donovan was performing in concert Sunshine Superman note for note for the first time since its original release when it went to number one in 1966. There were two days of rehearsals at the Music Bank studios in London before the final rehearsal and concert at The Royal Albert Hall.
Original Sunshine Superman arranger John Cameron led the rehearsals and conducted The London Contemporary Orchestra. He also played the piano and harpsichord. Shawn Phillips came up from South Africa to reprise his role on sitar from the original recording as well as on guitar for Season of The Witch. Original bass on Sunshine Superman was Danny Thompson, who performed brilliantly and lent his mellow ways to the occasion. Thompson was a member of the legendary British band Pentangle. Also in attendance were Donovan’s son Donovan Leitch, as well as Donovan’s daughter Astrella Celeste. Donovan conceived of the concert as a celebration of love for his wife and muse Linda, the original inspiration behind many of the songs on the album. On hand was Donovan’s lifelong best friend Gypsy Dave Mills, making sure everything was going the way it should. Gyp is mentioned in a number of Donovan’s songs and his name is in the title of Donovan’s song Hey Gyp, which was also a hit record for Eric Burden and The Animals. To top it all off none other than the remarkable Jimmy Page was also in attendance. Jimmy, the original guitarist on the recording of the song Sunshine Superman, was to be a surprise guest at the concert.
The rehearsals were amazing. It was beautiful to see Donovan and his son work out vocal arrangements together for the song The Trip. Their performance together at the concert was a memorable one. The London Evening Standard wrote of their duet of The Trip as “swinging, and exuberant, and it recaptured the giddy Technicolor swirl of the Sixties”. Donovan rehearsed with his daughter Astrella the beautiful song Legend of A Girl Child Linda. It was wonderful watching Jimmy Page enjoy Donovan and Astrella working together, and when Astrella joined in on the vocals Gypsy Dave turned and showed me the goosebumps on his arm from seeing them sing together. Gypsey was with Donovan back in the mid 60’s when Donovan first played that song. Gypsy said the song “came to Donovan in a dream”. Shawn Phillips was in great form playing Ferris Wheel and The Fat Angel at the rehearsal. Along with The London Contemporary Orchestra there were bongo and conga drums, electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards, and more.
There was a packed house at the concert on a beautiful spring evening in London. During the first half Donovan featured many of his earlier hits like Catch the Wind and Jennifer Juniper as well as amazing later songs such as Hurdy Gurdy Man and Barabajagal. After an intermission he performed the Sunshine Superman album starting off with the first song on that recording; Sunshine Superman. When he introduced Jimmy Page to the audience the crowd rose out of their seats with delight, shouting and applauding. While introducing Jimmy, Donovan mentioned that Page was a young session player at the time and was paid 13 Pounds for playing on that cut. Jimmy was wonderful and laid down some truly tasty licks. After Donovan performed all of the songs on the album Jimmy came back on stage for two Donovan encores, a reprise of Sunshine Superman, but this time with the full orchestra, and then Mellow Yellow. Later that night at the after-party I mentioned to Jimmy that it was terrific that he was there for Donovan. Jimmy turned to me and said with great feeling that “this was an important celebration and I really wanted to be a part of it”. What a gracious gentleman that most extraordinary guitar player Jimmy Page is.
Let me share with you some photos and other images from that remarkable celebration.
Royal Albert Hall program cover for Donovan’s concert. Copyright © Govinda Gallery Archive. All Rights Reserved.
Musical arrangements for Sunshine Superman rehearsals and concert. Copyright © Donovan Leitch, Jr. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan Leitch Jr. and Jimmy Page at the Music Bank rehearsal studios. Copyright © Donovan Leitch, Jr. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan and Jimmy Page at Music Bank studios. Copyright © Donovan Leitch, Jr. All Rights Reserved.
Packed house at The Royal Albert Hall June 3rd, 2011. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Backstage in Donovan’s dressing room with his best friend sculptor Gypsy Dave Mills. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan talking with the great bass player Danny Thompson with Chris Murray looking on. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Photographer Virgilio Fino capturing the scene in a mirror in Donovan’s dressing room with Gypsy Dave and Chris. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan in concert playing Kelly, his custom made Danny Ferrington guitar with Shawn Phillips on Sitar. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan singing. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan and Jimmy Page rock The Royal Albert Hall playing Sunshine Superman. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Donovan and Jimmy Page respond to the standing ovation at the end of the concert. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Table card for Donovan’s “tent” at the after-party at The Gore Hotel on Queen’s Gate.
Beautiful photo of two great friends and two great artists; Jimmy Page and Donovan. At the Gore Hotel after-party. Copyright © Virgilio Fino. All Rights Reserved.
Gatefold art for Donovan’s re-released Sunshine Superman double CD.
Royal Albert Hall concert ticket. Copyright © Govinda Gallery Archive. All Rights Reserved.
Newly released double CD of Sunshine Superman recording.
There will be a DVD release of the concert, keep in touch with Donovan’s website for information on when that will be released. The newly released Sunshine Superman double CD is very much worth having. For information on Donovan’s Sapphographs check out Donovan’s page on Govinda Gallery’s website and Govinda Gallery’s blog; The Back Room. Check out Rolling Stone Magazine’s exclusive story on the concert. Also enjoy this link to RockAAA.com which reviews the concert and more importantly, has two videos of Donovan’s encores with Jimmy Page.
Special thanks in London to Laura Rifkin, Virgilio Fino, and Joey Kaempfer.