On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Donovan – Season of the Witch (1966)
We’re back in the UK today, dear reader, and this time our travels take us way up north into the pleasant land that is Scotland. Today’s artist is Donovan who emerged from folk music circles and at one time was considered to be the British Bob Dylan, a tag he was said not to be comfortable with. Quite right, there is only one Bob Dylan. Songs such as Catch the Wind and Sunshine Superman were successful hits for Donovan, but 1001 Songs has gone with a song that reflected a change of direction for Scottish singer, a shift into psychedelia – Season of the Witch.
Season of the Witch is a bit of an oddity and not easy to break down. Donovan sings of strange occurrences around him, a lot is going on when he looks out of the window, while a glance into the window offers a plethora of different individuals that he could become. Donovan also makes reference to beatniks who are pursuing wealth. The beatniks were the Beat generation from the 1950s/1960s who abandoned social convention and sought more independent ways of expression and living. Donovan seems to suggest that they have abandoned their faith in the pursuit of commercialism, conforming to the norms of society and betraying their ideals as a result. The song seems to be about social change in the 1960s and Donovan is just one of many individuals standing in the centre of it all, observing a transforming world and unsure what to make of it all.
I had heard the name Donovan before but don’t recall listening to any of his work prior to this one. Season of the Witch is quite peculiar in that Donovan seems to switch from speaking some of the lyrics to quickly singing. I was unsure of his voice at the outset but found myself lost in the song as it continued, a typical effect of psychedelia; it makes you a tad trippy. The meaning of the song appears ambiguous with references to a witch potentially leading the listener down a different path. The suggestions I have seen about social change seem more apt but whatever the definition, this was an interesting number.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)
The Four Tops – Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)