Saturday, December 23, 2017


Donovan Leitch has the reputation for famously inventing everything in popular music, every genre, every tuning, every style. OK, I jest, that may be slight hyperbole but let us just say, suggest even, that modesty may not be his greatest card. It is, of course, entirely unfair as, for a window at the arse end of the 60s he was huge, hobnobbing with all the movers and shakers of the day, from Bob to the Beatles, leaving no Stones unturned. And, as the first famous pop musician of his day to be arrested for possession of cannabis, who can fault him for possibly hazy recall. Because he most definitely was there, showing John Lennon how to fingerpick, bringing together the later members of Led Zeppelin as he "trademarked" Celtic Rock and tailgating Dylan in Don't Look Now. Add that to a huge legacy of best selling singles and albums and you may feel history has been a little unkind.

'Season of the Witch' was a psychedelic rock song at a time, 1966, when few people had even heard the word. Co-written with Shawn Phillips, a contemporary of his, who never quite managed to get equal billing, despite a later acknowledgement that it was mainly his responsibility. It was never a single, at least by Donovan, appearing on his US breakthrough album, 'Sunshine Superman', which hit number 11 in the Billboard rankings. However, it's popularity ensured it was a song he has possibly performed live more than any other, perhaps buoyed by the legion of cover versions, more of which anon. It may come as a surprise that the electric guitarist is none other than a fresh faced young session-man, already famous on the sessions scene, one Jimmy Page, see above. What is the song about? Who can tell, being more a stoned sounding tone poem than any intelligible verse, (but no less far out for all that......Man.)

You got to pick up every stitch
You got to pick up every stitch, yeah
Beatniks are out to make it rich
Oh no, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch, yeah
Must be the season of the witch.

There have been, according to my bible of covers, the database Second Hand Songs , 40 released versions over the years, 10 of which I can find on my i-pod, which may mean I have a bit of crate-digging to do yet. The diversity of artists is extraordinary, encompassing Lou Rawls to Hole, the Vanilla Fudge to Luna and Joan Jett to the Dream Syndicate, lat alone many not available on youtube. The simplicity of the song is such it can be embraced in many styles, the lyric sufficiently vague as for any and every different resonance to not sound dissonant. Of course I have to show my favourites:

Richard Thompson

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity

Dr. John

So, are you going to be looking out your window?
You might look here.

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