Donovan: The Rolling Stone Interview (Part 2)

The artist takes time from his 1967 U.S. tour to talk performing, spirituality and Ken Kesey

Donovan. Circa 1967. Credit: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty

Donovan is currently on a tour of the United States which ends this month. Between engagements in various cities he has been staying at a rented house on Malibu Beach in Southern California.

Our Los Angeles Correspondent, John Carpenter, met Donovan at a party held in the Malibu house in late October. A few days later Donovan and Carpenter sat down and taped the only lengthy interview that Donovan intends to give during his American tour.

This is the second part of that interview. (Part One was printed in the first issue.) During a break in the taping, Donovan's manager, Ashley Kosack, joined the discussion and his remarks here are indicated by "M." Donovan's answers are marked "A."

Could you tell us a little bit about the cities you hit so far?
M. Well we played most of the cities on the West Coast and the reaction has been truly fantastic.

What happened in San Francisco? I keep hearing about girls throwing flowers.
M. Donovan was standing there and suddenly kids emerged, very calmly, and threw trinkets at Don's feet. The hassle came with the police themselves. They got a little bit excited, so I had to calm them down.

How did you do that?
M. I just told them to leave the kids alone because Don had got it fully under control. The whole thing. Which he had.

You were telling me the other day about Seattle. You beckoned the kids forward and they just walked up, no noise or anything.
M. In fact, a lot of the kids took their shoes and sandals off so that it would be very quiet. They all walked across the floor and sat down. Very peaceful, you know.

Do you find that pretty common at your concerts?
M. Yes, everywhere we've gone, right through Europe, Don has been spreading peace to everybody. This is our second phase. We saw this coming two years ago. After this we go to the third phase when we're going to put the whole thing over, and take over.

You and Ken Kesey.
M. Take over the world. Right. We don't want to take over, we just want to bring some beauty.

A. Take over their hearts anyway.

M. We've got the second phase now, in which we're going to bring out the double album — a children's album and a teenage album. It's all been mapped out beautifully. It's a beautiful album, the double one, and a new single. Next year we start on a major film which Don has written.

What about the TV show you're filming partly from concerts?
M. While we're here we are filming a special which we will present in America sometime next year.

A. It will just be — what we were talking about — it will just be a reaction. You'll see, oh, I don't know, probably thousands of kids, or half a million or nearly a million we'll be playing to. You'll see the response of that amount of youth to me, and that's what we want to show on the TV show along with all the other little things I got up to, things that happen. But it will be nice in comparison to Dylan's film; to show how beautiful it could be.

I got a very speedy thing about that film.
M. Well the whole thing is very speedy. He's a beautiful cat, but it's just, you know, he's involved with a lot of people. He gives off tensions instead of peace. Don and I went to see him a few times.

A. The only thing I remember about his film is when I was in it, you know, that part. But it will be beautiful to show this thing — this reaction of America's youth to someone who's just hinting at what life could be.

When the Airplane was at the Hollywood Bowl, there was all this yelling and jumping up and down on stage. 'Grace sing this, and, Grace sing that.' They did that to you right in the beginning. You shushed into the microphone. It knocked me off my chair when it worked.
A. Well if you don't do that, then they keep doing it. If you say "hush," then you're asking for something: they have to choose whether they want to be noisy or want to be quiet, and the choice is usually quiet.

M. But I think it's more than that, it's the words he chooses to say to them which is so beautiful; it's the thing he gives off stage to them, by his eyes and the whole being. There's a certain magic that he's got which is inborn and bred.

A. And all these little things like hint at a way of life. This major film I write will be the best fairy tale they've ever seen, a tale of singing like a musical tale, a very long epic thing, epic, epic epic everything, fantastic. And small tiny tiny's and me, and we show this beautiful land, and when it's finished this production, it'll be fantastic. Really amazing.

Are you going to film it in Scotland?
A. We'll be filming it in lots of places, primarily England, where there's an ancient feeling to the land anyway, where there's many, many castles built on hills, majestic, ancient things. This'll be a beautiful tale, by the time I've finished it.

Do you come from a family of seamen?
A. Probably, probably. I wanted to look back but it takes a while to look back.

How did you and Donovan meet?
A. [singing]: As I recall it the sun was high.

M. What happened was that I had an artist called Sian Phillips, an American girl, and the people that Don ran with and we met. Don was having a little hassle at the time, and it was just meant to be, you know. And it's been the most beautiful relationship I have ever had.

A. It's the first one in the music business that's ever been right.

M. You know everything is very close. We see it all so clear together and it's not marriage of artists — it's not like that at all. There's four people really involved. There's Don, Gypsy, Anita (who is my wife) and I.

A. It's like the Beatles, the four Beatles, making a cross for strength. It's been really beautiful.

Can you tell us a little about Gypsy?
A. He's of a travelling kind. Maybe he's blood. His bonal structure looks gypsy, but it's a nickname for him. He's been in this whole travelling scene. This is pre-Kerouac. This is just bumming. Hard travellin', Guthrie hard travellin' people. And we all just bummed around, hitch-hiked around, lived rough for a while. Very basic. Fantastic painter. He's the basis, like Ringo is the weight of the Beatles. He's the anchor. Gypsy's the anchor here. While I'm away in the clouds dreaming, he's very solid. It's a great arrangement.

M. Gypsy paints the most beautiful paintings. He's also written a children's book. Crazy, crazy, crazy guy. He writes beautiful poems.

A. Like an Anthony Quinn rendering of a Zorba. Really rough, fantastic soul. He has this religious thing. You look at him and you can imagine that you see a saint. That's how it is. He's got fantastic will, and he exercises it as well to perform tiny miracles, like growing hair back on someone's head.

M. Right. I was losing my hair, so Gypsy placed his hands on my head and got really into a thing. I could feel the vibrations from his hand. The next day — this is no BS — the next day it started to grow, and it's been growing ever since.

If you want to grow your hair, get in touch with Gypsy Dave. You're going to Montreal and Toronto after you leave the States and then you're going back to England. After that are you going to rest for a while?
A. Yeah. We'll pick up Gypsy and go to India.

You just spent three days with Maharishi in Los Angeles. What's he like?
A. Yeah, a few days. He's a great guy, and there's a lot of speculation about whether he's just another one but the thing is I wouldn't even speak with him if he wasn't simple. I met the man and I saw him and I knew that he was what I instinctively knew was a holy man. Basically, in me, without putting it through the process of thought even, I knew that this man was the one that was direct. He keeps saying it's such a timely thing. And it is. He doesn't let on but he knows that he came here for a purpose. He got the Beatles and sent them to India. He's straightening everybody out. All the major powers. People will say 'Oh what a lot of bullshit,' and so it's up to you; but believe me, he's the one.

M. Well what happened was he never heard the Beatles' music or the Rolling Stones' music or any of that stuff, and then Don took the guitar and played. His whole face changed and he looked at Don…

A. It's beautiful. He said I bring him joy, and he brings me joy by saying that. He says the music is of a transcendental nature which his meditation's about, which I knew anyway and we were initiated. What I needed and actually need is a discipline of tradition which is lacking in our civilization. Discipline of tradition and the ceremony of humbleness. He wrote it for me, you know, the meditation, which is diving into the well of me that I know is there anyway. And I knew I had to go in there sometime. But I'm young — I wasn't worried.

The Beatles and Mick Jagger are studying under him. Do you believe that it will be a positive influence, in that a lot of people will be at least curious about it and listen to what the man has to say?
M. The thing is that a lot of people are getting interested — not 100 percent, maybe 50 percent are really digging what he is talking about; the other 50 percent think it's a new fad.

A. See, another thing is it's going to be a fantastic influence on all the writers he's speaking with. But it's not the influence of a change. He's not going to change them from how they feel anyway. He's just going to heighten their intensity, he's just going to polish it up. See, the thing was that five years have gone and only one group has passed out soft so that even the standards haven't come out yet. Only one group has come out soft and that's the Beatles. They come from another thing, folk songs, that's another thing, but out of all that pop music there's only one that graded through, the rest have all been jangling, and now there's the next direction. And now there's a new move, a new direction, and that's why the Maharishi has come over to straighten everybody out, cool everybody out, get everybody off the drugs, and 'let's do it,' you know.

M. A funny thing happened: I don't know how true this is — there was a group came to see the Maharishi called the Grateful Dead and…

A. So he changed their name to Eternal Life. He says we don't have any dead men singing on earth, they only sing in heaven. So now they're called the Eternal Lives.

Thank you for spreading a little more magic.