C S Hughes
One of the most perfect moments of The Cherry Bluestorms ambitious 60s odyssey, Bad Penny Opera, is a gorgeous rendition of Donovan’s Wear Your Love Like Heaven. It has the sweet, idyllic, dreaming of the original tempered with a little Californian world weariness. It still recalls beautifully that romantic sense of a 60s pop troubadour, tripping lightly back to the lutes, guitars and dulcimers of medieval airs, in spirit at least if not in tempo.
Donovan’s 1966 album Sunshine Superman (actually recorded in ’65, at Abbey Road, delayed because of industry shenanigans) was one of the first psychedelic pop masterpieces, his lyrical, mannered voice and folk jazz acoustic guitar combined with Jimmy Page’s wailing electric, John Paul Jones’ earthy double bass, multilayered echoing harpsichord, conga drums and sitar to create something that electrified and illuminated. That’s just the single. The album explored jazz-fusion, orchestral, psychedelic pop, baroque and bebop influences with folk poetry.
The late sixties music scene was a potent mix, with artists influencing, connecting, learning and expanding, musically and in terms of consciousness. Donovan, The Beatles, Mia Farrow and her sister and many others were all at Rishikesh in India in early 1968 with the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, exploring meditation and deeper states of awareness. Donovan had become friends with The Beatles around Abbey Road and the London scene, contributing the line Sky of blue and sea of green to Yellow Submarine, undoudtedly influencing The Beatles’ first exploration of the psychedelic, their first steps toward an album as a piece of art in itself in 1966’s Revolver.
At the Maharishi ashram Donovan showed John, Paul and George something of his classical and jazz guitar influenced technique, while Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence was going so far into meditation the Maharishi thought it was bad for her. She wouldn’t leave her cabin. John and George were sent to lure her out. John though she was going slightly barmy, “She’d been locked in for three weeks and wouldn’t come out, trying to reach God quicker than anybody else. That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first. What I didn’t know was I was already cosmic.” (John Lennon in All We Are Saying, by Alan Sheff)
According to Prudence, John, Paul and George were all sitting around having a good time jamming, but she was flying into her room meditating, “they just weren’t as fanatical as me. At the end of the course, just as they were leaving, George mentioned that they had written a song about me but I didn’t hear it until it came out on the album. I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done.” (Prudence Farrow, in A Hard Day’s Write, by Steve Turner)
The elegant fingerstyle guitar on Dear Prudence, released on The White Album in November ’68, and perhaps also its pretty, wistful romanticism, are all inescapably down to the influence of Donovan. Julia and Happiness Is a Warm Gun, on the same album used the same technique, lending a poignant, gently swirling voice to the guitar, each distinct note a shimmering highlight.
For the Cherry Bluestorms, who bring a note of sophisticated but understated indie rock in their approach to 60s melodic British guitar rock, Dear Prudence is a sublime choice for the flipside of their upcoming limited edition vinyl release, See No Evil.
Expect a nuanced version, playful, perhaps a little more melancholy than wistfulness. Can melancholy be playful? Of course, ask the poets. Deborah Gee’s voice recalls the sultry warmth of The Pretender’s Chrissie Hynde, Glen Laughlin hails from punk legends The Dickies, and drummer Mark Francis White is something of a living legend from the late 70s New Wave scene, having played with The Furys, amongst others. A tremendous indie rock pedigree combined with a love of the unsurpassed British pop music of the 60s resulted in a band that has captured audiences and critics from California to Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club. Follow The Cherry Bluestorms here on Facebook.
The Limited Edition autographed 7″ vinyl of See No Evil/Dear Prudence, will be released on June 1st, includes a download of both tracks, and is available for pre-order now. Strictly limited to a pressing of 500 copies, so if you appreciate great music, if you’re a fan, and you should be, don’t miss out. Click here to order the vinyl and check out The Cherry Bluestorms other CDs, The Transit Of Venus, Bad Penny Opera and Deborah Gee’s solo debut album, Portal.