Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lolita and Donovan - More Rock Mythology

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth." It is one of literature's most famous opening lines. Born in Davenport, Iowa. Sue Lyon's mother was 56 when her husband died and Sue was 10 months old. Money was tight and her mother decided to move to Los Angeles where Sue could earn money as a child model. J.C Penny was her big break and from that commercial Sue landed acting jobs on Dennis the Menace (1959), where Stanley Kubrick took notice and suggested that she should test for the Lolita role.  She was just 14 years old. Interestingly, the film minimizes Humbert Humbert's monstrous delusional transgressions, instead playing up Lolita's seductive precocity. That pop culture myth of Lolita dates back beyond the movie to the best-selling novel's U.S. publication. 

Sue Lyon came into Donovan's life at the end of 1965; they were both 19. This was two years before he met his "Jennifer Juniper" (Jenny Boyd, Pattie's sister). Lyon had starred in both "Lolita" and "Night of the Iguana" before meeting Donovan. The couple dated until 1967, when Sue ended the relationship abruptly. Donovan had "accidently" slipped LSD into Sue's and her friend's drink.

The relationship was the stuff of tabloid journalism and built up far beyond its casual nature, so much so, that like much of rock's storied story, there's a hazy patina that confounds the truth, and many speculate that the song "Sunshine Superman" was about their relationship; it was not.

Instead, the song was written for future wife, Linda Lawrence (do you have your scorecard?). In 1965 Linda was recovering from a whirlwind relationship Brian Jones. The pair dated briefly, but not wanting the scrutiny and uncertainty of being a pop star's girlfriend all over again, Lawrence broke it off at the end of the year. Donovan responded with this song.

"It's not a normal love song. On the face of it, the song is about being with Linda again. But sunshine is a nickname for acid. The Superman is the person capable of entering higher states because it's not easy to go into the fourth dimension and see the matrix of the universe in which everything is connected.”

During the recording of the song in 1966, Donovan was embroiled in a lawsuit with former label Pye and his LP release date was postponed indefinitely. "My arse was being sued by Pye after "Sunshine Superman" so , my masterwork, sat on the shelves for seven months. If you date it, it was at least a year and a half before Sgt. Pepper and I remember Mickie [Producer, Mickie Most] saying to me, 'Don't play it to McCartney' but of course everybody was sharing with everyone else and nicking from each other.

"I played it to McCartney anyway," he continued. "But they were already there, anyway, and George Martin was doing something similar with The Beatles, working out arrangements from ideas they had in their heads. George Martin was The Beatles' guy and John Cameron was my guy and they both had an appreciation of jazz which was key."

Originally, the "Sunshine Superman" single was subtitled "For John And Paul," a reference to Lennon and McCartney. It would become Donovan’s only No. 1 hit.