Sunday, October 06, 2013


Today let's look at a song. This song gets an occasional spin on our radio show other than just during the month of October, but not often. Sometimes I play covers of it on my Meow Meow Show, and even though they are meant to be light hearted and fun, it's still just too creepy a song even for the Percy Faith Singers tackle. Do you want a hint as to which song I'm talking about?
How about this -

It gives me the shivers just looking at this. Above is a picture taken from David Fincher's film Zodiac. Depicted is the horrible event that occurred at Lake Berryessa in 1969 when the Zodiac killer attacked two picnicking students, killing one of them. I cannot watch that part of Fincher's film, and the image of the Zodiac popping out from behind the tree is one that haunts me to this day. It's a great soundtrack, but I will always associate one song with this film, Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man.

If you have seen the film then you are creeped out now just like me and if you haven't seen it then add it to your list of movies to watch this Halloween season. But what exactly is a Hurdy Gurdy Man? It refers to a musical instrument called a hurdy gurdy that is cranked by the player. Sometimes it is referred to as "organ grinders" and often times they are associated with dancing monkeys. There is some dark history associated with Hurdy Gurdy men in Eastern Europe. These street musicians were often harassed and accussed of being beggars and malcontents, sometimes even rounded up and exterminated like animals.

Here is an actual Hurdy Gurdy in use. I have never seen one of these played before myself, and they certainly sound like they could "sing songs of love".

I was surprised to find out that initially the guitar solo in Hurdy Gurdy Man was to be played by Jimi Hendrix! But he had to bow out at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts. As it is, there is some confusion as to who did play on the track. Donovan insists that Jimmy Page played guitar and John Bonham played drums. That would almost make it a Led Zeppelin tune because Jon Paul Jones was involved in the arrangement and played bass. He insists that they did not play. And just when you think it can't get any crazier, how about we toss a Beatle into the story?!

Donovan played the song for George Harrison when they met in Rishikesh and George wrote a verse for it that Donovan initially recorded. However when the finished project was given to the studios, they opted to cut the verse due to time constraints. Harrison's verse was often sung by Donovan in live performances of Hurdy Gurdy Man. It goes like this:

"When the truth gets buried deep
Beneath the thousand years of sleep
Time demands a turn-around
And once again the truth is found
Awakening the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Who comes singing songs of love."

So does all of this make the song any less creepy for me? No. Not as long as I can imagine that scene for Zodiac, but maybe this cover version will help.

Nope, still creepy.


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