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Season Of The Witch by Donovan

Album: Sunshine SupermanReleased: 1966
  • One of the first songs to fit the "psychedelic" genre, Donovan recorded it in May 1966, shortly before his highly publicized arrest for possession of marijuana.
  • The genesis of this song goes back to an evening at folk music notable Bert Jansch's house in north London, when fellow acoustic master John Renbourn showed Donovan a D ninth chord. From that Donovan built up a riff that, according to the memories of those present, he then played solidly for the next seven hours.

    "There was a feeling, even then, that all was not perfect in the Garden of Eden," he said of the song in an interview with Mojo magazine June 2011. "Dealers were moving into bohemia and hard drugs were on the fringes. The song was also prophetic. It was about the bust, although of course I couldn't know that then."
  • During Led Zeppelin's soundchecks, they often warmed up by playing this. The song allows for lots of jamming when played live, which makes it a popular cover for many bands.
  • This song is ideal for long jams. The two main chords (A and D) are played during the verses, and during the chorus there are three chords (A, D and E). In Mojo magazine, January 2005, Donovan said: "Season of the Witch' continues to be a perennial influence because it allows a jam – not a 12-bar or Latin groove, but a very modern jam. Led Zeppelin used to warm up every day to it on the road during the soundcheck. It makes me very proud that I've created certain forms that other bands can get off on, to explore, be experimental, or just break the rules." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    D.C. Williams - Guitarist, John Brown's Underground Railway
  • Donovan's producer was Mickie Most, an interesting character who oversaw many hit records in the '60s and '70s (for more on Mickie, see our interview with Alan Merrill of The Arrows).

    In the same Mojo interview, Donovan said: "I remember the bass line going down and Mickie saying, 'We've got a problem. The engineers are saying that they can't turn the bass up.' I said, Why? They said, 'Well, it's going into the red.' And so he said to the engineers, 'Look, you go into the red, I'm giving you permission. Go in the red! That's the bass sound I want. Very, very loud.' And they said, 'Well, we'll have to have a meeting.' So they went upstairs and had a meeting about whether the bass should go into the red. And they came down, they said, 'No, I'm sorry, the equipment can't stand it.' So Mickie Most said, 'Look, I've just made a record deal with your boss Clive Davis for $5 million and seven bands. And he's given me $1m right now. So do you think if I phone him up, you'd give me a little bit more bass?' And they looked at each other, and immediately realized that their jobs were on the line. They said, 'OK, you've got more bass.' We got more bass the needle went into the red, the equipment didn't blow up. I guess next time they made that needle, they did that thing by just moving the red bit a bit farther to the right, like in Spinal Tap: 'My amp goes up to 11!'"
  • This song was covered by Al Kooper (Blood Sweat & Tears, The Blues Project) and Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young) on the historically significant 1968 album Super Session. That gives us an excuse to tell a fun story: Stills was brought in midway through recording the album to replace Mike Bloomfield (Butterfield Band, Electric Flag). Now, Kooper was originally enthusiastic to play with Bloomfield, but Bloomfield had a habit of ditching at the worst possible time. So when he showed up at Al Kooper's house, Bloomfield complained of an infected toe, then proceeded to use the most expensive crystal bowl in the house to soak his toe in.

    A photo of this (the toe) ended up on the back cover of the Super Session album. Then Mike Bloomfield simply disappeared in the morning, leaving only a note saying that he'd had insomnia. It wouldn't even be the last time he stood up Al Kooper!

    In his memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Al Kooper mentions that he's been moved to cover this song after a trip to London, when he'd heard Donovan's "Season of the Witch" coming out of every shop on King's Road.
  • "Fast" Eddie Hoh played drums on this song. He also played drums on the Super Session cover. Eddie Hoh also played percussion for The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, and dozens of other acts.
  • Other covers of this very portable song include Vanilla Fudge on a 1960s single and several of their 2000s albums, Luna on a 1996 single, and Joan Jett on her Naked album of 2004.
  • Many came across the song for the first time in late 2010 after it was used in an ad for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.
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Comments: 22

On December 29th 1968, Vanilla Fudge performed in concert* at the Civic Auditorium in Portland, Oregon...
At the time their covered version of "Season of the Witch" was at #65 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, and that was also its peaked position on the chart...
The original version of "Season of the Witch" was track one of side two on Donovan's third studio album, 'Sunshine Superman'...
* Interestingly, the concert's opening act were Led Zeppelin, who were touring the U.S.A. for the first time.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
One of the best versions of all hasn't been mentioned yet. That would be Terry Reid's. Enjoy!The Blue Bus - Kihei, Hi
As kids, we listened to Donovan’s Season of the Witch, while playing Demon-Demon. In Romania, we did not have board games, so we used a pentagram made from rabbit bones, but now most teens draw one on a Monopoly board. Literally, became a bloody mess, if you lost a go, and still had stitches from the last game. You got to pick out every stitch, if you want to be rich.John - City, Romania
This will become the next song that does not leave my head for weeks...Rj - Philadelphia, Pa
This song has nothing to do with witchcraft or magic. It is a song about paranoia.
The line "Beatniks are out to make it rich" has been changed since.
Sara - Silver Spring, Md
Donovan wrote this shortly became the first British musician to be busted for drugs in the 1960s.Sara - Silver Spring, Md
Linda Lawrence did not inspire this song nor did a 1965 movie.Sara - Silver Spring, Md
Hey, Lou Rawls did a suprisingly funky version of this!!Tom - Woonsocket, Ri
"Must be the season of the wiiiiiiiiiiitch" yah i loove itNady - Adelaide, Australia
Was the featured soundtrack in "House, MD", S3E11, "Words and Deeds"D'n - Petah Tikvah, Israel
Another amazing Donovan song, one of my favorites.Lemicro - New York City, Ny
While recording the demo at a studio in Denmark St, Donovan met and befriended Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, who were recording in a nearby studio. Coincidentally, he had also recently met Jones's ex-girlfriend, Linda Lawrence. (She had already had a son by Jones, but when she met Donovan her relationship with Jones was effectively over.) Donovan and Jones became close friends and their relationship lasted until Jones' untimely death in 1969.

The meeting between Linda and Donovan was pivotal. They began an on-again-off-again romantic relationship that carried on sproadically for the next five years, and exerted a huge influence on Donovan's music. Linda refused to marry Donovan, and moved to America for several years in the late '60s. Although he had other relationships in between â?? one of which resulted in the birth of his first two children, Donovan Leitch Jr and Ione Skye Leitch â?? he remained strongly drawn to Linda, and she effectively became his muse. His confused feelings about her inspired dozens of songs, including "Catch The Wind", "Legend Of A Girl Child Linda", "Season Of The Witch", and many others.

- Kim Huggins, Windsor, Connecticut
Leslie - Windsor, Ct
Julie Driscoll, Brian Aunger and the Trinity did a cover of this song...as did bloke called Richard Thompson...his version lasts over nine minutes and is bloody unreal! As good if not better than Donovan's original...if not a bit different (his style even suits the song better than Donovan's i believe). Thompson's version also featured quite a few times as background music in the TV show Crossing JordanCameron - Koroit, Australia
Regarding the Super Sessions with Stills, Bloomfield and Kooper, it's the same song. Written by Donovan, who is absolutely one of the greatest pop/rock musicians.David - Youngstown, Oh
pretty sure it was written about some paranoia experienced by donovan right before a pot bust. but i could be wrongTrish - Old Forge, Pa
Does this have any relevance to Kooper & Stills Season of the Witch?Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
This song inspired the book "Season of the Witch" by James Leo Herlihy, author of "Midnight Cowboy". Taking place in early 1970, it is the story of a 15-year-old girl who runs away from her plastic suburban home along with her gay friend John, who has just received his draft notice. When the pair take street names, she calls herself Witch. The song is not referenced in the book, although many other songs of the period are.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
In Dunedin Graeme Wardrop's band used to play this in the late 60s.Stephen - London, England
Genius...!!!Craig - Dunedin, New Zealand
Season of the Witch is actually the name of the third Halloween movieAj - Cleveland, Ga
Luna did a cover of this. I actually like it better than Donovan's....Maddie - Knoxville, Tn
Vanilla Fudge did a decent cover of this. They also covered The Supremes' song You Keep Me Hangin' On in a similar vein.Martijn - Helmond, Netherlands
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