Sunshine Superman

Album: Sunshine Superman (1966)
Charted: 2 1
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  • Donovan first met his future wife, Linda Lawrence, in 1965 when she was recovering from a broken relationship with Rolling Stones founding member 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, the singer told Mojo magazine June 2011. "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.

    The line, 'everybody's hustling' referred to the pop scene at the time, where you could lose yourself very easily. Gyp (Mills - Donovan's lifelong friend and tour manager) would always keep my feet on the ground; we had left home at 16 to busk so we could see fame for what it is."
  • Donovan was good friends with The Beatles, and they were both making very innovative and trippy music at the time. Donovan's producer Mickie Most told him not to play the Sunshine Superman album to Paul McCartney under any circumstances, because he knew McCartney would be tempted to do something similar.

    Donovan recalled to Uncut magazine: "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 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.
  • Jimmy Page played lead guitar on this. Page was a session musician at the time.
  • Donovan was recording for Pye Records when he was working on this. Pye also had Mickie Most under contract, but he moved to CBS before the album could be released. This prompted a lawsuit that delayed release of the album, so it didn't come out in the US until September 1966, and wasn't released in the UK until 1967. This was unfortunate for Donovan, because this would have been considered much more innovative if it was released on schedule.
  • This was one of the first ever overtly psychedelic pop records. Donovan played down the drug implications of the song, but they were certainly implied: "Sunshine" was a name for LSD.
  • This was Donovan's first collaboration with arranger, musician and jazz fan John Cameron, who developed a new sound for him. Cameron played the harpsichord on this recording.
  • In the video for The Beatles "A Day In The Life" you can see a close up of "Sunshine Superman" playing on a spinning turntable.
  • Donovan had a fleeting love affair with the model Linda Lawrence in 1965. He bumped into her four years later and they married in 1970. Donovan said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper May 24, 2005, "Linda's in all the songs. 'Sunshine Superman,' 'Hampstead Incident,' 'Young Girl Blues'... Linda's the muse."
  • This was the first hit song with the word "Superman" in the title. In later years, Superman appeared in many songs, often as a symbol of inner strength.
  • This was used in the 2010 "Snow Trip" television commercials for the Honda Accord.
  • The song was Donovan's only single to reach #1 on the Hot 100 . "Gypsy Dave [Donovan's creative companion] and I went off to Greece with about three quid in my pocket," he recalled to Billboard magazine. "The phone rang, and Ashley Kozak, my manager, said 'Get yourself back to Athens, you've got a first-class ticket to London. 'Superman''s released and it's #1 all over the world.'"
  • Imani Coppola sampled the instrumental track for her 1997 single "Legend of a Cowgirl," which peaked at #32 in the UK.

Comments: 15

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some obscure trivia:
    On February 12th 1940, 'The Adventures of Superman', with future television game show host Bud Collyer in the title role, began its 11-year run on radio as a syndicated show on New York City's WOR. It became a network show on Mutual in August 1942 as a 15-minute serial airing three to five times a week...
    Ten records with 'Superman' in it's title have made Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart:
    1. Sunshine Superman by Donovan, peaked at #1 in 1966
    2. Black Superman - Muhammad Ali by Johnny Walkelin & the Kinshasa Band, peaked at 21 in 1975
    3. Superman by Herbie Mann, peaked at #26 in 1979
    4. Superman by Ides of March, peaked at #64 in 1970
    5. Theme from 'Superman' - Main Title by John Williams, peaked at #81 in 1979
    6. I'm Your Superman by All Sports Band, peaked at All Sports Band
    7. Superman by Dino, Desi, and Billy, peaked at #94
    Three peaked at #41; Superman by Donna in 1973, Superman by Celi Bee & the Buzzy Bunch in 1977, and (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman by the Kinks in 1979
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 24th 1966, "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on August 28th, 1966 it peaked at #1 (for 1 week) and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 in Canada and Australia...
    Between 1965 and 1973 he had seventeen Top 100 records; four made the Top 10 with "Sunshine Superman" being his biggest hit...
    He just missed having a second #1 when "Mellow Yellow" peaked at #2 (for 3 weeks) on December 4th, 1966 (during its 1st week at #2, "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys was #1; and for its 2nd & 3rd week at #2, the #1 record was "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band...
    Donovan Philips Leitch celebrated his 68th birthday two months ago on May 10th, 2014.
  • Jf from Montreal, QcGreat number... We had a blast doing the cover & clip...

    A very interesting little nugget of info from Apple's visionary is found somewhere in our clip about it all...

    Did you know about it ?
    Donovan knew ;)

  • Steve from Whittier, CaThis song was not only no more than 3:15 on single BUT on LP, AND the LP FOLLOWED, a sign of how recording artists still did things in mid 60s, yet there WAS indeed a longer version first heard in 1969 on a Greatest Hits LP, and even longer more recently. Of course, that longer version is the dominant one on US radio now..
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThe YouTube video shows clips of Sue Lyons because there was a rumor somewhere that Donovan had an affair with her at one point.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdDonovan re-recorded the song on his 1983 album Lady of the Stars which sold so poorly it was reissued several times even with the title "Sunshine Superman"! Now you know why Donovan's career sank in the eighties!
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThe song that also mentions Green Lantren another DC Comics hero.
    Among the artists who have covered it: Jewel (in the I Shot Andy Warhol OST in favor of Mel Torme's rather bizarre version), Rickie Lee Jones on the Party of Five OST, Melba Moore and some group called "The Films" on an album called
    Songs of Superman.
  • Pennell from Kansas City, MoEarly Jimmy Page. Wow, you can tell he matured a lot four years after this song with Zeppelin.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumMy favourite song of Donovan, very TOP!
  • Benjamin from Milwaukie (oak Grove), OrSinger/violinist Imani Coppola sampled the melody of this song on her lone Top 40 single "Legend of a Cowgirl" (it made only #36 US).
  • Brian from Dnever, CoI have heard of both Sunshine and Superman types of acid. is the song named after the LSD? Or is the LSD named after the song?
  • Meredith from Wauwatosa, WiI may not always understand what Donovan sings, but I love this song!
  • Rasmus from Odense, DenmarkThis hit #1 at the US chart septemper 1966
  • Wik from Brooklyn, Ny'Sunshine' and 'Superman' are the first words in the first and second verses respectively.
  • Steven from Concord, MaI distinctly remember seeing a Manhattan Phone Book (white pages) from that era and noticing the bold print name headers on page 1200 or the like being "SUNSHINE" on the left and "SUPERMAN" on the right. I presume Donovan saw this once too, and voila, the song title was born.
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