Transcript of

Paul McCartney and Donovan

recorded during the sessions for Mary Hopkin's Postcard LP -Jan.'69

as heard on the "No. 3 Abbey Road N.W. 8" bootleg CD.


*due to the low quality of the recording as a whole, certain words are difficult to discern. Questionable words or phrases are denoted by italics.


Fade in, Paul playing acoustic guitar and singing How Do You Do?.


Paul: (singing) How to suck a lollypopper,

Sitting on a woodypecker,

Dancing in the double-decker shoe,

(Donovan snickers, presumably at Paul's nonsensical lyrics)

I don't know,

How do you do?


Paul and Donovan: (singing together) How to suck a lollypopper,

Sitting on a woodypecker,

Dancing in the double-decker shoe,

I don't know,

So, how do you do?


Donovan attempts to harmonize on the last word, 'do', but hits a sour note, causing both him and Paul to laugh. Paul carries on alone.


Paul: (singing) I don't know how you do it,

Lordy, knows I try,

But every time I try to do it,

My whole darn tongue gets tied


Paul repeats the main verse, dealing with lollypoppers and double-decker things, while Donovan improvises some sort of gibberish over it, rendering it fairly impossible to transcribe.


Paul:...then Danny Kaye takes over...


Paul breaks into singing the main verse acapella at light speed followed by various comedic noise, "ha, ha, hoo"s and the like, causing Donovan and Mary Hopkins (whom we are just noticing for the first time) to break into laughter. While he continues to carry on in this fashion, Donovan chimes in with his own nonsense sounds. As the nonsense dies out, Paul for some reason or another lets out an apparently concerned "Oh, shit." There is no sound of anything being hit or of a guitar string breaking, or anything else that might serve as a reason for his sudden alarm. One guess may be that he dropped cigarette ashes onto his guitar, but this serves only as unsupported speculation. Paul immediately returns to the song, causing Donovan to snicker again.


Paul: (singing) I don't know how you do it...


Donovan: Think I'm very cheap as well, you know? (possibly: "make 'em very cheap...")


This causes Paul to laugh, for whatever reason, and he says something that can't be made out. He then continues singing.


Paul: (singing) whole darn tongue gets tied.


Donovan: (attempting to speak in a sort of western drawl) My whole darn tongue gets tied up.


Paul: (speaking in a much more convincing American accent than Donovan) My whole darn tongue gets tied.


Paul carries on singing the same verse, "How to suck a lollypopper..." a couple more times. Finally he stops.


Donovan: You know, you find when you get into the beginning (of a song), and I've begun a few, let me tell you... (Paul chuckles)...but, uh, it's easy (Paul coughs) just get a little organ, a guitar, and a voice and a bit of echo, and you've got a (Paul starts playing a soft little progression on the guitar) ...suddenly you've got a painting. You close your eyes and you've got this beach... (apparently Paul doesn't find Donovan's ramblings too interesting, because he starts humming right over Donovan's words)...and things happening... like films... (Donovan seems to have picked up on Paul's disinterest, as these last words sort of drift off.)


Donovan strikes a match and lights a cigarette as Paul continues playing the soft, two chord progression he had started while humming a light melody. Eventually this resolves into Blackbird, a song Paul has recently written and recorded for The Beatles. The finger picking patterns and timing of this performance are slightly different than the recorded version, but it is essentially the same. Paul starts to sing.


Paul: (singing) Black bird singing in the dead of night...


Donovan: Yeah, that's beautiful.


Paul: (singing) Take these broken wings and learn to fly...


Donovan: This is the one just for the guitar on the LP, eh? (apparently Paul nods.) Yeah.


Paul: (singing) All your life... (speaking) It's about a blackbird.


Donovan: Yeah. A black bird playing a tune, eh?


Paul: (singing) You were only waiting for this moment to arise.


Donovan starts making bird noises, similar to those heard on the final recording. Mary Hopkins can be heard trying to sing quietly along with Paul in the background.


Donovan: Fantastic.


Paul: (singing) Blackbird singing in the dead of night... (Donovan joins in attempting to harmonize)...take these sunken eyes and learn to see,

All your were only waiting for this moment to be free,

Blackbird fly,

Blackbird fly,

Into the light of a dark black night.


Donovan: You see now, there are so many blackbirds (black birds?) now.


Paul stops playing.


Paul: I sang it to Diana Ross the other night. She took offense.


Everyone laughs.


Paul: Not really. But I did mean it like that originally.


Donovan: Really?


Paul: Yeah, I remember... I'd just read something in the paper about riots and then (singing briskly) Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life, you were only waiting...


Donovan: That's funny, 'cause when you were just singing I was saying 'What a way to color a blackbird' There're so many beautiful colors to lift a blackbird into people's eyes. So it's...that's wild. But you'll see so many blackbirds, as well. When I wrote about a magpie, every time I drive now, they cross the path, they're everywhere you go, as if they're going (makes a whistle sound, like a bomb being dropped, followed by a small splatting sound)


Everyone bursts out into laughter.


Paul: (laughing) Thanks Don, got it, Don. Nice.


Donovan: Nice one.


Paul: Beautiful.


Everyone laughs again. Donovan sings and plays a few verses of a song of his, The Unicorn. Paul joins in and a little duet on guitar ensues. Suddenly, the tape cuts to an apparently later session. An unidentified male is now sitting with the group.


Unidentified Man: ...oh, what's the song? Shit. Oh, man, my fucking memory's getting so bad. You know the one. Um....


Donovan: Lalena?


Unidentified Man: There you go!


Mary Hopkins: Oh, sure yeah, that song.


Donovan begins singing Lalena.


Donovan: (singing) When the sun goes to bed,

That's the time...(speaking) I don't think they dug that did they?


Unidentified Man: Oh, yeah.


Donovan continues playing the song as Paul joins in again on guitar for another duet, as Unidentified Man sings along with Donovan on parts. Eventually the song begins to wind down. Paul interrupts to address someone in the control booth.


Paul: Well, have you got a sound on the guitar yet?


Donovan: What's it sound like? (Donovan laughs at his own joke)


A voice sounding very much like George Martin's answers Paul from the booth.


George Martin?: Very nice, actually, very nice.


Paul: Does it?


Donovan: It's a good guitar for that. (Donovan laughs nervously)


Paul: We're nice people, too. (everyone laughs, including Paul) That helps. You know. I love my poem. (again, everybody laughs. Why? Who knows?)


Paul begins playing a little ditty on acoustic.


Donovan: Where'd you get the bass from?


Paul: Savile Row (giggles).


Donovan laughs. Paul begins singing a strange little tune he's written for Linda's daughter, Heather. The song's descending chord sequence, for the most part, is strikingly similar to George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps. In fact, the words and melody to While My... can be sung perfectly over most of Heather's passages, with the only deviation from George's main progression coming during the section where Heather's name is repeated. This similarity is noted here, since this seems to be the only recording of this song in popular circulation. Perhaps its odd resemblance to his partner's obviously superior song is the reason it is never heard of again after this point. Just brainstorming here...


Paul: (singing) Well, you take a feather,

In any kind of weather,

You put it together,

And what have you got?

You got Heather, Heather, Heather.

(Mary Hopkins joins in on the last 'Heather', drawing laughs from the others)

You take a cap,

And maybe fat,

You put it on the map,

And what have you got?

You got Heather, Heather, Heather.

Well, you take a goose,

Cut it loose,

Drink some juice,

And what have you got?

You got Heather, Heather, Heather.


Donovan joins in on acoustic and another guitar duet develops, with Donovan laying down some superb guitar licks that perfectly compliment Paul's playing. The guitars continue their performance for a while and eventually die down with Paul and Donovan repeating over and over "Heather, Heather, Heather..." Immediately, Donovan launches into his Beatles influenced, Mr. Wind as Paul fumbles for some accompaniment before interrupting him again.


Paul: Have you ever made a full-length children's record? Of just your stuff, you know?


Donovan: Well, there was one, but it did dabble in other things. So...


Paul: Yeah, I know, I remember.


Donovan: Right. I got one that I've been working on but I never got 'round...something like this.


Paul: You know it's just...(Donovan starts playing his guitar, and only snippets of what Paul is saying can be heard)...turning people on...story with all this...but how would you get radio play?


Donovan: Right, that's what I was doing the other day...


Paul: (speaking in a low, cartoonish voice) "Ha, ha ha, hello, children! Ha, ha!"


Donovan: Yeah, that's great. Well, it was a beautiful one. It started off like...(singing) "Da, da, da, da, da, da-da, da-da", with a funny organ and a recorder. And then somebody who had just come back from (unintelligible) said, (in a funny Italian voice) "Presento the fantastico cicurasa...! A spectacurana...!" You know, one of these Italian circuses, with this lovely, echoey sort of little organ. "Victoriano on the high-a wire!" You know, with that lovely circus thing, and then fade it out slowly, and then begin The Walrus and the Carpenter. (Donovan pauses, and after a moment, Paul and Mary, sensing that they're supposed to respond, laugh lightly. Donovan carries on in a soft narrator's voice) "The Walrus and the Carpenter were walking down the..."


At this point, Paul coughs and begins saying something, but the tape suffers one of it's points of worst distortion of some kind, and this, combined with the fact that Donovan and Paul are talking at the same time, makes for very little intelligible speech to transcribe. Eventually, it is Paul we understand first.


Paul: know, big orchestras! Make it, man!


Donovan begins playing his guitar.


Donovan: Listen to this...


Mary Hopkins: What's this song? I love that.


Donovan then launches into singing Land of Gish. Shortly after, the tape fades, and the session (at least this recording of it) ends.

There are a few points of this recording that are of interest. From the beginning, Paul doesn't seem to be too interested in what Donovan has to say. He repeatedly plays, sings, or talks over Donovan's speech. He is never blatantly rude, but one gets a sense of him just tolerating those around him. He appears to be more than willing to participate in a jam session, as he and Donovan continually riff on each other's songs. But as soon as Donovan starts extemporizing on the magical process of "painting" a song, Paul seems to turn off. Whether Paul feels Donovan is being pretentious or whether it is that he approaches songwriting from a different angle is unclear.

Probably of most interest here are Paul's comments on the origin of his song Blackbird. While Ian MacDonald in his book Revolution in the Head maintains the song was inspired by Paul "being woken by a blackbird bursting into song before sunrise," here we are presented with a different version of the origin directly from Paul's mouth. That the song was motivated by race riots is also supported by William J. Dowdlings in his book Beatlesongs as well as in The Beatles A-Z. However, in Beatlesongs it is also mentioned that one of Paul's "most cherished moments as a songwriter was when he woke one morning to the sound of a blackbird singing the tune of his song." Not a very likely story, but perhaps it is this anecdote that MacDonald mistakenly attributes to the origin of the song.

It is only speculation, but it is not too hard to imagine Paul smirking as Donovan goes on about the circus-themed album he has planned. Surely Paul is taking note of the fact that, had Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band not been presented to the world, with it's circus/carnival-like feel, Donovan's little brainstorm would not be.

I am not sure whether or not there is more of this session out there. I haven't heard any of the other boots with this on it, so I don't know how much they contain. If anyone is aware of more, please drop us a line.