That Time Donovan and Jimmy Page Revisited ‘Sunshine Superman’

October 11th, 2016

PHOTO: C. Brandon | Getty Images
By Damian Fanelli

On June 3, 2011, Donovan—assisted by the London Contemporary Orchestra—set out to perform a note-for-note rendition of his classic 1966 album, Sunshine Superman, at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

So it made perfect sense that guitarist Jimmy Page, who played plenty of notes on the original album, was there to lend a hand.

In a move that took the Albert Hall audience completely by surprise, a silver-haired Page sauntered onto the stage clutching his black Gibson Les Paul Custom (with Bigsby) and reprised his guitar part on the album’s hit title track. You can see that performance in the top video below (NOTE: Be sure to skip ahead to 4:20).

In terms of playing things note for note, Page and Donovan did a good job, totally ignoring the much longer version of Page’s full-I-IV-V “Sunshine Superman” guitar solo that was later released on Donovan’s Greatest Hits in 1969. An even longer edit of the song can be found on The Essential Donovan, which came out in 2004. You can hear Page’s full-length guitar solo in the bottom YouTube player.

Anyway, Page returned to the stage a bit later that night to play on another mid-Sixties Donovan hit, “Mellow Yellow.” You can check out the middle video for that performance.

When I spoke to Donovan in 2014, I asked him about the original recording session for “Sunshine Superman.”

“[Page] walked in—he was a session guy,” Donovan said. “He did the session and we liked each other. That was as quick as it was. My father worked with me for a while, because I was underage and couldn’t sign contracts. I loved my father; he taught me a lot about poetry and stuff. And he kept everything. He gave me a box of papers that he kept, and in the papers was something from a Jimmy Page session: ‘Jimmy Page, £3.10.’ It was amazing.”

NOTE: For “Sunshine Superman” (top video), skip ahead to 4:20.

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