I wondered and wondered and am still not exactly sure I pinned her correctly.
To feel you all around me and to take your hand
Along the sand
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind
Perhaps catch the girl more like, but which girl?
Down through the years and decades Donovan’s ‘Catch the Wind’, through its several versions and umpteen covers, has always been a favourite ditty for me. So when it re-entered my world recently, via a mint new take, listening to it drew my thoughts back to a faraway place when it encapsulated my yearnings for her. But I couldn’t place exactly who that ‘her’ was, but it must have been someone pretty special to get me so worked up that I pined for her in tune with the Donovan classic. Maybe checking out the song’s provenance would assist me in identifying her – for mysteries like it tend to play on my mind. I was sure it would hark back to a time in my life when there was a hiatus – a time when the cupboard was bare, so to speak. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but you see, for a few years I’d lost the art. And it was/is an art and I have always been pretty artless in what appeals to the opposite gender – but since then I have been luckier in my life
Now those of you with memories that stretch back as far as mine may recall the song – or it may have been in a parent’s collection, even if you cannot place its composer/performer. ‘Catch the Wind’ came into being in 1965, put together by one Donovan Leitch who, perhaps understandably, chose to be known around the traps simply by his first name. It reached No.4 in the UK and 23 in the US. Born in 1946, Donovan’s still around, but his glory years were long ago, ’65 till ’69. He was mates with Brian Jones and taught John Lennon how to finger-pick. For a time he had a close friendship with Joan Baez – instrumental in causing my pondering on yesteryear. His string of hits included ‘Colours’ and ‘Universal Soldier’ early on, but then he really hit his straps with ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Hurdy-Gurdy Man’, with the biggie being ‘Mellow Yellow’.
Was I aware of it way back in 1965? I may have been, but at a callow 14 I was just developing my interest in music. The opposite sex, though, wasn’t really on my radar then, so I doubt there would have been much cause for angst over a girl in my Grade 8 year.
Because of label issues, the song was revamped and re-released for a ‘Greatest Hits’ package in ’68. Now this is more like it. The new version was produced by Mickie Most and became a more complex entity. It was probably this adaptation that so caught my ear back then – that so impacted.
Personally, in the opposite sex department, 1968 was a good year for me, having a relationship with two lovely young ladies over the course of that year into ’69 – then came the fallow times. I’d have ‘crushes’, I’d give and occasionally receive ‘looks’ from across a classroom or lecture theatre that would seem promising; conversations that I felt could have led to something. But nothing developed – zilch. Yep. In that period I may have as well ‘tried to catch the wind‘ as had anything remotely meaningful with any of those lasses I had my eye on.
There were several that aroused my passions in my final year of education in Burnie, followed by more whilst at a Hobart university hall of residence – sadly not co-ed. But which one caused me to curl up on my bed in the foetal position with unrequited love on my mind, having ‘Catch the Wind’ on repeat playings. Back then this required frequent lifting and dropping of the stylus, or constant cassette rewindings – quite labour intensive. She was so elusive, whoever she was – just giving me enough to keep me interested, but back then I had become obtuse in reading the signs. My confidence was shot.
After listening to the tune anew recently, I spent several sessions in my morning bath, trying to figure out which one from that faraway period was her? Who was that girl in the late sixties/early seventies who had me wallowing? She no doubt was someone who I truly wanted to cause me to ‘leave all my blues behind‘ because it so seemed ‘everywhere I’d look…(her) eyes I’d find‘. But it, obviously, was never to be. And eventually, in amongst the suds, I think I figured it out.
In fact, I have previously scribbled about her before in one of my Burnie Tales, ‘Honey’. She was Ellen – not her real name I hasten to add. In fact, Ellen was an amalgam of several girls I knew during that barren period. It was a ‘what if’ tale – what if I had succeeded in attracting her, or even one of those girls, then? In reality Ellen and I never made it to anywhere near the stage of ‘taking her hand along the sand’, for she was drawn to more sporty types – ace footballers and surfer-dudes; the in-crowd. I was no match. But she was one of a number back then – but I seem to recall I was partially attracted to her because she, like me, was a olive-hued sun-worshipper, a habitué of the beaches around Burnie.
The direct reason for this visitation to a song and a girl of long ago was listening to a brand new cover of the former, sung by two glorious troubadours who have been around for a considerable time – in fact one was celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday in concert. In it Joan was perhaps recalling her days when the writer of the tune was her mate, Mary perhaps thinking how fortunate she was to be on stage singing along with a legend.
Joan Baez has just released a double album of songs, mostly in tandem with a guested notable, from her pomp. I reckon most know of her, if not for her music, perhaps because of her relationship with Bob Dylan. She was an early champion as well as lover. Her biggest hits – surely you will recall her now – ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down’. I was reclining in the man-cave, listening to the anniversary suite of songs for the first time when ‘Catch the Wind’ lilted into my aural appendages.
On this she was accompanied by Mary Chapin Carpenter – perhaps not such a familiar name. This artist’s most successful years were from ’89 till ’96. Her triumph was the 1992 collection ‘Come On, Come On’ yielding seven hits on the US country charts. She has won five Grammys over the years, but during this new millennium has largely sunk from view as her albums became deemed not radio-friendly enough, whatever that means. But early this year I purchased her latest, ‘Things that We Are Made Of ‘. I reckon it’s up there with her best.
And yours truly started trying to figure out who that elusive girl was as the duo trilled to the beat of ‘Catch the Wind’; the one who caused so much early adult longing. On that early spring afternoon, with the sun coming in on me, I was immediately transported anew to those times when I fretted about being left out as, unlike most of my mates, I could not find myself a girlfriend. That’s what came back to me, caused by an old song sung by two consummate performers. Of course, eventually it all changed for me – but in the deep recess of my mind she still flutters – that elusive girl.
Donovan sings the song = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-c9sr_qF8I