Thursday, November 28, 2013

Janus Records: Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)

Since we are in the midst of our Fourth Week Special that features recordings on the Janus Record label, I could not find a song dealing with thankfulness to be appropriate with the American Thanksgiving holiday. Although there were several songs released by Janus that fit this theme, none are available on YouTube. With that quandary, I’ve decided to revert to our typical Thursday Repeats and Threepeats special.

In 1966, Donovan’s “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)” was released on the Hickory label in the US. A product of Pye Records in Britain, the label didn’t have an American outlet and Pye contracted initially with Hickory and later Epic Records to release the early Donovan recordings.

By 1969, Pye had invested in Janus Records and the label became their de facto American arm. When the contract with Hickory expired in 1970, the Hickory recordings reverted to Janus and the new label re-released several of the Hickory singles and a compilation of the Hickory material as “Donovan P. Leitch.” In addition, Janus repacked Donovan’s further 1965-66 material into 1971’s “Hear Me Now” before Pye sold their interest in Janus to GRT. After that, Pye contracted with Bell Records to further repackage the early Donovan material.

So for the short window of 1970-1971, Janus had the rights to all of Donovan’s early material. Of these releases, Janus reissued the “Hey Gyp” single in 1970. Like the 1966 Hickory release, the 1970 reissue failed to chart. Unlike Donovan’s later recordings with Epic, the 1965-66 material on Hickory and later Janus were sparsely produced. “Hey Gyp” and the other recordings from this era only featured Donovan on guitar, harmonica, and vocals with no other supporting musicians.

The “Gyp” in the song was inspired by Donovan’s best friend and road manager Gypsy Dave Mills. Part of the song’s failure to chart may be due to the title of the song. Neither “Hey Gyp” nor the parenthetical title of “(Dig the Slowness)” appeared in the lyrics. Titling the song “Just Give Me Some of Your Love” may have made all of the difference in the single’s sales and airplay – during both of its runs.

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