A LIST of hits by pop star Donovan Leitch (just plain Donovan to you and me) brings back memories of the '60s as easily as a whiff of pungent patchouli incense: "Wear Your Love Like Heaven," "Happiness Runs," "I Love My Shirt," "Jennifer Juniper," the ethereal, mythological "Ode to Atlantis," and his ode to the banana, "Mellow Yellow." The former Fabian of the flower children, now 36, still liberally seasons his conversation with words like "groovy" and "universal consciousness."
But the singer has absorbed some of the more commercial elements of the '80s. Now he talks of recording "visual albums, with costumes, and lights and sets" and drops names like HBO and MTV. And his new album, "Lady of the Stars," produced by Jerry Wexler on Wexler's independent label, Allegiance Records, features two Donovan standards, "Sunshine Superman" and "Season of the Witch," both recorded with synthesizers, the electric guitars of the '80s.
Although he's been recording steadily since 1964, Donovan hasn't had a hit on the charts since the early '70s. He has continued to write songs "and poems which may become songs," he says. "This is not a 'comeback album,' " he insists. "It's just my next record. I don't necessarily want to leap the heights of the charts again and become a huge star. I've already done that. Of course, if it happened, it would be lovely."
Donovan says he has been developing two musicals and a film project with his wife, Linda, a former model and contemporary of Jean Shrimpton and Patti Boyd. The first musical is called "Lives of the Wives," and will star Linda Donovan in a story about the three women behind three rock stars, centered on the trials and troubles of the wife of a certain international pop celebrity (guess who?). Donovan has also written "Boom!," which he describes as "an anti-nuclear ballet." Both projects are scheduled for London openings next year. He says he may do a small American tour next year as well.
But rest assured things haven't changed all that much. Donovan still writes his songs on an acoustic guitar or piano, sitting cross-legged in his country town house in Windsor. (Also living with him are his two daughters, Oriole and Astrella, and 19-year-old Julian, Linda's son by the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.)
"I've always been a poet more than a musician, always involved in the ballad form," he says. "Like most young Bohemian men, I read Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, heard Woody Guthrie, and of course Shelley, Keats and Yeats figure strongly," says Donovan, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and began his career as "an international superstar" at age 18.
"I fit in a strange groove," says Donovan, who still gets together with British Invasion pals like Jimmy Page and Ronnie Lane. "When everyone else was rockin' and rollin', my groove was that I would calm you down. It's my appeal and that's my fix. The new Donovan is the heavy Donovan, punchy and electric.
"But I'm interested in the same things, essentially: combining music and social events, world consciousness--I've always been interested in women's views," Donovan says.
And he still loves his shirt. "I haven't changed the way I dress. I'm still wearing loose, flowing, comfortable clothing. I never was much of an image person. No suits, but no glitter either."