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Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’ Has a Supernatural Explanation



Donovan’s “Atlantis” is one of the most unusual songs in the classic rock canon, as it combines spoken word, rock, and Greek mythology. Donovan revealed a supposedly supernatural book inspired “Atlantis.” Subsequently, the tune’s composition garnered comparisons to a famous Beatles track.

The ‘channeled’ words of an Atlantean inspired Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’

During a 2012 interview with Rock Cellar Magazine, Donovan revealed how he composed “Atlantis.” “I was reading this book by Phylos the Tibetan, [A Dweller on Two Planets] which is a channeled book,” he said. For context, a channeled book is a book supposedly dictated to an author by a ghost or other supernatural being. The Victorian author Frederick Spencer Oliver claimed to have channeled A Dweller on Two Planets from an Atlantean named Phylos the Tibetan.

“And it was about Atlantis, and I was fascinated with it so I wrote this piece on the continent of Atlantis,” he said. “And I wanted to do a spoken word record and I did.”

A blues tune inspired Donovan’s song but it still got compared to The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’

In addition, the “Mellow Yellow” singer explained how another song inspired “Atlantis.” “I already had the chorus ‘Way down below the ocean where I want to be,’” he said. “This melody was similar but not exact to a folk song Derroll Adams was singing called ‘Columbus, Georgia.’” The song in question is actually called “Columbus Stockade Blues.” “And I was playing this song with Derroll, and I guess a bit of that melody went over into it,” he said. 

Notably, Donovan was friends with The Beatles, and he had a tremendous influence on The White Album. Many listeners compared “Atlantis” to “Hey Jude.” Both songs have a power-ballad chorus that lasts for the last few minutes of the song. The New Christy Minstrels even performed a mashup of “Atlantis” and “Hey Jude.” 


How ‘Atlantis’ performed on the charts and impacted popular culture

“Atlantis” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. It became the singer’s final top 10 single, though he’d later have minor hits such as the Alice Cooper duet “Billion Dollar Babies.” The tune lasted on the chart for 13 weeks, longer than any of his songs besides “Sunshine Superman.” “Atlantis” appeared on the album Barabajagal. That album reached No. 23 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 24 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Atlantis” became a more modest hit in the United Kingdom. There, the tune peaked at No. 23 and stayed on the chart for eight weeks. On the other hand, Barabajagal never charted in the U.K. “Atlantis” later appeared on the compilation Sunshine Superman: The Very Best of Donovan. That album reached No. 47, remaining on the chart for four weeks.

“Atlantis” appeared in a fight scene from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. In addition, Disney used it to promote the movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Donovan himself recorded a parody of the track for the Futurama episode “The Deep South.” The spoof depicts Atlanta, Georgia becoming submerged like Atlantis.

“Atlantis” is a fascinating song with some highly unusual origins.

Source: Cheat Sheet


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