Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gypsy Dave -The Interview part 1

Gypsy Dave Mills Interview Part 1

Gypsy Dave was Donovan’s legendary road buddy and best friend here is the first part of an exclusive interview with him.

On The Autobiography

Andrew Morris: When did you decide to write your life story?

Gypsy Dave Mills:....O.K. HERE WE go, When Dono was finishing off his book of his life , The Hurdy Gurdy Man, he came to Paros ,Greece , to a lovely seaside house that I found him where we worked together on it for about six days, in so doing I wrote memories of what I could remember of stories we lived through together to remind him of some of them .These Dono loved so much that he suggested he should send them of to the publisher to be inserted into the book as a recollection of mine (our life almost being joined at the hip for many years). The Editor in chief of the company publishing the book for Donovan (Random House ) ,Mark Booth, thought that a bad idea as it might confuse things ,(it was Dons life being told not mine ). But Mark Booth did give many compliments on my writing skills ,(much to my surprise ) .To cut a long story short ,whilst in London at the Publishing house Do to publicize Dons book , Mark Booth asked me about my story and said that he had enjoyed what I had written and that if I ever wrote my own story he would like to be the first to see it . A few months later ,in a way to relieve my mind from a very complicated piece of sculpture I was doing ,I started very casually to write my autobiography, 'Knight(s) of the Road', a title suggested by Donovan by the way .

A: How are you finding putting it all down in print?

G: I am actually loving it .It brings back the times as if they were yesterday and I remember them so well. It surprises me what with all the smoking I did in my early years, they say if you really lived the sixties then you wont remember a thing about it, which is really true in the sixties but now in the 20th century a lot of what was forgotten has re-emerged, which might prove the old adage that as you die your life floats before you ,maybe trying to write about your early life touches that same spot in your soul, who knows .All I know is I am busy writing the rest of the chapters now .

A: You have written 19 chapters so far , some wonderful stories in there, any news on how many more you are going to write and when?

G: I am on chapter 22 now ,chapter 20 and 21 are ready for Davy McGowan to see them for Editing, but I will let him have them 4 chapters at a time , that's if he doesn't mind helping me again. Its been a while now , after the death of my poor son Matthew of cancer I finally feel creative again in my writing .

A: Davy McGowan is helping you out with editing etc on the book, did you enjoy working with him?

G: Davy is fantastic , a wonderful person and has a great understanding as an editor , through his magazines about Donovan he has interest in seeing Donovan’s life through my eyes too ,so it makes it a very personal thing working with Davy although we only met once at a Donovan Concert I feel we have a strong artistic bond in ourselves ,he is a good musician as well as writer and Editor and I feel very lucky and privileged to have found him to do this work with me .

A: I have a Question from Sara Loveridge , she wants to know about your thoughts on 'To Try For The Sun' is it about your time with Don in Manchester?

G: Hi Sara, ‘To Try For The Sun’ ,its about a time in Hatfield actually our second time of leaving home. My mother was trying to blackmail me to stay home because a landlady from St Ives had sent some letters addressed to me and re-directed them to my mothers house in Hatfield. In one of them was a lot of references to drugs and names of friends who were doing them and a packet of Morning Glory seeds with instructions on how to bake them into biscuits . I had hitched all the way from St Ives thinking that there was some serious problem .My dear mother was hoping I would stay at home if she had this over my head . Dono had come to my mums house having been thrown out by his mum, all his clothes thrown out onto the pavement through his bedroom window etc .He came round to see me and I thought it a good time (after spending two nights at home ) to search my mothers room for the letter and turned everything upside down in her room . She came home found the mess and came down with the letter and threw it into the fire saying that that was obviously what I wanted . I said thank you Mum, and with that I walked out of her neat and tidy house with Dono in tow and we went to spend that first night on the doss in a really nice bandstand that I knew of .I woke up to find Dono shivering in his sleep so I lay my poor coat around his shoulders ,before falling asleep myself . The reference to ‘the windy city’ was our first leaving (second for me ) when we shared some bread and jam by the side of the road in the drizzle in a city . The rest is a hotchpotch of our adventures.

A: You headed off to India with Don to Rishikesh, how was it with the Beatles and all meditating ? What did you make of the Maharishi?

G: Too complicated to explain at this time although I will have to write it up soon in my book ,you will have to wait with baited breath for that episode it might shock some people ,as you know I left before anyone else and at the last moment Ringo and Maureen came with us in our taxi after Maureen had come to our bungalow to ask if she could come with us to New Delhi .Ringo joined us at the last minute saying he felt the place ‘Rishikesh was like an Indian Butlins Holiday Camp’ .

A: How did your songs with Don ‘A Sunny Day’ and ‘The River Song’ and your sole effort ‘In Tangier Down a Windy Street’ (with Bert Jansch on guitar) come about on the Hurdy Gurdy Man album and did you work with Mickie Most on these songs?

G: I was sitting with Dono one early evening in the woods by his house in Hertfordshire around a fire we had made the dogs snuggled up to us and our ladies making dinner for our pleasure ,when Dono turned to me and said he was worried about the next album .Worried that he didn't have enough songs for it and it was due out soon .‘Your writing a lot of poetry at the moment Gypo got any you think I can turn into a song mate’ he asked me . Well I thought a bit and said 'Sunny Day would work for you mate' and sort of sang or more like crooned the words ‘Sunny day while away the afternoon , Cutting nettles that are hiding petals bright’ . It was in fact written about his lovely cottage and my friendship for him . We had fun playing with the words and tune until he came up with the melody that stuck .Took us about 5 minutes .Dono was well chuffed and said any others .Well how about 'The River Song' ,it was a poem I was just writing myself at that time ,the words had just come to me a few days before. Ten minutes later ,and with us both on the same wave length it was finished . 'Any more Gyp?' ,he asked knowing he was pushing it . Well just like that ,I began ‘In Tangiers down a windy street where beggars meet and on old rags do sleep’ ,the melody came to me as if by magic and I sung the whole poem as a song for the very first time and it felt to me as if it had been a song all along . ‘F*cking Hell ,Gyp that's fantastic mate ,that's a song without me doing a damn thing about it’ and then he played and sang the melody and words that he could remember while I wrote the rest of the words down for him . I think the three songs took about 35 minutes to get down ,then feeling very happy because now he could finish the album Hurdy Gurdy Man we went into his wonderful cottage feeling ecstatic with joy .

A: What did you think of Mickie Most and his work with Don?

G: Micky was a darling of a man and had a very special vibe with Dono and of course with his songs , Micky and his brother David Most had had a band together called the Most Brothers ,but it had not done too well although they tried to get it off the ground . Dave Most did all the hassling for the band and met many a influential person in so doing , although Micky did all the work on the music, Dave went out and hassled all his finished disks for him, he did a very good job too especially if he liked the music and he too loved Dons work as it was something of the style the Most Brothers tried to achieve .

A: The chapters of your book so far have included stories of St Ives, Manchester Cinemas , sleeping rough and much more besides. Can you tell me a little about your time up in Skye with Don, Julian, Mac etc?

G: Isle of Skye I have not got to in my book yet so I don't want to recall that period yet as it might get in the way of my story telling, it was great fun though and we all had a gas, as I recall Julian’s girl was about to have a baby I remember she modeled for me, the sculpture was to be of a mother pregnant and about to give birth with a baby on the breast not yet 6 months old they were all balancing on a pill tuned upright, I called the piece . ‘The Miracle of the Roman Catholic Church’ I wonder what happened to it ?

A: Don mentions two women at around this time Rosie and Enid . I understand Enid had a hard time fitting in to the lifestyle in Skye, what are your memories of this?

G: He was not with two women in the farm where all our caravans were that's for sure and Enid was such a clever girl when it came to keeping woman away from Dono that I doubt he was with this girl Rosie unless he kept her somewhere else on the island ,I have no personal recollection of her at all but that doesn't mean it didn't happen . It don't take long to ‘get yer knickers off’ if that's what you are planning to do, between two consenting adults . Poor Enid had a hard time fitting into anything in England let alone Scotland, where a lot of the time we were all being castigated by a local priest in a church for bringing the devil into the Highlands because we had a fire outside on a Sunday and went out in the boat on Sunday. Enid really loved L.A . It was in her blood and tame old England came a second best in most things for her, She wanted to party and have light hearted fun . We all partied in a strange way for her, far to intellectual and arty.

A: A couple of questions from Ade Macrow, first he wants to know , ‘Could you please ask Gyp about the writing of Sandy Lea - where it was published; any plans for reissue and so on? Thanks’

G: Sandylea never got published ,although one big publisher said they were interested and would I write the island parts longer . Don was all for us publishing it ourselves but that never got together either . About twenty years later I returned to the publisher saying I had finished the island scenes, it was funny and of course tongue in cheek.

(c) Andrew Morris


  1. Thank you for the first comment on the Blog !

  2. Great interview, can't wait for Gyp's book!

  3. Excellent a true tale of the mystical and mysterious times we lived in the 6o's

  4. Fascinating tales of a truly inspired individual have to get the book!