Atlantis (song)

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Single by Donovan
from the album Barabajagal

"I Love My Shirt" UK

"To Susan On The West Coast Waiting" US
Released November 1968 (UK)
March 1969 (US)
Format Vinyl record 7"
Recorded May 1968
Genre Folk rock
Length 4:58
Writer(s) Donovan Leitch
Producer(s) Donovan, Gabriel Mekler
Donovan singles chronology
"Hurdy Gurdy Man"

"Atlantis" is a folk-pop song written and recorded by Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan. It was released as a single in 1968 (see 1968 in music) and became a worldwide success; becoming a No.1 hit in Switzerland in 1969 (see 1969 in music),[1] No.2 in Germany and South Africa, No.12 in Canada, and No.4 in Austria. In the United States, where it served as the b-side to "To Susan on the West Coast, Waiting," it reached No.7, whilst in the singer's native country the single managed only a modest No.23 placing.

In 2001, Donovan and German pop band No Angels re-recorded the track for the closing credits of the Walt Disney Feature Animation picture Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001). Included on a concomitant album for the German-speaking music market,[2] it was once more released as a single and re-entered the top five in Austria and Germany.[1]

1968 version[edit]


The introduction is a quiet monologue regarding the idea that Atlantis was a highly advanced antediluvian civilization, and that Atlantean colonists were the basis of the mythological gods of ancient times. Aware of their fate, the Atlanteans sent out ships to carry their masters to safety, and these people were responsible for bringing civilization and culture to primitive humans. When the song begins in earnest, it conveys the message that the singer's true love may be in Atlantis. The overall theme is common for the 1960s: fanciful mythology as the symbol of the counterculture movement, with the hope that true love will be found if ever Atlantis can be reached.

Possible Paul McCartney contribution[edit]

Many believe that the song "Atlantis" features the background vocals of Paul McCartney. Backing up that claim is Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik's book, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography, 1961—1975 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1976, p. 384), which states that McCartney not only provided the background vocals but also played the tambourine on the song.

However, according to Donovan in a 2008 interview with Goldmine Magazine, McCartney did not sing the backing vocals.[3] The album's liner notes, which state that the song was recorded in Los Angeles in November 1968, do not list McCartney as a performer on the album.

Also, the works of Mark Lewisohn, regarded as the world's leading authority on the Beatles[by whom?], do not support the statement, Neither The Complete Beatles Chronicles (New York: Harmony Books, 1992) nor The Beatles Day by Day: A Chronology 1962-1989 (New York: Harmony Books, 1987 & 1990) mentions McCartney's participation on this song. According to Lewisohn's chronology, (Lewisohn, The Beatles Day by Day, page 110) McCartney spent the month of November 1968 mostly at his farm in Scotland.

Release and reception[edit]

Contract disputes at the time caused a complicated series of different releases in the United Kingdom and United States. It was originally released in the UK as a single with "I Love My Shirt" as the B-side. In 1969 it was released in the US on the album Barabajagal. The LP was not released in the UK, however, and "Atlantis" was next released in the US as the B-side to "To Susan on the West Coast Waiting".

The song was not deemed likely to be a hit in the US because of its length and the fact that the first third of the song is spoken prose and therefore not "radio-friendly". It was for this reason that, despite its success in Europe, "Atlantis" was demoted to B-side status. However, the record company A&R executives were proved wrong when the popularity of "Atlantis" far surpassed that of its A-side. The song was quite successful, reaching #7 on the Billboard charts, and the song itself became an anthem of the hippie movement.

1968 Version personnel (incomplete list)[edit]

· Richie aka Richard Podolor – Producer at his American Recording Company studio in Studio City, CA Bill Cooper was the engineer · Gabriel Meckler – Keyboards · James Kehn – Percussion, Drums Davy Jones - background vocals


Chart (1968) Peak
Austrian Singles Chart 4
Irish Singles Chart 13
German Singles Chart 2
Swiss Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 23
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 7
Can. RPM Magazine Top 100 12
South African Chart 2

In popular culture[edit]

Atlantis was used in a memorable scene in Martin Scorsese's 1990 film Goodfellas, where mobster Billy Batts, played by Frank Vincent, was beaten by Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro's characters.

The song is also referred to in the Stephen King book Hearts in Atlantis.

The song was parodied in an episode of Futurama, titled "The Deep South". Donovan re-recorded the song for the cartoon as "Hail Atlanta".[4]

During the early 1990s, the New York post-modern jug band Washboard Jungle performed a version of Atlantis that mixed in quotes from the Beatles, Stones, and Pink Floyd, and sometimes featured the poem spoken in a Yiddish accent. It was considered "their greatest song ever".

In the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Real World", Jack O'Neill refers to "Atlantis" being "a rather mediocre Donovan song".

It is also used in The Girl Next Door, when the group, led by Emile Hirsch's character, leaves the prom after successfully shooting their sex ed film.

In the 2008 film Sex Drive the song can be heard when Lance, played by Clark Duke, is in the scuba themed hotel room with Mary, played by Alice Greczyn.

Heard in the 2014 movie A Walk Among the Tombstones. It is featured in the scene in which the killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) watch their next target (Danielle Rose Russell) walking her dog in the street.

Single by No Angels & Donovan
from the album Atlantis: The Lost Empire soundtrack and Now... Us!
A-side "When the Angels Sing"
Released November 19, 2001
Format Digital download, vinyl single, CD maxi single
Recorded 2000, Park Studios,
(Tutzing, Germany)
Genre Pop, Europop
Length 4:14
Producer(s) Leslie Mándoki
Certification 2x Gold (AUT, GER)
No Angels singles chronology
"There Must Be an Angel"
"Atlantis"/"When the Angels Sing"
"Something About Us"

2001 version[edit]

Production and recording[edit]

In the late 1990s, Walt Disney Feature Animation started production on Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an animated sci-fi mixed action film, based on the Atlantis saga. Interested in slipping his 1968 version into the film soundtrack, Donovan immediately opened negotiations with the studios; however Disney Pictures was barely interested in the song and plans eventually fell through.[2] By 2000, Disney had committed German producer Leslie Mándoki to produce a concomitant album for the German-speaking music markets, entitled Stars Inspired by Atlantis.[2] After stumbling over the original song, Mandoki approached Donovan by phone, describing him his idea of a collaboration with German newcomers No Angels, with whom Mandoki had previously worked on their debut Elle'ments (2001), and a few days later Donovan and the band met at the Lake Starnberg to start recording.[2]

Music video[edit]

The single's music video was directed by Hannes Rossacher for DoRo Productions and shot in Berlin, Germany in fall 2001.[2] It shows Donovan and the band in a recording studio accented by underwater settings, backdrops, and scenes inspired by the animated movie.


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2001) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[5] 5
Germany (Official German Charts)[6] 5
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[7] 16

Formats and tracklistings[edit]

These are the formats and track listings of major single-releases of "Atlantis."

CD single
  1. "Atlantis" (radio mix) — 4:14
  2. "When the Angels Sing" (new radio mix) — 3:47
  3. "When the Angels Sing" (Christmas mix) — 3:56
  4. "When the Angels Sing" (special x-mas mix) — 4:08
  5. "Atlantis" (submarine mix) — 4:00

Credits and personnel[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Chart History". Swisscharts. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Peitz, Dirk (2001-11-23). "Mit 'Atlantis' aus der Versenkung". Rhein Zeitung. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  3. ^ Goldmine Magazine, October 10, 2008.
  4. ^ "Atlantis". Archived from the original on 10 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  5. ^ " – No Angels & Donovan – Atlantis / When The Angels Sing" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  6. ^ " – No Angels & Donovan Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  7. ^ " – No Angels & Donovan – Atlantis / When The Angels Sing". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2012-07-06.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Crimson and Clover"
by Tommy James and the Shondells
Swiss number-one single
March 25, 1969 – April 21, 1969
Succeeded by
"Sorry Suzanne" by The Hollies