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Mellow Yellow by Donovan

Album: Mellow YellowReleased: 1966Charted:
2
8
  • In an interview with the June 18, 2011 edition of the NME, Donovan was asked what the song was actually about? He replied: "Quite a few things. Being mellow, laid-back, chilled out. 'They call me Mellow Yellow, I'm the guy who can calm you down.' Lennon and I used to look in the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they'd end up in songs. So it's about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene - which were ladies vibrators."
  • Donovan set out to capture the mellow vibe of the '60s with this song, adding what he called "cool, groovy phrases." These phrases were interpreted in ways he never imagined, as people came up with lots of ideas as to what the song meant. Most of these interpretations concerned drugs, but there were even rumors that the song was about abortion.
  • When this song came out in 1966, there was a widespread rumor that it was about getting high on banana skins. The idea was that you scraped the fibers off of a banana skin and cooked them over a low fire. This was supposed to release the hallucinogenic qualities. Of course, it was never true! (thanks, Victor - Boston, MA)
  • This was used in popular commercials for The Gap, and also in ads for the soda Mello Yello.
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Comments: 32

Put me down as someone who has listened closely to this song and agrees that the person whooping it up in the middle of the song (1) doesn't sound like Donovan and yes, now that you mention it, (2) does sound like Paul McCartney.Dell - St Louis, Id
I think the controversial line goes "I'm just mad about FONTINE."
Fontine is defined as a "pale yellow" cheese on Wiktionary. Goes well with the "mad about saffron [a yellow spice]" line.
I'm pretty sure the person who said the word is "fourteen" is having us on.
Dell - St Louis, Id
On March 5th 1967, Senator Bobby with Senator McKinley's covered version of "Mellow Yellow" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a one week stay at position #99...
Senator Bobby was Bill Minkin and Senator McKinley was Dennis Wholey...
Bill Minkin appeared in two Robert De Niro movies, "Taxi Driver" (1976) and "The King of Comedy" (1982).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
In a John Paul Jones interview, he recalled that everybody hated his arrangement. Right up until Sir Paul heard it and loved it. After that, everybody thought it was great!Jim - Glasgle, Botswana
There's not always a deep meaning in songs. Tommy James and the Shondells wrote "Crimson and Clover" because he liked the way the two words sounded together. In the 60's there was a high performance version of a Barracuda called a " Cuda" this was the only model in the car line available in a new color called Saffron yellow, it was all the rage! Maybe impressive enough to right a song about. I think it was a kind of yellow green color. A lot of colors were available in dyes at the time and not available in paint and visa – reversa, the technology wasn't there yet. So when you saw something new like this it had a wow factor that we no longer see in the color.
Hay, what does saffron yellow look like? Well it's kind of mellow man…. far out! .
I'm still waiting to see a true "Chartreuse" spray paint.
Also if you ever eat yellow rice it is flavored and colored with saffron.
Paul - Montgomery , Al
Paul McCartney does not sing background but can be heard during the instrumental parts.Sara - Silver Spring, Md
I read an interview with Donovan in the 60's probably in Hit Parader magazine. He recounted that during the recording Paul shouted out "Mellow Yellow" and that it is audible on the record. He seemed somewhat baffled as to why Paul would do such a thing. There is a lot of other shouting noise during parts of the record that he didn't say anything about.Ryan - Bridgewater, Nj
My coffee shop in Amsterdam that I went to was called the "Cafe Mellow Yellow". This was summer of 2008.Steven - Billings, Mt
"Electrical banana" is referring to a vibrator that was sent through the mail.
Donovan originally wrote this as a singalong at parties.
Sara - Silver Spring, Md
Donovan came to Seattle in mid 90's and during a live radio interview he said McCartney was in the building during recording of this song but is not a part of it what so ever...no whisper phrases or cheers at the end. It was a rumor some studio people began when they both walked out of the building together.Mark - Seattle, Wa
There was also reported that Ringo was the drummer on this track. It's possible. The drumming style, especially on the triplets just before the song goes back to the verse sounds like Ringo.

Herb Alpert had nothing to do with "Uncle Albert". The flugelhorn (not trumpet) solo lines are played by Marvin Stamn, a famous jazz trumpet player
Neal - Fayetteville, Nc, Nc
Good song, good singer, good acid.Thomas - Somerville, Al
I was in New York when the song came out. Lyz is correct. The 45 version had the lyrics "I'm just mad about 14-year old girls and their just mad about me" as the lyrics. Most stations refused or stopped playing it and the 45 was re-released with "I'm just mad about 14 and she's just mad about me". This little fact has been swept under the rug over the years.

In fact, lyricsdomain.com lists the lyrics as "I'm just mad about Frontine". Who the heck is Frontine? They need to get the wax out of their ears.
Steve - Binghamton, Ny
Mellow Yellow is the name of the electric dildo used by a fourteen year old girl named Saffron.Pinback - Chambersburg, Pa
DONOVAN was a big deal, he propeled american music as all brittish music did. all the music from that period meleld into what we here now. or used to hear, there will,(SAD TO SAY) never be times like tht agin, the frr spirit of that time are gone.BUT they got us where we are today,music wish we are better off.peace wise humans will never get it a few of us do but the all mighty dollar keeps mosy people from the enjoyment of life. i like mime and i thake artist like DONOVAN, for that.Mark - Oklahoma City, Ok
Didnt big Paul McCartney do the whispering bits in this song??? hahaha this was the Caramello Koala song: "They call me Caramello...koalaaaa" heh hehNady - Adelaide, Australia
hehe

my bf calls my mellow yellow
Layla - Dc, Dc
LOL my aunti told me that she tried some mellow yellow way back in the days...and trust me, it was a long way from dried banana peels. lolJona - Los Angeles, Ca
thinkin this song about de spice Safron ;)-~Ralph - Chicago, Il
First of all, ditto to your comment Andrew, I totally agree! Secondly, and not to sound like a smart-ass or anything, but ironically, I was just reading an article about Donovan and the Beatles online and I was curious as to what the meaning was behind some of Donovan's songs, so here I am! The article I read said that: "A second million-seller, Mellow Yellow, soared to No. 2 with vocal help from Paul McCartney. That same year, the Beatles hit with Yellow Submarine, to which Donovan, McCartney's friend and neighbor, contributed the lyric, "Sky of blue and sea of green." Here's the link to the article if anyone is interested: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0129donovan.html You can't really hear Paul's voice on the song however as he is only providing some of the background vocals, etc..., but if you listen carefully to the song from about 2:12-2:20 during the interlude you can hear him say the word "yellow" at 2:17 and some other sounds in the background. If you listen to a lot of Paul's music, and more importantly are a fan of his, then you'll be able to pick out his voice! Well, anyways, good song!Kristen - Beloit, Wi
URBAN MYTH ALERT!!!! Paul McCartney doesn't sing on the song. It's all Donovan.Lou - Scranton, Pa
The song Mellow Yellow refers to a type of LSD manufactured by Owsley, an underground chemist, the first to produce large quantities of pure LSD from 1966 thru 1967. "Mellow Yellow" is heard in other songs such as Hendrix song "Axis Bold as Love" & in Zappa's song "Absolutely free', both tunes came out in 1967.Pygmy - Boston, Ma
This song is CRAZY good. I just wish that oldies stations of stuff this early were still more common in Alabama than this. The earliest we can get around here is "Uncle Albert" tied with "Admiral Halsey". Even that one isn't played too often. Neither is "Listen to What the Man Says". DJ's, you've gotta start playing Donovan and Paul McCartney hits!! Oldies and Rock stations just aren't complete without them!!Andrew - Birmingham, United States
I'm not sure how true this is, but apparently Donovan originally wanted the lyric "I'm just mad about 14" to be "I'm just mad about 14-year old girls" but the studio wouldn't let him. my unlce saw him play live once and that's how he sang it.Lyz - Pickering, Canada
It has been rumored that Donovan's friend Paul McCartney whispers the "quite rightly" part of "Mellow Yellow", but this is actually whispered by Donovan. It is possible that Paul was in the studio crowd heard cheering at the end of the song but it has been contested whether or not Paul was there at all.It is rumored that the song "Mellow Yellow" is about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, but this rumor has since been debunked. According to Donovan's notes accompanying the album "Donovan's Greatest Hits" the rumor that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and happened to occur three weeks before "Mellow Yellow" was released as a single. Thus, the misconception of the song's meaning soon followed its release.Leslie - Windsor, Ct
On 24 October 1966 Epic released the rollicking, brass-laden single "Mellow Yellow", arranged by John Paul Jones and purportedly featuring Paul McCartney on uncredited backing vocals. It was rumoured that the phrase "electrical banana" referred to the practice of smoking banana peels to get high. The phrase has also been considered to be a coded reference to a vibrator. Another line in the song that has caused speculation about its meaning is "I'm just mad about Fourteen", and in one live version, he sings, "I'm just mad about fourteen year old girls; they're mad about me." The song became Donovan's signature tune.Leslie - Windsor, Ct
The song's title actually refers to the fact that Donovan had suffered from liver disease in the winter of 1966 and had become severely jaundiced.Mike - Pickering, Canada
Donovan himself denied that the song was about smoking banana or drugs, but about something a bit more graphic: a yellow dildo.

The assinine comment that Donovan has no musical talent is totally way off. If you listen to Donovan, you don't hear Dylan so much, but the beginings of a new sound of folk, psychedelic rock setting in the possible influence to Nick Drake & even Led Zeppelin. And Herb Alpert had nothing to do with "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" either.
Mady - Ft. Lauderdale, Fl
When the song came out I was 5, but by 14 I knew what the song was about. I am surpised they allowed it on the radio.

Back in the mid 60's kids liked raiding their mom's drug cabinet to get high.

Song is about a 14 year old girl named saffron who loves to get high on a popular barbituate of the time that was colored yellow. I tried something similar in my teens and with a little wine, your fingers vibrate like your electric, hence electrical banana.
John - Northern, Nj
Is the banana-hallucogenic rumor true. Because if it is this song is definitely about it... The "electric banana" and the "born high forever to fly"... I am usually one that beleives that very few songs are about drugs, but who are we kidding, it was a huge influence.Adam - Greenfield, In
Donovan was kinda like England's answer to Dylan,
but without the songwriting or musical talent.
Actually, he pretty much just looked the part,
sort of like how fabian looked like elvis. THis
is also the beginning of paul mccartneys' "silly
period"...You can almost hear Uncle albert/admiral halsley if you listen carefully
enough. ANd it sure sounds like herb alpert on trumpet!
Scott - Chicago, Il
Paul McCartney sung background vocal on "Mellow Yellow", which as thank-you for the song being inspired by the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Donovan's background vocal on the song, of which Donovan came up with the line, "Sky of blue, sea of green." Because of Donovan being a part of "Yellow Submarine", Donovan went with the Beatles to their retreat to India in the year of 1967.Brandon - Seattle, Wa