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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.
When Judd Apatow needed under-appreciated rockers for his Knocked Up
sequel, he immediately thought of Parker, who just happened to be getting his band The Rumour back together.