Mellow Yellow

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"Mellow Yellow"
Single by Donovan
from the album Mellow Yellow
B-side "Sunny South Kensington" (USA)
"Preachin' Love" (UK)
Released 24 November 1966 (USA)
February 1967 (UK)
Format 7" single
Recorded October 1966
Genre Pop,[1][2] psychedelic pop[3][4]
Length 3:42
Label Epic 5-10098
Pye 7N 17267
Writer(s) Donovan
Producer(s) Mickie Most
Donovan UK chronology
"Sunshine Superman"
"Mellow Yellow"
"There is a Mountain"
Donovan USA chronology
"Sunny Goodge Street"
"Mellow Yellow"
"Epistle to Dippy"

"Mellow Yellow" is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan.[5] It reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1966 and No. 8 in the UK in early 1967.


The song was rumored to be about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, though this aspect of bananas has since been debunked.[6] 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 Donovan heard the rumor three weeks before "Mellow Yellow" was released as a single. According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, he admitted later the song made reference to a vibrator; an "electrical banana" as mentioned in the lyrics.[7] This definition was re-affirmed in an interview with NME magazine: "it's about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene - which were ladies' vibrators."[8]

The phrase "mellow yellow" appears on page 719 of the first American edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, where it is used to refer to Mrs. Marion Bloom's buttocks, but it is not known if Donovan got the phrase from there.[9]

The record had a "Beatlesque" feel to it, and was sometimes mistaken for a Beatles song. Donovan, in fact, was friends with the Beatles. Paul McCartney can be heard as one of the background revelers on this track, but contrary to popular belief, it is not McCartney whispering the "quite rightly" answering lines in the chorus, but rather Donovan himself. Donovan had a small part in coming up with the lyrics for "Yellow Submarine", and McCartney played bass guitar (uncredited) on portions of Donovan's Mellow Yellow album.[10]


R&B and jazz singer Georgie Fame recorded his own version with a distinctively different arrangement reminiscent of the Count Basie orchestra.

Amanda Lear recorded this song in 1997, included in her cd Made of Blood & honey.

In 1999, "Mellow Yellow" was sung by a group of young adults, among whom were then-unknowns Alex Greenwald, Rashida Jones and Jason Thompson, in Gap's "Everybody in Cords" commercial directed by Pedro Romhanyi. The music mix was done by the Dust Brothers.[11]

A cover of this song was used in a commercial for Mello Yello when it was first introduced in 1979. In 2011, the song was again featured in a new commercial for Mello Yello drink, as part of Coca-Cola's "Original Smooth" campaign to rebrand and reintroduce the drink. Also, the song itself was covered by Family of the Year featuring Donovan. The version is available for download on the Mello Yello website.

Other adaptations[edit]

Cadbury used a modified version of the song to promote their Caramello Koala chocolates ("They call me Caramello ... Koala").

The song was also used in a series of television commercials to promote the use of butter.

In France, Lipton used a modified version of the song to promote their tea ("They call me Lipton Yellow").

One of the oldest coffeeshops in Amsterdam is called "Mellow Yellow".[12]

In episode 17 of the 5th season of Scrubs, JD figures out the song is about jaundice (not quite rightly).

Jimi Hendrix made a reference to this song in his song "Bold as Love", final track on his second album Axis: Bold as Love.

Frank Zappa referenced the song in his number "Absolutely Free" on the album We're Only In It For The Money (1967) and also in the song "We're Turning Again" from Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985) and in "The Blue Light" from Tinseltown Rebellion (1981).

In The Simpsons' 13th season episode "I Am Furious (Yellow)", Homer is heard singing the song while walking home, before he becomes victim to Bart's elaborate backyard prank trap.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1966-1967) Peak
Australia (Go-Set Top 40)[13] 7
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[14] 12
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[15] 7
Canadian RPM Top Singles[16] 2
France (SNEP)[17] 16
Germany (Media Control AG)[18] 16
Irish Singles Chart[19] 15
Italy (FIMI)[20] 14
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[21] 14
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[22] 12
Norway (VG-lista)[23] 7
UK (Official Charts Company)[24] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[25] 2


  1. ^ Dave Laing (1975). Methuen, ed. The Electric muse: the story of folk into rock. p. 151.  "Donovan (...) did change styles to make a couple of enormously successful pop singles, "Mellow Yellow" and "Sunshine Superman", before disappearing from the front ranks."
  2. ^ Ellen Willis (2011). University of Minnesota Press, ed. Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music. p. 14. ISBN 978-0816672820.  "Donovan wrote medieval fantasies and pop collages like “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow.”"
  3. ^ Ellis, Iain (2012). Brit Wits: A History of British Rock Humor (Intellect, The Mill, Parnal Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 3JG, UK ed.). Intellect, Ltd. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-84150-565-7.  "Hits like “Mellow Yellow” (1967) and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (1968) saw Donovan become the public face of fanciful British psychedelic pop in the latter part of the decade."
  4. ^ Peter Buckley (2003). Rough Guides Ltd., ed. The Rough Guide to Rock. p. 305. ISBN 978-1858284576.  "A further move into psychedelic pop spawned another million-seller in “Mellow Yellow” — [Donovan's] best-known song"
  5. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 48 - The British are Coming! The British are Coming!: With an emphasis on Donovan, the Bee Gees and the Who. [Part 5] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. 
  6. ^ Cecil Adams, Will smoking banana peels get you high? The Straight Dope, April 26, 2002
  7. ^ The Rolling Stone encyclopedia of rock & roll (Rev. and updated for the 21st century ed.). New York: Fireside. 2001. p. 276. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5. 
  8. ^ "The Aftershow". NME: 66. 18 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Mellow Yellow | Donovan Song - Yahoo! Music[dead link]
  10. ^ The Paul McCartney World Tour booklet, 1989
  11. ^ Mind the Gap in: Entertainment Weekly #502 (Sep 10, 1999)
  12. ^ "Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory - Mellow Yellow coffee shop". Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  13. ^ "Mellow Yellow in Australian Chart". Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow –" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  15. ^ " – Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  16. ^ "Mellow Yellow in Canadian Top Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Mellow Yellow in French Chart" (in French). Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Donovan"
  18. ^ "Donovan - Mellow Yellow". Media Control.
  19. ^ "Mellow Yellow in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved 17 July 2013.  Only one result when searching "Mellow Yellow"
  20. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1967 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
    69. Mellow yellow - Donovan [#14]
  21. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Donovan search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  22. ^ " – Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  23. ^ " – Donovan – Mellow Yellow". VG-lista.
  24. ^ "1967 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 4th March 1967". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "Mellow Yellow awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 

External links[edit]