Green Tambourine

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"Green Tambourine"
Green Tambourine by The Lemon Pipers US vinyl.jpg
A-side label of the US single
Single by the Lemon Pipers
from the album Green Tambourine
B-side"No Help from Me"
ReleasedNovember 1967 (1967-11)
StudioCleveland Recording Studios(Cleveland, Ohio, United States)[1]
Producer(s)Paul Leka
The Lemon Pipers singles chronology
"Turn Around and Take a Look"
"Green Tambourine"
"Rice Is Nice"
International releases
Artwork for the Dutch single
Artwork for the Dutch single
Alternative cover
A-side label of the UK single
A-side label of the UK single

"Green Tambourine" is a song written and composed by Paul Leka (who also produced it) and Shelley Pinz. It was the biggest hit by the 1960s Ohio-based rock group the Lemon Pipers, as well as the title track of their debut album, Green Tambourine. The song was one of the first bubblegum pop chart-toppers and became a gold record.

Released toward the end of 1967, it spent 13 weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 1 on February 3, 1968,[5] and sold over a million copies. The record remained on the chart for three months.[6] It was also the first U.S. No. 1 hit for the Buddah label. The Lemon Pipers never repeated this success, though their "Rice Is Nice" and "Jelly Jungle", both also written by Leka and Pinz, made the charts in 1968.[6]

Song and recording[edit]

The song's lyricist, Rochelle "Shelley" Pinz (1943–2004) was a writer at the Brill Building, working with Leka. She said:

In early Spring, 1966, while standing in front of the Brill Building I watched a man holding a tambourine begging for money. I wrote a poem about him and called the poem 'Green Tambourine.' I added it to my lyric collection ... Sometimes I wonder what happened to the man in front of the Brill Building, holding a tambourine begging for money. I remember writing the lyric, 'watch the jingle jangle start to shine, reflections of the music that is mine. When you toss a coin you'll hear it sing. Now listen while I play my Green Tambourine' as if it were yesterday..; in the 60s, on the streets between Seventh Avenue and Broadway there was a magic one could only imagine.[7]

The song tells the story of a street musician pleading for someone to give him money. In exchange he offers to play his green tambourine. The song's instrumentation contains the titular tambourine as well as an electric sitar,[8] a frequent signature of the so-called "psychedelic sound". Another hook is the heavy, psychedelic tape echo applied to the word "play" in each chorus and at the end, fading into a drumroll ("Listen while I play play play play play play play my green tambourine"). The echo is noticeably different in the mono and stereo mixes. The mono version also starts fading out slightly earlier than in the stereo version.[citation needed] The musical arrangement also features sweeping orchestrated strings and the distinctive vibraslap percussion instrument. While the Lemon Pipers played on the record, producer and joint author-composer Leka hired a string section to accompany the band, to add extra depth to the already psychedelic arrangement.[citation needed] The string section consisted of Elliot Rosoff, David Sackson, Irving Spice, Louise Stone, Louis Gaborwitz, and Deborah Idol on violins; Seymour Berman on viola; and Seymour Barab and Sally Rosoff on cellos.[citation needed]

The single's B-side, "No Help from Me," featured lead vocal by keyboardist Bob Nave and did not appear on either of the group's two albums.

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1967–68) Peak
Australia (Go-Set)[9] 3
Belgium (Wallonia)[10] 30
Canada RPM 100[11] 1
Germany[10] 10
Netherlands[12] 9
New Zealand (Listener)[13] 3
South Africa (Springbok)[14] 6
Switzerland (Swiss Hitparade)[15] 7
UK Record Retailer[16] 7
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[5] 1
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[17] 1
U.S. Record World 100 Top Pops[18] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1968) Rank
Canada RPM 100[19] 6
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[20] 47
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[21] 8

Cover versions[edit]

In 1968, an instrumental version was released by Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra on the album Love Is Blue,[22] and as a single.[23] Welk's version reached No. 27 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart,[24][25] No. 21 on Record World's "Top Non-Rock" chart,[26] and No. 11 on Record World's chart of "Singles Coming Up".[27]

Mrs. Miller covered the song on her 1968 album Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing.[28]

The Status Quo covered the song on their 1968 debut album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo.[29]

UK band Sun Dragon recorded a very similar version in 1968 for the MGM label.[30]

The Peppermint Rainbow covered the song on their 1969 album Will You Be Staying After Sunday.[31] Leka used the backing track of [the Lemon Pipers' hit on this recording.[31]

In 1990, the Associates released a cover version as the B-side of their "Fire to Ice" single.

Tripping Daisy covered the song on their 1992 debut album, Bill (The Dragon Street release).

Robert Goulet covered the song for the 2001 film Recess: School's Out, providing the singing voice for the character Mikey, releasing it as a single from the film soundtrack of the same name.[32]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song was featured in a TV commercial for the Plymouth Road Runner in 1970.
  • Actor Billy Bob Thornton's character of Lorne Malvo plays the song at the beginning of Episode 9, "A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage," of Fargo, adapted from the Coen Brothers' 1996 movie.
  • The song is featured in the end credits of the Disney animated film Recess: School's Out.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cleveland Recording Co. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History". The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. September 28, 1998. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  2. ^ Jim DeRogatis (January 1, 2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 378. ISBN 978-0-634-05548-5.
  3. ^ Unterberger, Richie. The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine at AllMusic. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Nick Talevski (April 7, 2010). Rock Obituaries - Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-85712-117-2.
  5. ^ a b Hot 100 - The Lemon Pipers Green Tambourine Chart History, Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Nite, Norm N. and Newman, Ralph M.: ROCK ON: The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock N' Roll': Thomas Y. Crowell: 1978. p 276.
  7. ^ "Shelley Pinz", PopArchives, 11 August 2005. Retrieved 13 August 2017
  8. ^ "Vincent Bell Danelectro, Silvertone Guitar, Bass, Parts, Accessories. History, Vintage Danelectro". Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  9. ^ Nimmervoll, Ed, "GO-SET National Top 40", April 3, 1968. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  10. ^ a b The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine, Ultratop. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  11. ^ "The RPM 100", RPM, Volume 8, No. 24, February 10, 1968. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  12. ^ The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine, Dutch Charts. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  13. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 11 April 1968
  14. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  15. ^ The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine, Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  16. ^ Lemon Pipers - Full Official Chart History, Official Charts Company. Accessed July 29, 2016.
  17. ^ "Cash Box Top 100", Cash Box, February 3, 1968. p. 4. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  18. ^ "100 Top Pops", Record World, February 10, 1968. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "The RPM 100 Top Singles of 1968", RPM, Volume 10, No. 19, January 06, 1969. Accessed July 29, 2016.
  20. ^ Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968, Music Outfitters. Accessed July 29, 2016.
  21. ^ "Top 100 Chart Hits of 1968", Cash Box, December 28, 1968. p. 14. Accessed July 28, 2016.
  22. ^ "Album Reviews", Billboard, March 2, 1968. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  23. ^ "Wood Scouting for a Director, Plant for Label", Billboard, February 24, 1968. p. 3. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  24. ^ Adult Contemporary - Lawrence Welk Green Tambourine Chart History, Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  25. ^ "Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening", Billboard, April 6, 1968. p. 49. Accessed July 29, 2016.
  26. ^ "Record World's Top Non-Rock", Record World, April 6, 1968. p. 40. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  27. ^ "Singles Coming Up", Record World, April 6, 1968. p. 22. Retrieved April 23, 2018.
  28. ^ "Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing - Mrs. Miller". AllMusic. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  29. ^ "Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo - Status Quo - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  30. ^ Video on YouTube
  31. ^ a b "AllMusic Review by Mark Deming". AllMusic. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  32. ^ Ebert, Roger (2002). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2003, Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 494. Retrieved April 24, 2018.

External links[edit]