Green Tambourine

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For the album, see Green Tambourine (album).
"Green Tambourine"
Single by The Lemon Pipers
from the album Green Tambourine
B-side "No Help From Me"
Released December 1967
Format 7" single
Recorded 1967, Cleveland Recording Studios, Cleveland, Ohio[1]
Genre Psychedelic pop,[2] bubblegum pop[3]
Length 2:23
Label Buddah Records 23
Writer(s) Paul Leka/Shelly Pinz
Producer(s) Paul Leka
The Lemon Pipers singles chronology
"Turn Around and Take a Look"
"Green Tambourine"
"Rice Is Nice"

'"Green Tambourine" is a song about busking, written and composed by Paul Leka (who also produced it) and Shelly Pinz, that was the primary hit by the 1960s Ohio-based rock group The Lemon Pipers, as well as the title track to their debut-album Green Tambourine. The song has been credited as being one of the first bubblegum pop chart-toppers. Released towards the end of 1967, it peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for one week at the start of February, 1968 and earned the group a gold record for over a million copies sold. The record remained on the chart for three months.[4] It was also the first U.S. number-one hit for the Buddah label. The Lemon Pipers would never repeat this success, although "Rice Is Nice" and "Jelly Jungle" did make it onto the charts in 1968.[4]

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 title tambourine as well as an electric sitar,[5] 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 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. 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. the string section consisted of Elliot Rosoff, David Sackson, Irving Spice, Louise Stone, Louis Gaborwitz and Deborah Idol on violin, Seymour Berman on viola, Seymour Barab and Sally Rosoff on cello.

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]

Cover versions[edit]

The Peppermint Rainbow covered the song two years later on their eponymous debut album, although the song did not chart.

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

Status Quo covered the song on their 1968 debut album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo.

UK band Sun Dragon recorded a very similar version in 1968 for the MGM label.[14]

In 1968 Lawrence Welk covered the song and his version appeared on the Billboard Easy Listening chart.

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.

In popular culture[edit]

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 Brother's 1996 movie.


  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. ^ "The Top Psychedelic Pop Songs". Allmusic. 
  3. ^ "The Top Bubblegum Pop Songs". Allmusic. 
  4. ^ a b Nite, Norm N. and Newman, Ralph M.: ROCK ON: The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock N' Roll': Thomas Y. Crowell: 1978. p 276.
  5. ^ Vincent Bell Danelectro, Silvertone Guitar, Bass, Parts, Accessories. History, Vintage Danelectro
  6. ^
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  14. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" by John Fred and his Playboys
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
February 3, 1968
(one week)
Succeeded by
"Love is Blue" by Paul Mauriat