Mellow Yellow

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"Mellow Yellow"
Single by Donovan
from the album Mellow Yellow
  • "Sunny South Kensington" (USA)
  • "Preachin' Love" (UK)
  • October 1966 (US)
  • February 1967 (UK)
RecordedOctober 1966
  • Epic 5-10098
  • Pye 7N 17267
Producer(s)Mickie Most
Donovan UK singles chronology
"Sunshine Superman"
"Mellow Yellow"
"There Is a Mountain"
Donovan US singles chronology
"Sunny Goodge Street"
"Mellow Yellow"
"Epistle to Dippy"

"Mellow Yellow" is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan.[6] Released in the US in 1966, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.[7] Outside the US, "Mellow Yellow" peaked at No. 8 in the UK in early 1967.


The song was rumoured 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.[8] According to Donovan's notes, accompanying the album Donovan's Greatest Hits, the rumour that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumour 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.[9] Donovan stated, "I was reading a newspaper and on the back there was an ad for a yellow dildo called the mellow yellow," he said. "Really, you know the 'electric banana' was right in there and gave it away. And that's what the song's about." 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."[10]

Paul McCartney can be heard as one of the background revellers on this track, but the "quite rightly" whispering lines in the chorus is not McCartney, but rather Donovan himself.[11] 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.[12]

In 2005, the track was remastered by EMI Records for the Mellow Yellow album re-issue.[13]


Cash Box called "Mellow Yellow" an "easy-going, sophisticated blues number which should be a giant."[14]

Covers and adaptations[edit]

"Mellow Yellow" was covered in 1967 by soul singer Big Maybelle on her album Got a Brand New Bag.[15] It was also covered in 1968 by British R&B singer/keyboardist Georgie Fame on his album The Third Face of Fame.[16]

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.[17] In 2015 the song was covered by Spanish singer Abraham Mateo for promotion of the film Minions.[18] The original by Donovan was used in the film's ending titles. In Brazil Michel Teló covered the song, adapted to Portuguese, also for the movie.[19]

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ Laing, Dave (1975). The Electric Muse: the story of Folk into Rock. Methuen. p. 151. ISBN 0-413-31860-5. 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. ^ Willis, Ellen (2011). Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music. University of Minnesota Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8166-7283-7. Donovan wrote medieval fantasies and pop collages like "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow."
  3. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-8435-3105-0. A further move into psychedelic pop spawned another million-seller in "Mellow Yellow" — [Donovan's] best-known song
  4. ^ Ellis, Iain (2012). Brit Wits: A History of British Rock Humor. Intellect Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-8415-0565-7. 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.
  5. ^ "Record Reviews > Pick of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XXVIII, no. 15. 5 November 1966. p. 22. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  6. ^ 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. University of North Texas Libraries.
  7. ^ "The Hot 100". Billboard. 24 December 1966. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  8. ^ Adams, Cecil (26 April 2002). "Will smoking banana peels get you high?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  9. ^ George-Warren, Holly, ed. (2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (3rd, Revised and updated for the 21st century ed.). Fireside. p. 276. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5.
  10. ^ "The Aftershow". NME. 18 June 2011. p. 66.
  11. ^ "Mellow Yellow". Donovan Unofficial. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  12. ^ The Paul McCartney World Tour booklet (Media notes). 1989.
  13. ^ "Mellow Yellow (reissues)". Donovan Unofficial. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Record Reviews > Pick of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XXVIII, no. 15. 5 November 1966. p. 22. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Big Maybelle – Got a Brand New Bag". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  16. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Georgie Fame – Third Face of Fame". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Mind the Gap". Entertainment Weekly. No. 502. 10 September 1999. Archived from the original on 18 February 2009.
  18. ^ "Abraham Mateo pone música a 'Los Minions'". Las Provincias (in Spanish). 25 June 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  19. ^ "'Minions': Michel Teló conta como adaptou música tema do filme" (in Portuguese). 22 June 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Go-Set's National Top 40". Go-Set. 11 January 1967. Retrieved 17 July 2013 – via
  21. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Chart Positions Pre 1989 Part 3". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  24. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5781." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  25. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Mellow Yellow". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 51, 1966" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  28. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  29. ^ "Search listener". Flavour of New Zealand. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Donovan – Mellow Yellow". VG-lista. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  31. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (D)". Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  33. ^ "Mellow Yellow – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  34. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending DECEMBER 17, 1966". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012.
  35. ^ "100 Top Pops" (PDF). Record World. 17 December 1966. p. 19. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  36. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1967" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.

External links[edit]