Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow
"Mellow Yellow"
Single by Donovan
from the album Mellow Yellow
B-side "Sunny South Kensington" (USA)
"Preachin' Love" (UK)
Released 24 October 1966 (USA)
February 1967 (UK)
Format 7" single
Recorded September 1966
Genre Pop music, Psychedelic Pop
Length 3:42
Label Epic 5-10098
Pye 7N 17267
Writer(s) Donovan
Producer 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 and single release by Donovan.[1] It reached #2 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. in 1966 and #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. 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.)[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]



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.[5]

In 2011, the song was 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

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".[6]

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".

Frank Zappa referenced the song in his number "Absolutely Free" on the album We're Only In It For The Money (1967).


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ The Rolling Stone encyclopedia of rock & roll (Rev. and updated for the 21st century ed.). New York: Fireside. 2001. pp. 276. ISBN 0743201205. 
  3. ^ Mellow Yellow | Donovan Song - Yahoo! Music
  4. ^ The Paul McCartney World Tour booklet, 1989
  5. ^ Mind the Gap in: Entertainment Weekly #502 (Sep 10, 1999)
  6. ^ Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory - Mellow Yellow coffee shop

External links

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