Mellow Yellow / Sunny South Kensington

US release date:
Oct 22, 1966

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Track list

Side 1


Mellow Yellow

Written by Donovan

3:42 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney :
Clap & giggle (uncredited)
Donovan :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
John Paul Jones :
Arrangement, Bass guitar
Danny Moss :
Ronnie Ross :
Bobby Orr :
Mickie Most :

Session Recording:
Early October 1966
Studio :
Trident Studios, London, UK

Side 2


Sunny South Kensington

Studio version


From Wikipedia:

“Mellow Yellow” is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. In the US, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. 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. 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. 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.”

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. 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. […]

I used to invite Paul McCartney to many sessions, even though, as I say, Mickie was worried that the experimental sounds we were making all through 1966 would leak over into Beatles albums. But we were all absorbing each other’s music so fast that it didn’t really matter. Record releases were pretty well continuous then and often only months would pass before the Beatles, the Stones, or myself released another.

Paul came into the “Mellow Yellow” session and, contrary to what people say, he did not sing the “whisper vocal” that goes “Quite rightly.” I sang this piece and Paul joined in on the “party” parts. (Paul and I did play together on other stuff, notably in Apple Studios with Mary Hopkin.)

Donovan – From “The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man“, 2007

[This song means] Quite a few things. Being mellow, laid-back, chilled out. ‘They call me Mellow Yellow, I’m the guy who can calm you down.’ [John] Lennon and I used to look in the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they’d end up in songs. So it’s about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene – which were ladies vibrators.

Donovan, in a June 18, 2011 interview with NME

Last updated on October 11, 2023

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