Recording "Mellow Yellow"

Early October 1966 • For Donovan

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Mellow Yellow / Sunny South Kensington 7" Single.
Trident Studios, London, UK

Some songs from this session appear on:

Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.


Donovan, a Scottish singer, songwriter, and guitarist, emerged from the British folk scene and achieved fame in the UK in 1965. He befriended Paul McCartney in the spring of 1966, and they often visited each other at home or in the recording studio.

In his biography, Donovan recalls that Paul played him early versions of “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine.” He contributed the lines “Sky of blue and sea of green… In our yellow submarine…” to the latter song.

In early October 1966, Paul joined a Donovan session during which the track “Mellow Yellow” was recorded. Paul’s contribution to the track was minimal, consisting of some backing vocals.

Mellow Yellow” became Donovan’s signature tune in the US, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the Cash Box chart, and earning a gold record award for sales of over one million copies.

I would visit Paul McCartney in his St. John’s Wood, London home, where he lived with his love, Jane Asher. Paul and I were kindred spirits, but we found it hard to write songs together as we both were just too prolific.

Any ideas that I had he would immediately riff off into an idea of his own and vice versa. He was so full of songs, I swear that if he fell on the piano, by the time he picked himself up he would have written three new melodies.

Paul’s Liverpool humor kept me laughing as he gibed me about my own attitudes. He took great delight in calling me Philip, my second name. I guess “Donovan” seemed exotic to him, and this was his way of teasing me about it.

I did not see it at the time, but I was becoming a close friend of Paul’s, a rare confidant to him in his increasingly private world, as fame separated him more and more from so-called reality. The loss of privacy that fame had brought gave us a common ground.

One quiet Sunday I was alone, recording new songs on my little Uher tape machine, when the doorbell rang. It was Paul on his own. He played a couple of tunes to me on his Martin Acoustic six string. One sang of a strange chap called:

Ola Na Tungee,
Blowing his mind in the dark with a pipe full of clay —
No one can say…

The tune was “Eleanor Rigby” but the words had not all come out yet. Songwriters sometimes sketch in the lyric with any old line, then come back to it.

Another song he sang to me was a little ditty with a chorus about a yellow submarine. He was missing a verse for the tune and asked me to get one in there. So I said, give me a minute, and left the room. What I came back with was not world-shattering, but he liked it.

Sky of blue and sea of green
In our yellow submarine…

We played a few more bits and pieces we were both working on there in my little Japanese room, the sunlight filtering through the lace curtains.

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

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

Erroneous reports in the musical press attributed the whispered words of wisdom “Quite rightly” to Paul. His actual contribution was little more than whooping and hollering (and possibly handclapping) in the background during the instrumental verse. Paul is particularly easy to hear at 1:56, shouting, “Hey!” He can also be heard crooning “Yellooooowww …” around 2:16 into the track. From about 3:02 onward, Paul continues to babble through the fadeout.

From “That Magic Feeling: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966-1970” by John C. Winn

Last updated on October 11, 2023

Songs recorded


Mellow Yellow

Written by Donovan




Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals
Acoustic guitar, Vocals

Production staff

Mickie Most:


Have you spotted an error on the page? Do you want to suggest new content? Or do you simply want to leave a comment ? Please use the form below!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *