The Paul McCartney Project

Mellow Yellow

Written by Donovan

Album This song officially appears on the Mellow Yellow Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1967
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

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 in 1966. (Both Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys and Winchester Cathedral by The New Vaudeville Band kept it from hitting No. 1.) Outside the US, “Mellow Yellow” peaked at No. 8 in the UK in early 1967.

Content

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. 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 answering 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. […]

From Songfacts:

Paul McCartney appears somewhere on this track, but it’s not clear where. He was rumored to be the whispering voice saying “quite rightly,” but that was Donovan. McCartney dropped by the session and was captured on tape saying “Mellow Yellow” and doing some cheering. His voice is likely somewhere in the mix at the end of the song amid the revelry.

Donovan had recently helped out McCartney on another “Yellow” song: He provided the “sky of blue, sea of green” line in “Yellow Submarine.” Both songs hit #2 US in 1966.

[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

From an interview with Goldmine, October 16, 2008:

Rumor has it that Paul McCartney sang background on “Atlantis.”

Donovan: No. (chuckles) Paul did the “Mellow Yellow” session and added the clap and the giggle. The only thing we ever got close doing was that Mary Hopkin album.

Donovan

Last updated on October 21, 2019

Lyrics

I'm just mad about saffron
A-saffron's mad about me
I'm-a just mad about saffron
She's just mad about me

They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow

I'm just mad about fourteen
Fourteen's mad about me
I'm-a just mad about a-fourteen
A-she's just mad about me

They call me mellow yellow
They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow

Born-a high forever to fly
A-wind-a velocity nil
Born-a high forever to fly
If you want, your cup I will fill

They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow

So mellow yellow

Electrical banana
Is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana
Is bound to be the very next phase

They call it mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow

Yes, saffron, yeah
I'm just-a mad about her
I'm-a just-a mad about-a saffron
She's just mad about me

They call it mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow (Quite rightly)
They call me mellow yellow

Oh, so yellow
Oh, so mellow

Officially appears on


Mellow Yellow / Sunny South Kensington

7" Single • Released in 1966

3:42 • Studio versionA

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

Session Recording:
September - October 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Mellow Yellow

Official album • Released in 1967

3:47 • Studio versionA

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

Session Recording:
September - October 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Videos

Album • Mellow Yellow

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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