Donovan

Mellow Yellow

Composed by Donovan

Song Review by

"Mellow Yellow," in tandem with its predecessor "Sunshine Superman," established Donovan as the ultimate bearer of good vibes at the dawn of the psychedelic era. Countercultural bliss, of course, did not prohibit commercial success, and "Mellow Yellow" was a very big hit, reaching number two in the U.S. (and the Top Ten in Britain). The big hook in "Mellow Yellow" is not a riff or note, but a jazzy walking beat which carries the instrumental intro until Donovan's usual breathy vocal makes its entrance. The verses are certainly mighty melodic in a pop folk-rock fashion, with the singer's sly declarations of love for various fantastic women accompanied by only minimal electric guitar and bass. What makes this a psychedelic folk-rocker, rather than a sassy jazz tune, is the insistent chorus in which Donovan gleefully announces that they call him Mellow Yellow. Only in 1966 and 1967, perhaps, would that nickname be worn as a badge of honor, but it fit in well with the psychedelic era, when the more outrageous the language and flouting of convention, the better. It was certainly difficult not to sing along with that chorus, too, particularly as it was immediately rejoined by a responsive knowing, nudge-nudge affirmative whisper. (Though those whispers have sometimes been rumored to have been voiced by Donovan's friend Paul McCartney, actually these were by Donovan.) After a near drum-roll of a turnaround, the song glides into an instrumental break of celebratory partying, with voices whooping it up as a striptease-like brass section takes over the main riff. That partying atmosphere, something like a bridge between the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need Is Love" ambience, sticks with the rest of the song, particularly the fadeout. The famous lyrical reference to an electric banana gave rise to fantastic rumors that smoking banana peels would get you high, though the words were surely intended in a lighthearted humorous fashion, not as a serious revelation. A little-known cool cover version of "Mellow Yellow" was done by the jazz-soul combo Young Holt Unlimited.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Mellow Yellow 1967 Sundazed
In Concert 1968 EMI Music Distribution 4:58
Donovan's Greatest Hits 1969 Sony/Epic
The Golden Era of Pop Music, Vol. 2 1988
Various Artists
CBS Records 3:43
Rockin' 60's [Sony Special Products] 1989
Various Artists
Columbia Special Products / Columbia 3:33
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Rhino
Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976 1992 Sony Music Distribution
Sunny Afternoons [Polygram] 1995
Various Artists
Polygram 3:36
Cappuccino Classics, Vol. 1: Yeh Yeh 1995
Various Artists
Temple 3:38
1967: 20 Original Chart Hits 1997
Various Artists
A Time To Remember
Love Is Hot, Truth Is Molten 1998 Raven 3:41
Feel the Buzz: Spacin' 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 3:44
Classic 60's: Shakin' All Over 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Time/Life Music 3:45
Greatest Hits of the 60's [1999] 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:44
Classic '60s [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:45
Super Hits 2000 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. 3:40
Pottery Barn: Cool Grooves 2000
Various Artists
Rock River Records / Sony Music
Mellow Yellow/Wear Your Love Like Heaven 2001 Collectables 3:44
Decades: Story of the 60's, 70's & 80's [EMI] 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:34
Favourite Sixties 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:39
Greatest Hits Live Vancouver 1986 2001 Var├Ęse Vintage / Varese 2:50
A Year in Your Life: 1966, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Definitive 3:42
Casey Kasem Presents: America's Top Ten - The 60's Folk Years 2002
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 3:46
Very Best of Donovan [Sony] 2002 MSI Music Distribution / Epic / Sony/Epic 3:41
The Definitive Collection [Sony] 2002 Epic / Sony Music Entertainment 3:43
The Very Best of Donovan: The Early Years 2002 Sanctuary / Castle Music Ltd.
Sunshine Superman: The Very Best of Donovan 2002 EMI Music Distribution 3:39
Atlantis 2002 Megaworld (England)
The Rockin' 60's [Platinum Disc] 2002
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:45
Singers & Songwriters: 1964-1969 [2002] 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Storyteller 2003 Audio Fidelity 3:40
Great Donovan 2003 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 3:42
Elite: Sixties 2003
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Realm Records 3:44
Am Gold: The 60's Generation 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:48
The Essential Donovan [2004] 2004 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:40
60's the Decade of Love and Music 2004
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 3:44
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:41
Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan 2005 Epic/Legacy 3:43
A Brief History Of The 60's 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:40
Collections 2006 BMG / Sony BMG 3:40
60's Collection [Flashback] 2007
Various Artists
Flashback Records
The British Beat: Best of the '60s 2007
Various Artists
Shout! Factory/TJL 3:41
101 60's Hits 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:35
40 Jahre Flower Power 2007
Various Artists
G&H / Ganser & Hanke Media 3:43
Havin' a 60's Party 2007
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution / Custom Marketing Group 3:46
Die Hit Giganten, Vol. 23 2007
Various Artists
Sbm Records / Sony BMG 3:39
Flower Power [Time Life Box] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:43
Top of the Pops 1967 2007
Various Artists
EMI 3:41
The Donovan Concert: Live in L.A. [DVD] 2007 MVD / Wienerworld
Live in Concert at the Kodak 2008 MVD
Peace And Love [Madacy] 2008
Various Artists
Madacy 3:45
TV Ad Songs 2008
Various Artists
Virgin 3:36
Top of the Pops Collection [43 CD] 2008
Various Artists
EMI
Playlist: The Very Best of Donovan 2008 Epic / Legacy 3:43
Sun Jammin' 2008
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 3:40
Live Troubadour 2009 The Great American Music Company 3:19
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 3:40
Singers & Songwriters: Troubadours 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:45
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:45
The Music Never Stopped 2011
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Rhino 3:42
Good Vibrations [EMI] 2011
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:39
The Essential Donovan [2012] 2012 Epic / Legacy / Sony Legacy 3:43
Latest & Greatest: Great British Artists 2012
Various Artists
USM Media 3:41
'60s Music Revolution 2012
Various Artists
Time / Time/Life Music 3:45
100 Hits: Swinging 60s 2012
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:41
'60s Music Revolution: Let the Sunshine In 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:45
Silence Is Golden 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:41
De Pre Historie: 1966, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Eva 3:41
It's the 60's!
Various Artists
Rhino 3:04
Long Hot Summer
Various Artists
Gold Classic Hits Radio 3:39
Original Hits: Top of the Pops
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Gold
Retrospective Salvo
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:34
No Image
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:42
No Image
Various Artists
EMI
Ultimate '60s Pop Classics
Various Artists
Rhino
blue highlight denotes editor's pick