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*2.31-MELLOW YELLOW (Donovan)

Donovan

LISTEN

I'm just mad about Saffron.
Saffron's mad about me. (2x)

        They call me mellow yellow.
        (Quite rightly) (2x)
        They call me mellow yellow.

I'm just mad about Fourteen.
Fourteen's mad about me. (2x)

        [Chorus]

Born high forever to fly
Wind velocity nil.
Wanna high forever to fly
If you want your cup o'er filled.

        [Chorus]
        (So yellow, he's so mellow)

[Break]

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

        [Chorus]

Saffron -- yeah
I'm just mad about her.
I'm just mad about Saffron.
She's just mad about me.

        [Chorus]

(Oh so yellow, oh so mellow)


Mellow Yellow was Donovan’s second big hit single, and played on a popular (though incorrect) notion that smoking banana peels would get you high. It came out only a few months after Yellow Submarine by the Beatles, and as it was in the same novelty mode, was so strongly identified with Submarine that it was rumored that Paul McCartney whispered the comment “Quite rightly” on the song. As mentioned before, the color yellow was a psychedelic theme during this period. (Was that an electrical banana on the cover of Velvet Underground & Nico's first album in 1967?) The rowdy singalong in the break and coda also reminded the audience of Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 by Bob Dylan. Rainy Day Women and Mellow Yellow share a communal partying mood, though Dylan's tone is Beat and Buddhist, maybe comically fatalistic, while Donovan is picking up on a silly fad, a cultural artifact, and actually pinpoints his audience among fourteen year old girls. (The pederast line, when performed live as recorded on Donovan in Concert, is I'm just mad about fourteen / Year old girls who are mad about me, but it was stricken from the single to avoid radio censorship.) Yellow Submarine in contrast paints a separate world (which is difficult not to imagine, after the movie of the same name, as anything other than a cartoon), and the song's communal aspect is not projected out to the audience for singalong participation as with Dylan and Donovan, but rather, draws the imagination to it, where community is experienced in virtual reality.

Mellow Yellow also derives somewhat from the Beach Boys 1965 “live” party hit Barbara Ann, a song which is outside the psychedelic genre. Donovan’s song has a simple bare-bones walking beat, good for nodding the head in assent as the audience listened, with little more sound added than the recorded partiers, Donovan's breathy "cool" voice, and a flugelhorn. The flugelhorn was getting some contemporary play on Top 40 radio through Burt Bacharach’s use of the instrument in his compositions. Mellow Yellow was the sound of "laid back" while at the same time the lyrics suggest "getting stupid”. When Joseph Franzen calls pop songs Chiclets in his novel Freedom, this is the kind of record I think he's referring to. I blame Mellow Yellow as helping lay the foundation for the "bubble gum" genre marketed for "teeny-boppers", a younger portion of the Baby Boom generation.

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