Tox Tunes #26: Mellow Yellow (Donovan)

August 4, 2010, 2:25 am

Back in the 1960s, there was a rumor circulating on college campuses that smoking the blackened inner lining of roasted banana skins could produce hallucinations. (Hey, it was the 60s). When Donovan released his song “Mellow Yellow” in 1966, it was taken as coded confirmation that the rumors were indeed true. According to one story, the myth about bananas gained even more strength when, about that time, the group “Country Joe and the Fish” gave a concert in Berkeley. Several members smoked prepared bananas just before the performance.  Sure enough, they got on stage and were tripping their brains out.  Country Joe McDonald told the audience that everything they had heard about smoking bananas was true.  In fact, the group had forgot to mention that an hour before they had dropped LSD.

Wikipedia points out that the phrase “mellow yellow” appears in the Ithaca section (Chapter 17) of James Joyce’s Ulysses: “He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.”  It is not known if Donovan was aware of this passage, or intended to reference it in his song.

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