"I'm just mad about saffron, saffron's mad about me..."

Thanks to a recent ad campaign by The GAP, this Donovan song has enjoyed a slight revival. Oddly enough, this song helped spread the (false) rumor that smoking banana peels could get one high.

A week previous to the release of this song, Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish had talked about smoking banana peels to get high. Add in a hit song with the lyric, "Electrical Banana," and a rumor was born.

'The Least Mellow Place on Earth'

Founded in the 1970s Mellow Yellow was one of the very first coffeeshops in Amsterdam. It is located on Vijzelgracht in the Southern Main Canal district. The decor is light and airy (and very very yellow) which makes for a refreshing change to the claustrophobic environments found in many other coffeeshops in the Noord Holland province.

The owners are pretty intense and have an intelligently dispassionate attitude towards tourists that some may perceive as unfriendliness.

Oh and Mellow Yellow is also the least mellow place on earth.

It's OK to smoke dope on the premises just as long as you are very careful not to have any fun; you will also get thrown out of Mellow Yellow (probably at knife point) if you don't have exact change.

We met two girls in Mellow Yellow who were about to take some magic mushrooms. A conversation ensued and we exchanged pages and drawings from our notebooks. We warned them that Mellow Yellow had eyes everywhere. There are microphones in the wall. This is 1984. They are Big Brother.

The fiendish Nazis who run Mellow Yellow have put a pay machine next to the toilet that has nothing to do with the operation of the toilet door. When money is deposited the machine makes loud laughing sounds as the poor tourist realises that this is just another of Mellow Yellow's mindfucks.

After extensive investigation we concluded that the cause of the distinct lack of mellow at Mellow Yellow was the owner (lets call him Michael). Michael has achieved a state of mellow beyond what any human could reasonably hope for. Mike is so mellow that the mere presence of anyone within his shop is enough to harshen his buzz. He resents this. Mike has become so mellow that he has passed some kind of quantum mellow barrier and become ultra-mellow. In this state of extreme mellowness the physics of mellow are reversed. Mike is, in fact, so mellow that he creates a 'shock cone' of anti-mellow with him at the centre.

Never go to Mellow Yellow.

As the joke goes: "If you remember the 60s, you weren't there".

"Mellow Yellow" was a single by Scottish folk-rocker Donovan, released in October of 1966. The lyrics are a lyrically celebration of being a laid-back dude, and were misunderstood at the time about smoking banana peels. Apparently, the line about an "electrical banana" referred to the new availability of vibrating dildos. And the line about "I'm quite mad about fourteen" might be about something quite unsavory.

Back to the 1960s and remembering them: I was born in 1979, which means I remember the 1960s quite well. In my memory of the 1960s, there was a brief period, basically less than a year, around 1966, when British Invasion groups singing about romance dabbled in psychedelia before everything broke open into psychedelia and hard rock. And to me, Donovan was a pop singer who wrote accessible songs who was briefly popular before Jimi Hendrix changed everything. "Mellow Yellow" went to number two in the charts, and with its singalong chorus and easy rhymes, it seemed to be almost a bubblegum song. "Sunshine Superman" had been a #1 single, and "Mellow Yellow" got to #2. It also represented the peak of Donovan's career, as the nascent "electric folk rock" would split into either easy listening or hard rock.

But this is all in retrospect. At the time that "Mellow Yellow" came out it wasn't a novelty song from a brief gear shift in the history of music. At the time it came out, Donovan was a pioneer who was being mentioned as the British Bob Dylan. To me, listening to this song now, I can hear an unrealized direction that music might have taken.

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