Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is another “Freebie” meaning we can choose to do anything. I’m continuing my KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLOR SONGS SERIES featuring the color YELLOW. I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite songs with Yellow in the title, followed of course by some (hopefully) interesting information and trivia tidbits about each song. And then at the end is some cool info about the color Yellow. Enjoy!
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is a ballad performed by musician Elton John. Lyrics for the song were written by Bernie Taupin and the music composed by John for his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Its musical style and production were heavily influenced by 1970s soft rock. It was widely praised by critics, and some critics have named it Elton John’s best song.
The song was released in 1973 as the album’s second single, and entered the Top Ten in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It was one of John’s biggest hits, and surpassed the previous single, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, in sales and popularity quickly following its release. In the US, it was certified Gold on January 4, 1974 and Platinum on September 13, 1995 by the RIAA.
The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends are instructed to follow the yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, only to find that they had what they were looking for all along. The road leads to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz, often referred to as a metaphor for “The road that leads to life’s fantasies” or “The road that leads to life’s answers.” The lyrics describe wanting to go back to a simpler existence after living what the narrator thought was the good life, but realizing they had simply been treated like a pet.
The Wizard of Oz was reportedly the first film that Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin had ever seen, and he used the imagery in the lyrics relating to his own life as his desire to “get back to [his] roots”.
Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics to Elton’s songs. He often seems to write about Elton, but this one appears to be about him. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. Elton has enjoyed a very extravagant lifestyle, while Taupin prefers to keep it low key.
Speaking about the song, Taupin said:
“It’s funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I’d have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.
There was a period when I was going through that whole “got to get back to my roots” thing, which spawned a lot of like-minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it. I just I don’t believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home.”
In Canada, the single reached No.1 on the RPM 100 national singles chart on December 22, 1973 and held the position for one week, making it John’s third No.1 in the year 1973 in that country (following “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel”). In the US, it rose to No.7 and spent 18 weeks on the charts. In Ireland, it reached No. 4; in the UK it peaked at No. 6.
Elton John has always made a priority of playing live on stage as part his long-lasting career. He has played over 3000 concerts in over 75 countries around the world since 1970. In the U.S. he had toured in 49 of the 50 states, except Vermont. That changed in July 2008. In honor of his sold-out show, the local hippie ice cream heroes Ben & Jerry created a dedicated flavor to him. Here is a News excerpt from Rolling Stone’s July 15, 2008 issue:
To celebrate the first time Elton John has ever played the state of Vermont, native ice cream kings Ben & Jerry have concocted a new flavor dedicated to John called “Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road,” with all proceeds benefitting the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The ice cream is described as “an outrageous symphony of decadent chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks.” We assumed “brickle” was just a made-up word to make a punny tie between the ice cream and John’s hit “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” but butter brickle is actually the stuff that Heath Bars are made of. “Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road” will be saying goodbye sooner rather than later, however, as the limited edition flavor will only be available in B&J’s Vermont Scoop Shops from July 18-25. Sir Elton joins Phish [“Phish Food”], Jerry Garcia [“Cherry Garcia”] and Dave Matthews [Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies”] as musicians who have had a flavor dedicated to them.
The Vermont concert was on July 21, 2008 at the Essex Junction fairgrounds. Elton made a point of having some of the ice cream before the show. The flavor was only on sale for one week but have any of you ever had it?
FUN FACT #1: The song’s flip side is a song called “Screw You”, though the US release re-titled the song “Young Man’s Blues” so as not to offend American record buyers. (I don’t know about you but that wouldn’t have offended me. You??)
FUN FACT #2: Elton John’s One Night Only: The Greatest Hits Live at Madison Square Garden album had this song done as a duet with Billy Joel.
FUN FACT #3: Elton’s John’s vocal range is spectacular. Specific to this song, Ben Folds told Rolling Stone magazine for their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time issue: “He was mixing his falsetto and his chest voice to really fantastic effect in the ’70s. There’s that point in ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,’ where he sings, ‘on the grooound’ – his voice is all over the shop. It’s like jumping off a diving board when he did that.”
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is still regularly included in Elton John’s live performances, although since 1997 he has transposed the key of the song downward (from F major to E-flat major) due to no longer being able to sing its high falsetto chorus. It’s hell getting old…
Earlier this year, Elton John announced his farewell tour with a title that plays off this song: “Farewell Yellow Brick Road”. It’s almost like it’s the end of an era…
Mellow Yellow by Donovan – “Mellow Yellow” is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. It reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and No. 8 in the UK in early 1967.
Donovan set out to capture the mellow vibe of the ’60s with this song, adding what he called “cool, groovy phrases.” These phrases were interpreted in ways he never imagined, as people came up with lots of ideas as to what the song meant. Most of these interpretations concerned drugs, but there were even rumors that the song was about abortion.
There is certainly a drug influence on this song, but it’s about much more than that. In his Songfacts interview, Donovan said: “To be ‘mellow’ is to be cool, to be laid back, but it doesn’t have to be with a smoke. It can be through meditation. And it was meditation that became more serious for The Beatles and me, and presenting that in our music.”
The song was rumored 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 rumor that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumor three weeks before “Mellow Yellow” was released as a single. Here’s the real deal: 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: In an interview with the June 18, 2011 edition of the NME, Donovan was asked what the song was actually about. He replied: “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.”
FUN FACT #1: (As if “Mellow Yellow” being about vibrators wasn’t fun enough…) Paul 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. The “quite rightly” whispering answering lines in the chorus is not McCartney, as rumored, but rather Donovan himself. Also McCartney played bass guitar (uncredited) on portions of Donovan’s Mellow Yellow album.
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.
FUN FACT #2: The song was used in a popular 1999 commercial for The Gap titled “Everybody in Cords,” promoting their corduroy pants, which come in shades of saffron and yellow.
It was also used in a 1987 commercial for a product called Butter It, which is a “liquid butter alternative.” In that one, the song was altered, with the line “quite rightly” changed to “just butter it.” Here are a few of the spots, three :30s and one :15 second spot.
Donovan pushed to get his songs in as many commercials as he could, since it was great exposure for them and a nice source of income. How he felt about a liquid butter alternative was immaterial.
(In case you’ve ever wondered why I include so many commercials in my posts it’s because I spent most of my career in advertising and sometimes I just really dig fun and clever ads; and even though I record all my favorite television shows on my DVRs so I can fast-forward and blast through all the commercials, I do appreciate what goes into them, from the idea conception to the copywriting to the production and the post-production. I hope you like seeing some of these commercials too).
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando & Dawn – “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” is a song by ‘Dawn featuring Tony Orlando’ (Dawn was comprised of Motown/Stax backing vocalist Telma Hopkins, Joyce Vincent Wilson and her sister Pamela Vincent on backing vocals). It was a worldwide hit for the group in 1973.
SONG SUCCESS: ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” won Favorite Pop/Rock Single at the first annual American Music Awards in 1974. The song also got two Grammy nominations: Song of the Year and Best Pop Group Performance. When the trio performed the song at the ceremony in March 1974, they got the attention of Fred Silverman at CBS, who gave them a summer variety series called Tony Orlando and Dawn, which began airing in July. They stayed on the air for three seasons, during which time the group charted more hits, including another #1, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You).”
The song charted internationally: The single reached the top 10 in ten countries, and in eight of those countries it topped the charts at Number One. It reached number one on both the US and UK charts for four weeks in April 1973, number one on the Australian charts for seven weeks from May to July 1973 and number one on the New Zealand charts for ten weeks from June to August 1973. It was the top-selling single in 1973 in both the US and UK.
Origins of the Song: This song was written by Irwin Levine and Larry Brown (credited as L. Russell Brown), who also wrote the previous #1 hit for the group, “Knock Three Times.” The song is based on a story called “Going Home” that Levine read in the January 1972 edition of the magazine Reader’s Digest. The story was originally published in the New York Post on October 14, 1971, appearing in a column called “The Eight Million” written by Pete Hamill.
This is NOT the story of a convict who had told his love to tie a ribbon book to a tree outside of town. I know because I wrote the song one morning in 15 minutes with the late lyrical genius Irwin Levine. The genesis of this idea came from the age old folk tale about a Union prisoner of war–who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a confederate POW camp in Georgia…. Anything about a criminal is pure fantasy….
— L. Russell Brown
Some erroneously claim the song is about an ex-con coming home, probably due to the story which inspired a part of the song: In October 1971, newspaper columnist Pete Hamill wrote a piece for the New York Post called “Going Home”. In it, he told a variant of the Union soldier story, in which college students on a bus trip to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale make friends with an ex-convict who is watching for a yellow handkerchief on a roadside oak in Brunswick, Georgia. Hamill claimed to have heard this story in oral tradition. In June 1972, nine months later, Reader’s Digest reprinted “Going Home”. Also in June 1972, ABC-TV aired a dramatized version of it in which James Earl Jones played the role of the returning ex-con.
According to L. Russell Brown, he read Hamill’s story in the Reader’s Digest, and suggested to his songwriting partner Irwin Levine that they write a song based on it. Levine and Brown then registered for copyright the song which they called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree”. At the time, the writers said they heard the story while serving in the military. Pete Hamill was not convinced and filed suit for infringement. Hamill dropped his suit after folklorists working for Levine and Brown turned up archival versions of the story that had been collected before “Going Home” had been written.
RIBBONS: The origin of the idea of a yellow ribbon as remembrance may have been the 19th-century practice that some women allegedly had of wearing a yellow ribbon in their hair to signify their devotion to a husband or sweetheart serving in the U.S. Cavalry. The song “‘Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon”, which later inspired the John Wayne movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is a reference to this. The symbol of a yellow ribbon became widely known in civilian life in the 1970s as a reminder that an absent loved one, either in the military or in jail, would be welcomed home on their return.
The yellow ribbons appeared again in 1980 when Americans put them on trees to remember the hostages being held in Iran. The song had renewed popularity in 1981, in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis.
Ten years later, a group called Visual AIDS convinced people attending the Tony Awards to wear small red ribbons as a symbol of AIDS awareness. Soon, many causes produced ribbons with different colors to raise money and awareness. In 2004, the trend extended to rubber bracelets when cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong worked with Nike to promote yellow bracelets labeled “Livestrong” that raised money for cancer research.
FUN FACT #1: In 1977, a Japanese movie called The Yellow Handkerchief was released, based on the same newspaper story this song was based upon. The film was remade in English in 2008, with William Hurt playing the convict returning home.
FUN FACT #2: Levine and Brown first offered the song to Ringo Starr, but Al Steckler of Apple Records told them that they should be ashamed of the song and described it as “ridiculous”.
Yellow Submarine by the Beatles – “Yellow Submarine” is a 1966 song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, with lead vocals by Ringo Starr. It was included on the Revolver (1966) album and issued as a single, coupled with “Eleanor Rigby.” “Yellow Submarine” was the B side to “Eleanor Rigby.” The single went to number one on every major British chart, remained at number one for four weeks, and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award “for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966”. In the US, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the most successful Beatles song to feature Ringo Starr as lead vocalist.
Paul McCartney wrote the majority of this song. He explained shortly after it was released in 1966: “‘Yellow Submarine’ is very simple but very different. It’s a fun song, a children’s song. Originally we intended it to be ‘Sparky’ a children’s record. But now it’s the idea of a yellow submarine where all the kids went to have fun. I was just going to sleep one night and thinking if we had a children’s song, it would be nice to be on a yellow submarine where all your friends are with a band.”
Paul purposely used short words in the lyrics because he wanted kids to pick it up early and sing along.
Ringo sang lead, as he did on many of the lighter Beatles songs, including “Octopus’s Garden” and “Act Naturally.” Originally, Ringo had a spoken intro to go with the children’s story theme, but this was discarded. Ringo did eventually get his chance to narrate for children: he was voice talent on the UK cartoon Thomas the Tank Engine.
Although intended as a nonsense song for children, “Yellow Submarine” received various social and political interpretations at the time. Some people felt this song had deeper meaning about drugs or war, and it was often sung at protests and other rallies as a symbol of unity. The Beatles insisted there was no subtext, but they were used to people reading too much into their songs. On The White Album, there is a song called “Glass Onion” that addresses this issue. (John Lennon used meaningless lyrics to confuse people who were reading too much into his songs. He got a kick out of people trying to analyze his lyrics. Paul McCartney had the original idea for writing a song that had a poke at all those who read too much into the Beatles lyrics; that became “Glass Onion.”)
As with just about every Beatles song, there’s a lot that can be read into this one if you look hard enough. One possible interpretation: Once famous, The Beatles were forced to stay in hotel rooms and live under pressure = Submarine. Because they were having a great time it was Yellow (friends are all aboard). Sea of green = money.
However, McCartney said: “It’s a happy place, that’s all. You know, it was just … We were trying to write a children’s song. That was the basic idea. And there’s nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children’s song.”
The sounds of bubbles, water, and other noises were recorded in the studio. The background vocals (and some effects) were done by John, Paul, and George and they had some help on the fadeout chorus by Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, George Martin, Alf Bicknell (their chauffeur), Geoff Emerick, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithful, Pattie Harrison and a few other staff people that were in the building at the time. The “bubble” effects are John blowing into a straw. All of the speaking parts are done by John and Paul.
The famous folk singer and Scottish musician Donovan, who was McCartney’s friend and neighbor at the time, made a key contribution to this song, coming up with the line “Sky of blue, sea of green.” He likely also recorded backing vocals in the chorus.
After he got the idea for the song, Paul McCartney dropped by Donovan’s place and asked him for suggestions in hashing out a verse. In our interview with Donovan, he explained: “He already had those words to the song, but he seemed to have a hole in the song. So I took his words and turned them around for him.”
This line is Donovan’s best-known contribution to a Beatles song, as it’s the most concrete, but it was simply adding a line; he takes more pride in other Beatles songs he influenced on their shared musical journey. In February 1968, he joined the Beatles on their retreat to India, where he taught McCartney and Lennon the “clawhammer” guitar technique, where the picking hand strikes the strings in a downward motion with the back of the nail. McCartney used this technique on “Blackbird,” and Lennon used it on “Dear Prudence.” He also helped Lennon with another song written in India, “Julia,” which John wrote about his mother.
After The Beatles recorded this song, Donovan recorded his own “yellow” track: “Mellow Yellow.” Paul McCartney came by that session and was recorded hollering, which was likely used in the cheering at the end of the song.
These colorful songs had similar success in America: “Yellow Submarine” hit #2 in September 1966, and in December, “Mellow Yellow” reached that same chart position.
According to Steve Turner’s book A Hard Day’s Write, about a month after the album was released, there were barbiturate capsules that started to be known as “yellow submarines.” McCartney denied any comparison to drugs and said the only submarine he knew that you could eat was a sugary sweet he’s come across in Greece while on holiday. These had to be dropped in water and were known as “submarines.”
The song also inspired a fun film. It became the title song of the 1968 animated United Artists film, also called Yellow Submarine, and the soundtrack album to the film, released as part of the Beatles’ music catalogue. The film featured cartoon avatars of the Beatles. The group had a lot going on at the time, so actors were brought in to voice their lines. In the film, The Beatles try to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies, who hate music. (I won’t spoil it by telling you how it ends).
The photographic scenes shown in the movie Yellow Submarine are of well-known locations in England, including Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. An orchestral reprise to the song arranged by George Martin titled “Yellow Submarine in Pepperland” is featured at the end of the film and its soundtrack.
FUN FACT: Spanish premier division soccer team Villareal is nicknamed “Los Submarinos Amarillos” (Spanish for “Yellow Submarine”) because of their yellow uniforms.
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland – “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” is a novelty song telling the story of a shy girl wearing a revealing polka dot bikini at the beach. It was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and first released in June 1959 by Brian Hyland with orchestra conducted by John Dixon. Vance was inspired after watching his 2-year-old daughter Paula at the beach in her new bikini. Brian Hyland was a 16-year-old high school sophomore at the time of this recording.
The story told through the three verses of the song is as follows: (1) the young lady is too afraid to leave the locker where she has changed into her bikini; (2) she has made it to the beach but sits on the sand wrapped in a blanket; and (3) she has finally gone into the ocean, but is too afraid to come out, and stays immersed in the water – despite the fact that she’s “turning blue” – to hide herself from view. Trudy Packer recited the phrases “…two, three, four / Tell the people what she wore”, heard at the end of each verse before the chorus; and “Stick around, we’ll tell you more”, heard after the first chorus and before the start of the second verse.
Hyland’s version hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1960 and also made the top 10 in other countries, including #8 on the UK Singles Chart. It also reached #1 in New Zealand.
In 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Brian Hyland says:
“Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss had shown this song to a lot of singers but no one wanted to do it. Kapp (the owner of Brian’s record label) thought it was right for me and got really excited about it. It was a number one in America which meant that I could stop riding on the subway and buy some Martin guitars.”
The song had tremendous historical impact: At a time when bikini bathing suits were still seen as too risqué to be mainstream, the song prompted a sudden take off in bikini sales and is credited as being one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the bikini in society. The early 1960s saw a slew of surf movies and other film and television productions that rapidly built on the song’s momentum.
This song was used in a prominent ad campaign in 2006 by Yoplait Light yogurt in a series of commercials showing a woman trying to lose weight in order to fit into her “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
That’s it for the music portion of our program. Now onto some color definition:
WHAT IS YELLOW??
The Meaning of the Color Yellow
Yellow, the color of sunshine, hope, and happiness, has conflicting associations. On one hand yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honor, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit. A dull or dingy yellow may represent caution, sickness, and jealousy.
Studies show that the meaning of the color yellow can be warmth, cheerfulness, increased mental activity, increased muscle energy. The color yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence, and stimulate the nervous system.
Bright yellow is an attention getting color, and when used in combination with black, is creates one of the easiest color combinations to read and see from long distances. This is why school buses, taxi cabs, and traffic signs are painted yellow and black.
The color yellow is a spontaneous and unstable color. It is often associated with food and is highly used in children’s products and marketing advertisements aimed at children. Perceived as a childish color by men, yellow is not a color that should be used when marketing products to prestigious or wealthy men.
If yellow is overused, it can have a disturbing effect. For example, it is a proven fact that babies cry more in rooms painted yellow. Too much yellow causes loss of focus and makes it hard to complete a task. Too much yellow also can cause people to become critical and demanding. Too little yellow causes feelings of isolation and fear, insecurity, and low self-esteem. A lack of yellow can cause one to become rigid, cunning, possessive, or defensive.
Yellow gemstones are believed to aid in clarity for decision-making, boost concentration, increase energy, and offer relief from burnout, panic, nervousness, or exhaustion.
In different cultures yellow has different meanings. In some cultures, yellow represents peace. In Egypt yellow was worn to signify the dead. In Japan, yellow stands for courage. In India, yellow is the color of the merchants.
Other meanings associated with the color yellow:
- Traditionally, yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to come home from war. Today, yellow ribbons are still used to welcome homes loved ones.
- Calling someone “yellow” or “yellow-bellied” is the same as calling them a coward.
- The term “mellow yellow” stands for laid-back and relaxation.
- The phrase “yellow journalism” is in reference to bad or irresponsible reporting.
Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color yellow: Lemon, yellow ocher, golden, saffron, cream, mustard, mellow yellow.
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That’s it for my Yellow Songs edition. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Please tell me what your favorite yellow song is, either from those presented here or some other yellow song — there are quite a few!
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy. Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.