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In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry

Album: In the SummertimeReleased: 1970Charted:
3
1
  • This buoyant tune was written by Ray Dorset, who was the group's lead singer and guitarist. He penned the song in 1968 when he was working for Timex in the UK - his band was just getting started and music was more of a hobby at the time. Dorest says that the famous melody just popped into his head one day, and the next day he wrote the lyrics very quickly. "It's got no chorus; all it's got is a melody that goes over and over again with a set of lyrics that conjure up a celebration of life," he said. "Especially if you're a young person: it's a great day, you've managed to get a car - preferably with the top off - you're cruising around, and if you're a guy you're picking up girls."
  • The band was known as Memphis Leather and The Good Earth before getting a record deal and changing their name to Mungo Jerry (after the character Mungojerrie from the T. S. Eliot book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - later the basis for the Broadway play Cats). Barry Murray, a producer at Pye Records, was a friend of Ray Dorset's and signed the group to the label's more adventurous imprint, Dawn Records, which released "In The Summertime" as their first single. The song took off, going to #1 in their native UK and making #3 in America. The UK fortunes of the song were aided by the group's appearance at the Hollywood Music Festival in Staffordshire England on May 23, 1970, shortly after the song was released. Playing on low on a bill with the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Free and Traffic, the song got the attention of the 35,000 or so fans in attendance, giving it a huge lift.
  • The American appeal of this song can be attributed to the lyrical inspiration: American beach movies that lead singer Ray Dorset grew up watching. "That was the teenage dream," he said. "What more can you want?"
  • There is some very interesting instrumentation on this track. Ray Dorset did the vocals and played guitars (acoustic and electric), as well as a shaker instrument called cabasa. Paul King played banjo and jug; Mike Cole played string bass; Colin Earl played piano. Note that there are no drums, although you can hear Dorset stomping his foot to the rhythm. This was influenced by John Lee Hooker, who often used his foot as a percussion instrument. Another structural anomaly: the title is repeated just twice in the song.
  • Few songs have endured like this one, which finds its way onto playlists every summer and is constantly being commissioned for movies, TV shows and commercials. "It's an honor for me to have a song that I wrote that people want to associate with so many different moods and feelings and events," Ray Dorset said. "The longer it goes on, the more it becomes like 'Happy Birthday,' because when everybody thinks of the summer, they think of 'In The Summertime.'"
  • Around the two-minute mark, the song stops and we hear a car drive by, punctuating the line, "we'll all go into town." This was a recording of the engineer's sports car driving by the studio.
  • In the UK, this was issued as a "maxi-single," which was a 7-inch record played at 33 1/3 RPM instead of the standard 45, which allowed for more music in the limited space. Also included on the single were two other songs: "Mighty Man" and "Dust Pneumonia Blues." In the US, "In The Summertime" was issued as a standard single and also included on the album of the same name. In the UK, the group's first album was called Mungo Jerry, and did not include this song.
  • The band made a video for this song, which some UK groups did to promote their wares on European TV shows. Like most videos of the time, it's a performance piece, but thanks to the jug and upright bass it was a very unusual performance. Also distinguishing the video: lead singer Ray Dorset's sweet mutton chops, scarf and fishnet shirt.
  • The Reggae artist Shaggy covered this in 1995. His version, which features the singer Rayvon, reached #5 in the UK. Ray Dorset re-recorded his guitar part for Shaggy's version. (thanks, Jerro - New Alexandria, PA)
  • Mungo Jerry never again charted in the US, but fared very well in the UK, where the following year "Baby Jump" went to #1 and "Lady Rose" made #5. The group scored five more Top 40 UK hits by 1974. They have since been sporadically active under Ray Dorset's guidance with a number of different lineups.
  • This sold over 16 million copies worldwide and was Britain's biggest-selling single in 1970. In that territory, it really was the "song of the summer," peaking in June that year. By the time the song caught on in America, summer was coming to an end - it reached it's peak position on September 12.
  • Some of the many TV shows to use this song include: The Simpsons (2004) Life on Mars (2007) New Girl (2014) Movies include: The Substitute (1996) Breaking Out (1999) Mr. Deeds (2002) Anita and Me (2002) Wedding Crashers (2005) Despicable Me 2 (2013)
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Comments: 18

On July 5th 1970, "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #74; and on September 5th, 1970 it peaked at #3 (for 1 week) and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100 (for 6 of those 13 weeks it was on the Top 10, and on its 13th and final week on the chart it was at #35)...
The one week it was at #3, the #1 record was "War" by Edwin Starr and at #2 was "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross (two Motown acts).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Hey, is it just me, or does the keyboardist of Mungo Jerry look a lot like Wolfman Jack? I also used to think that there was a Mandolin in the music, but I guess it was the keyboard.....Interesting how a British band can sound like they came from a bluegrass hillbilly background, huh? This was a fav song of mine when I was a kid, I'd sing that over and over, not knowing what the words meant...Ah, Memories!Bruce - San Jose, Ca
I had to rush to this sight after just hearing some of the music for this song on a 1931 MGM release Gems of MGM. During the opening credits about or more 12 bars of this song (instrumentally) played. I couldn't believe my ears.
The Brox Sisters, Marion Harris, Benny Rubin, Belcher's Kiddie Ballet were the acts featured on this film. Though the song wasn't credited it was there all the same. I'll check it out further to see what I can come up with.
David Duggan - Los Osos, Ca
Marvelous song! Surely I'm not the only one to notice the strong similarity of this to John Sebastian & the Lovin' Spoonful, particularly their 3rd single, "Daydream" (1966)? I adore both songs, BTW. The Spoonful started out as basically a skiffle/jug band, wouldn't you say?Fred - Laurel, Md
The perfect summer song even 40 yrs later. 6/23/10James - Yucaipa, Ca
fyodor, you pretty much have it right about what it means to "do a ton," although perhaps at the time of the song's writing, it might have referred to km/hr. I've heard it used in contexts which suggest it's long since morphed into general slang; the British equivalent to "hauling ass:" "He just went by here doing a ton."Steven - Los Angeles, Ca
This song reminds me of a neighbor I had when I was 13. He was a long distance truck driver and I used to ride along with him in the summer. Good times!Phil - Tucson, Az
One of my favorite songs, just because of the way it makes you feel. The sound toward the end of the song like a frog croaking is made in one of their early videos by blowing in the top of a big glass jug. Neat-o.Wayne - Crockett, Tx
I remember hearing this song when I was a kid. I'll always associate it with a local channel that played it during the summer, advertising their summer programming lineup, I think mainly dealing with kids' shows.Patrick - Bremen, Ga
hahaaha!! I like this song because it was in that kiddy movie...uhmm..."The Little Rascals" I remember watching that as a kid...Skyttles - Poolpartytopia, Czech Republic
What an appropriate tune to play in the summertime!Frank - Brampton, Ontario, Canada
As previously mentioned, this has been used in several ads. The most memorable in the UK was as part of an anti-drink-driving campaign. The ad shows a group friends enjoying a summer evening at the pub, having a really great time, before driving off. As the song gets to the "Have a drink, have a drive" line, the song echoes away to leave the scene of their car wreck rapped around a tree, steam pouring from the engine, with their blood-streaked bodies hanging out of the broken windows. Hard-hitting stuff!!Kevin - Liverpool, England
Last Fourth of July, When we were all watching fire works, someone played this song. It may sound weird, but it is the best song to listen to while watching fireworks on 4th of JulyJoseph - Chicago, Il
"Have a drink, have a drive"! They don't write songs like THAT anymore! :-) My girlfriend hates how they advocate treating rich women differently from poor women! What do they mean by a ton or a ton and twenty-five? Does that mean they want to drive 100 to 125 mph?Fyodor - Denver, Co
Mungo Jerry was a character from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (which was later adapted and made into the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber).Don - Newmarket, Canada
There was actually a video of this song, featuring the band in what actually looked like the studio recording it. Very static. The group of them sat side by side with headsets and mikes and music stands, guitars, etc. It was similar in feel to some of the filmed studio performances you see in the Beatles movie Let It Be (which had come out just a few months earlier).... The weird thing about this song--no drums. Instead there's a guy making mouth sounds like you'd see 20 years later in the early rap performances.Dirk - Nashville, Tn
I have the original 7" single at home - it is DORSET!David - Gosford, Australia
Ray Dorset had his moment in the spotlight when his band, Mungo Jerry, recorded one of the biggest selling hits of 1970. A skiffle-style blues, "In The Summertime", sold more than thirty million copies worldwide and became a classic of the summer season. It topped the charts a second time when a version by Shaggy was featured in the film, Flipper. The song has also been recorded by Elton John and Bob Dylan. Dorset received two Ivor Novello awards as songwriter.

Dorset was already a veteran performer when he formed Mungo Jerry in 1969. His first band, the Blue Moon Skiffle Group, featuring Phil Collins on drums, was formed when he was eleven years old.
John - South Bend, In