In the Summertime

Album: In the Summertime (1970)
Charted: 1 3

Songfacts®:

  • 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.
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
  • 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.
  • 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)

Comments: 27

  • Ana Luce from Fairfield CtWhat is the name of the music tv show in late 70s, that used this song as the opening song? first music show on television, ever
  • Scott from KaplanThese lyrics stand to be corrected such as to squash the debate over the meaning of "a ton or a ton and 25" Seen some good ideas about what those lyrics mean but those aren't the lyrics You get them by reading not by listening If you put on a pair of headphones you'll hear plainly that the line in the second verse is actually "You can dine or return the $25" which goes with "If her daddy's rich take her out for a meal" because he gave you the $25 to take her out for the meal At the time of the songs writing $25 would have bought you a nice meal For more interpretations by me see my page rockblog.rythmreview.com
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenAccording to Wikipedia, this song ultimately sold 30 million copies, making it one of the most successful songs of all time.
  • Alan from East MidlandsI was at the Hollywood Festival in 1970 and whilst I have forgotten most of the acts that played Mungo Jerry was the highlight. Every time I hear that song it takes me back to when I was 19 and carefree.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, Mn Mungo Jerry was one of the great one hit wonders of the early 70s. I was reading TS Eliot's Old Possom's Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the hit Broadway musical and megabomb movie Cats and found out the group was named after a character in one of his poems. In the summertime was such a great song that still gets played on oldies stations to this day.
  • Gabe from AustraliaThe most unusual thing about this song, to me, is that the second half is an exact dub of the first, same take, same mix, repeated until they fade it out. They must have thought it was so good that they'd just "copy+paste" it.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenDrove my mother nuts for going "Ch-ch-ch, uhh!" repeatedly after hearing this song in 1970.
  • Tom from Cols OhJust read the lyrics for the first time. It's funny when you learn a line is other than what you thought (for 45 years) as I thought it was "speed along the lake". What a great song, always takes me back in time.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 23rd 1970, the Grateful Dead* performed for the first time outside the U.S.A. when they appeared at the 'Hollywood Music Festival' in Staffordshire, England...
    Also on the bill were Mungo Jerry; and fifteen days later the quartet's "In the Summertime" would peak at #1 {for 7 weeks} on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...,
    And in the U.S.A. the song would entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on July 5th at position #74 {See next post below}...
    Also appearing was Steppenwolf, and their "Hey Lawdy Mama" was at #39 on the Top 100 chart...
    * Later in 1970 on August 1st the Dead's "Uncle John's Band" would entered the Top 100 for a seven week stay, peaking at #69.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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).
  • Bruce from San Jose, CaHey, 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!
  • David Duggan from Los Osos, CaI 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.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdMarvelous 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?
  • James from Yucaipa, CaThe perfect summer song even 40 yrs later. 6/23/10
  • Steven from Los Angeles, Cafyodor, 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."
  • Phil from Tucson, AzThis 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!
  • Wayne from Crockett, TxOne 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.
  • Patrick from Bremen, GaI 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.
  • Skyttles from Poolpartytopia, Czech Republichahaaha!! I like this song because it was in that kiddy movie...uhmm..."The Little Rascals" I remember watching that as a kid...
  • Frank from Brampton, Ontario, CanadaWhat an appropriate tune to play in the summertime!
  • Kevin from Liverpool, EnglandAs 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!!
  • Joseph from Chicago, IlLast 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 July
  • Fyodor from Denver, Co"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?
  • Don from Newmarket, CanadaMungo 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).
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnThere 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.
  • David from Gosford, AustraliaI have the original 7" single at home - it is DORSET!
  • John from South Bend, InRay 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.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Neal Smith - "I'm Eighteen"They're Playing My Song

With the band in danger of being dropped from their label, Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith co-wrote the song that started their trek from horror show curiosity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn YankeesSongwriter Interviews

Revisit the awesome glory of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees: cheesily-acted videos, catchy guitar licks, long hair, and lyrics that are just plain relatable.

Harold Brown of WarSongwriter Interviews

A founding member of the band War, Harold gives a first-person account of one of the most important periods in music history.

00s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

Do you know the girl singer on Eminem's "Stan"? If so, this quiz is for you.

Emilio Castillo from Tower of PowerSongwriter Interviews

Emilio talks about what it's like to write and perform with the Tower of Power horns, and why every struggling band should have a friend like Huey Lewis.

History Of RockSong Writing

An interview with Dr. John Covach, music professor at the University of Rochester whose free online courses have become wildly popular.