There’s nothing quite like the four seasons to bring out the best (and the worst) in songwriters.
That’s lower case four seasons rather than the upper case former street corner doo woppers, whose status (currently standing as “absolute legends”) continues to grow, like ABBA’s, the longer it’s been since they saw the inside of a recording studio.
Whatever the time of year there’s a song or two to go with it – from The Kinks with Autumn Almanac to Chris Rea and Winter Song, from Springtime for the World by the Blow Monkeys to Summerlove Sensation and the Bay City Rollers.
In The Summertime
And then there’s In the Summertime – the good time anthem which has been chasing the grey clouds away since Mungo Jerry (a name inspired by the poem “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”, from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) and their frontman Ray Dorset (who looked like character from the musical inspired by the same poems) burst on the scene in 1970.
It was the band’s first single and billed as “the first maxi-single in the world,” (a clever marketing term for more or less what we used to call an EP (that’s “extended play” to anyone of a certain age). Released on 22 May it entered the UK charts at number 13 and the following week went straight to number one. It all happened so quickly that, pop legend has it, Ray Dorset had to ask his boss for time off to do Top of the Pops that week.
How could the world resist a song steeped in skiffle and jug band music which boasted huffing and puffing choruses and bridges such as “Dah dah-dah, Dee-dah-do dee-dah-do dah-do-dah (yeah), Dah-do-dah-dah-dah (alright, alright), Dah-dah-dah do-dah-dah. Alright” and “Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh chh, uh Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh.”?
Just as well karaoke was a few years away then?
It was only some time down rock’s road that the song’s seemingly innocent fun-in-the-sun lyrics were to run foul of the two pc brigades (political correctness and police constabulary) for not only advocating: “Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find” but also suggesting: “If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal, If her daddy’s poor just do what you feel.”
Who cared then? Certainly not the queue of wannabes desperate to get their hands on a washboard, a kazoo or a blues harmonica. Or at least frizz their hair like Dorset’s
The record topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks, made number one in 26 countries around the world and to date has allegedly sold around 30 million copies. According to Joseph Murrell’s The Book of Golden Discs (1978), “Mungomania” was possibly the most startling and unpredictable pop phenomenon to hit Britain since The Beatles. Anyone remember it?
In The Summertime also proved successful for Australian outfit The Mixtures who recorded a cover of it for their home market and – as a result of the 1970 radio ban, during which many Australian radio stations refused to play Australian and British music released by major labels -received much more airplay than had initially been expected for a group on a small record label.
It topped the charts there for six weeks. They followed it with the soundalike The Pushbike Song which went to number one in Australia for two weeks and reached number two in the UK in 1971 proving how short pop memories are.
Such was the demand for the goodtime sound that a year later another similar song, The Seaside Shuffle, also made the UK number two for Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, an English novelty band formed around the song and whose only, slight, claim to fame was that its line-up included Jonah Lewie (of Stop the Cavalry and You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties fame).
As for Mungo Jerry, despite numerous line-up shuffles they are still on the go – especially In the Summertime.
|RELEASED||31 October 1975|