288. ‘In the Summertime’, by Mungo Jerry

So we reach one of the most distinctive intros ever. Is it beatboxing? A comb and paper? A kazoo? Uh, ch-ch-ch… Who cares, it’s groovy, silly, fun, and it sets the tone for a brilliant #1 hit.

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In the Summertime, by Mungo Jerry (their 1st of two #1s)

7 weeks, from 7th June – 26th July 1970

Maybe it helps that I’m writing this in the garden on a fine spring afternoon, as the world prepares to tick over into what is hopefully a long, hot summer. But I’m sure that even if I were listening to this on a frigid mid-January’s morn, I’d get that holiday feeling. It’s irresistible – a record that sounds exactly as its title suggests. You can see why it settled in for a long old stretch at the top of the charts over June and July.

In the summertime, When the weather is high, You can stretch right up and touch the sky… It’s a little reggae-ish. There’s a music-hall piano in the mix, and a gentle guitar. Plus all the zzzhhs and the ooops that create the distinctive rhythm. It sounds like lots of things, and yet it’s distinctly original… Wiki lists it as ‘Skiffle’ and, yep, I can see that too… When the weather’s fine, You got women on your mind…

A group of lads, out looking for fun. The lyrics hit a little harder than the carefree beat suggests. Have a drink, Have a drive… (not a line you’d get away with these days, and indeed Shaggy had changed it by the time he took the song back into the Top 5 in the mid-nineties…) Go out and see what you can find…

And then a classic piece of advice: If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal, If her daddy’s poor just do what you feel… They get away with it, though, by sounding like clumsy kids just looking for a good time. You can imagine them giving a cheeky wink as they sing it, the rascals. Life’s for livin’ that’s our philosophy…

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We get a little break, and some motorbike-revving sound effects thrown into the eclectic mix. Imagine driving along country roads to this, windows down, roof off. I have to admit I thought, right up until now, that the line in the second verse went ‘You can make it really good in the lay-by…’, you know, what with the driving theme. But no, that was just my mind in the gutter as usual. It’s: You can make it, make it good and really fine…

Mungo Jerry were a band led by Ray Dorset and an ever-changing cast of other musicians – even before they’d recorded this, their first hit, the line-up had changed, and it will do so again before their second chart-topper next year. The only thing I really knew about them, prior to writing this, was that Dorset had some spectacular lamb chop side-burns. But, they grew so big so quickly in the summer of 1970 that the phrase ‘Mungomania’ was coined. ‘In the Summertime’ hit #1 in a staggering twenty-six countries! We’ll meet them one more time, like I said, before long.

This is our third ‘summer’ themed number one, after Jerry Keller’s ‘Here Comes Summer’ and Cliff’s ‘Summer Holiday’, but I’d suggest that this is the definitive summer hit, one that still hits the spot fifty years on. Plus, it’s the only one of the three to actually hit #1 in the summer! Uh, ch-ch-ch… Uh, ch-ch-ch…

(EDIT! Having watched this video I’m now convinced that I’m correct on the ‘lay-by’ line! Watch his lips… And, to answer my question from the start – it’s a bottle!)

14 thoughts on “288. ‘In the Summertime’, by Mungo Jerry

  1. Todd in the Shadows does a good One Hit Wonderland review on “In The Summertime” as it was Mungo Jerry’s only charting hit in America peaking at #3 funny enough in September. Aside from some lines that haven’t aged well like the drink and drive one, “In The Summertime” still holds up as a fun song that makes you picture enjoying a hot summer day. It feels so elementary like it’s always existed but in a good way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlguJc9veZo

    Here’s “In The Summertime” being used in a 2000 episode of Malcolm in the Middle where it plays in the car as Malcolm and the family head off to a water park

    1. That’s an interesting channel – thanks for the link! In the UK Mungo Jerry are more than one-hit wonders… At least three or four hit wonders. They had one more number one off the back of ‘In the Summertime’… It’s nowhere near as upbeat and light-hearted, but I think I like it even more…

      This is a great song, though, and I did used to love Malcolm in the Middle.

      1. No problem Todd’s really good at what he does. I feel like in America, “In The Summertime” was seen as a pure novelty and simply moved on when the song fell out of the charts. It’s not surprising to me that Mungo Jerry didn’t catch on in America. The song doesn’t sound much like what was popular on the Hot 100 in 1970.

  2. I remember this on the radio. As a kid, I always thought he said “you can shaysh right up and touch the sky…” He slurs stretch but, to an almost-four year old, “shaysh” is a word. LOL!

  3. badfinger20

    Good song with some good vibes. Impossible not to like in the winter, summer, spring or fall. The question is…will mutton chops ever make a comeback? It would be a better world if they did.

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  7. It is definitely lay-by! Lyrics are on the back of the album sleeve. First album I owned. Can’t seem to post a picture of the sleeve in the comments though…

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