297. ‘Baby Jump’, by Mungo Jerry

Alright-alright-alright-alright-a! Let’s get this out into the open straight off: I love this song. This is brilliant. This is what every rock ‘n’ roll band should be aspiring to when they set foot in a studio. This is a raucous, dirty, silly, angry, rollercoaster-ride of a #1 single…

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Baby Jump, by Mungo Jerry (their 2nd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 28th February – 14th March 1971

Where to start? The swampy riff that sounds as if it’s being played through a boulder rather than speakers? The demented piano, like Jerry Lee Lewis on strong amphetamines? The lead singer, Ray Dorset’s, growling and screaming? The leery lyrics? If Mungo Jerry’s first chart-topper, ‘In the Summertime’, was the soundtrack to a chilled summer afternoon’s garden party, then ‘Baby Jump’ is the soundtrack to the same party, at 4am the next morning, hours after everyone should have gone home, with bodies are strewn across the lawn while somebody, somewhere, has cracked open yet another bottle of tequila.

She wears those micro-mini dresses, Hair hanging down the back, She wears those see-through sweaters, She likes to wear her stockings black… Dorset’s got his eyes on someone so sexy he don’t care where she been… The wooing continues: If I see her tonight, You can bet your life I’ll attack… (How very 1970s…)

As great as this song sounds, its full of lyrical gems as well. She got beautiful teeth, A toothpaste adman’s dream… And then the piece de resistance in the 3rd verse, when he compares his situation, in chasing this girl, to other famous ‘romances’. She is Lady Chatterley, he is the gamekeeper. He is Da Vinci, she the Mona Lisa. And then… I dreamt that I was Humbert, and she was Lolita… Yep, he went there. It’s a perfect rock ‘n’ roll lyric: provocatively dumb, yet somehow quite clever …

Meanwhile the simple riff thumps on and on and on, and we get some of the scatting from ‘In the Summertime’. On first listen you would never guess this was by the same band, but the hints are there. And then it ends. But it doesn’t, not really. Alright-alright-alright-alright-a! And we’re off again. Right back to the start. She wears those micro-mini dresses… And you begin to wonder if this song will ever end, or if it will just keep playing and playing until you go insane…

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Phew. Eventually it fades. You’re quite tired by the end of it. It’s not a record to casually throw on after a long day. This one requires stamina. Like I said – I love everything about ‘Baby Jump’, even if it is perhaps one of the most forgotten #1 records of all time. There’s no way this would have gotten anywhere near the top if ‘In the Summertime’ hadn’t exploded the year before – it’s the ultimate shadow #1. But I’m so glad it made it. It just happened to pop up on my Spotify some years and it’s been on steady rotation ever since. (While you’re getting your breath back, have a listen to ‘Brand New Cadillac‘ by Vince Taylor & The Playboys, and decide if Mungo Jerry were ‘referencing’ or ‘ripping off’.)

Mungo Jerry won’t score any more number one hits. (After this demented mess they never got invited back.) Their next single, ‘Lady Rose’, was stymied by the inclusion of ‘Have a Whiff On Me’ as the ‘B’-side. It was pulled from circulation, and replaced with a different song, as it was seen to be promoting cocaine use. Ray Dorset still uses the band name, though, and tours to this day.

It’s been quite the hard rocking end to 1970/start of 1971… Jimi Hendrix, Dave Edmunds, and now this. Plus, having this record knock ‘My Sweet Lord’ off the top is just plain funny. George Harrison was looking to the heavens for inspiration; Mungo Jerry weren’t looking any further than between their legs… And lo! We’ve had our strongest whiff of glam so far at the top of the charts. It’s coming! In fact, you can think of ‘Baby Jump’ as the amuse bouche before the King of the genre comes along next…

 

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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!)