One Hit Wonders: Mungo Jerry (1970)

In the Summertime
Single: Mungo Jerry
B-side: Mighty Man
Album: Electronically Tested
Released: May 22, 1970 (UK)
Genre: Skiffle
Songwriter: Ray Dorset

"In the Summertime" by the British rock band Mungo Jerry was the first maxi-single in the world.  A 7-inch record played at 33 1/3 RPM instead of 45, it had for room for two other songs: "Mighty Man" and "Dust Pneumonia Blues." 

It entered the  U.K. Singles Chart at number 13 and the following week went to number 1 for seven weeks, The off-beat tune made number 1 in 26 countries and sold around 30 million copies. Mungo Jerry's second U.K. maxi-single, "Baby Jump," topped the U.K. charts but flopped in the U.S., where they remain a One Hit Wonder.

Mungo Jerry (1970)

"It's got no chorus; all it's got is a melody with
lyrics that conjure up a celebration of life."

Mungo Jerry's name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Ray Dorset wrote "In the Summertime" while working for Timex in the U.K. His band was more of a hobby at the time. The track took off, topping the singles' chart in their native U.K. and making number 3 in America.

"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's 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."

Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry
Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry

The music for the track is distinctive. Ray Dorset provided vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, as well as a shaker instrument called a cabasa. Paul King played banjo and jug. Mike Cole played string bass. Colin Earl played piano. There are no drums. Dorset, influenced by John Lee Hooker, stomped his foot to the rhythm. 

The title is only repeated twice in the song. It was originally sung once. But, at under two minutes, the track was too short for a single. Dorset suggested, in keeping with the 'open road' feel of the piece, they add the roar of a motorbike. When they couldn’t find one, studio engineer Howard Barrow came through. 

“Howard went outside and revved up his MG sports car,” explained Paul King, “then we recorded it and replayed the beginning of the song after the noise. So 'In The Summertime' is actually the same section spliced together, to make it last three and a half minutes.” 

The Mixtures (1970)

The Mixtures 1970
The Mixtures 1970

The Mixtures, an Australian rock band, recorded a cover of "In the Summertime" during the 1970 radio ban. Many Australian radio stations refused to play Australian and British music released by major labels. The re-make got massive airplay for a group on a small record label and their version topped the single's chart in Australia for six weeks. It became the biggest-selling single by an Australian artist in Australia in 1970 and number 3 overall.

Shaggy (1996)

The Jamaican-American rapper Shaggy is Orville Richard Burrill. He moved from Jamaica to Brooklyn, New York, to start his music career when he was 18. The name Shaggy came from his then messy hairstyle. He describes his music, a blend of dancehall and reggae, as "dog-a-muffin."


In 1995, he released "In the Summertime" as the lead single from his third studio album, Boombastic. Besides adding some rap lyrics, he changed the original line "have a drink, have a drive." A year after the song's release, it was re-recorded and released for the film Flipper under the title "In the Summertime ('96 Version)."


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