In the Summertime
June 30, 2017
Todd plays "In the Summertime" on the piano
MUNGO JERRY - IN THE SUMMERTIME
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: Welcome back to One-Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. OK
[clip of Richie Havens at Woodstock]
Todd (VO): So you know in the '60s, music was incredibly important and political and relevant to social issues and meaningful and all that.
Todd: Well, it seems like the '60s kind of ends with a hard snap.
[image of newspaper articles with headlines: "Paul Quits the Beatles"....]
Todd (VO): In 1970, the Beatles break up, [....."Drugs Kill Jimi Hendrix at 24".......] Jimi Hendrix dies, [....Rolling Stone magazine cover with headline: "Let it Bleed"........] The Rolling Stones try to make a second Woodstock [.......newspaper headline: "4 Deaths Mar Rock Festival"] that turns fatal....
Todd: ......and pop music suddenly gets real, real stupid.
[clips of Tony Orlando and Dawn.........]
Tony Orlando: Whoa, Candida
Todd (VO): Look at this
John Kay: Get your motor running
Head out on the highway
Ray Stevens: Everything is beautiful
In its own way
[.....Creedence Clearwater Revival.....]
John Fogerty: It ain't me
It ain't me
I ain't no fortunate one, oh
David Gates: I wanna make it with you
Todd (VO): Of course, these things didn't happen overnight. [....The Archies....] There was silly pop music in the '60s, and [....Santana....] serious music in the '70s obviously, [....and the Jackson 5] but that's the way it seemed to me, at least on the pop charts, and who said that dumb music isn't necessarily bad, dumb can be fun.
Todd: And folks, we're going to get very, very dumb tonight.
[video for "In the Summertime," Todd dances along in his chair]
Ray Dorset: In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
Todd (VO): In 1970, we could not get enough of Mungo Jerry. You know, this guy...
Todd:.....or band. Is it a band or a guy?
Todd (VO): OK, it's a band, and their big pop hit was "In the Summertime," the summer jam that went to number one in 16 countries.
Todd: America, actually, was not one of them. It only got to number three here, held off by [clip of Edwin Starr's.....]
Todd (VO): (singing along) War! Huh!
Todd: We showed you everything about the two opposing trends in music in 1970.
Todd (V/O): On one side, an angry protest anthem. On the other, [clip of "In the Summertime"] a goofy funtime song about day drinking and going to the beach. Spoilers if you didn't already know this, but in the battle for the soul of the 70's, protest music would lose definitively [clip of KC and the Sunshine Band - "Shake Your Booty"] to happy-time songs. But even though 70's pop was a good decade for mindless party songs...
Todd: ...most of it did not sound like Mungo Jerry.
Ray Dorset: Sing along with us, dee dee dee-dee dee
Dah dah dah-dah dah
Todd: Honestly, does anything?
Todd (VO): I mean, I'm gonna try and put a band like this in context, but I'm not sure "In the Summertime" really has context. It's so...simple, it's like it was always there, like nursery rhymes or cave paintings. This is like the first song ever written.
Ray Dorset: Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
Chh chh-chh, uh
Todd: What even is this?
Ray Dorset: Chh chh-chh, uh, chh chh-chh, uh
In the summertime
Before the hit
Todd: Okay, you want some context? Here you go.
Todd (VO): You see this? This is a jugband. They play harmonicas and kazoos, and the percussion is just laundry baskets and shit they had lying around.
Todd: I've always associated this music with hillbillies and animatronic bears. But it turns out that when this started, it was actually an early form of blues music. It was big in the 20's and the 30's, and there was an offshoot of that called Skiffle. But skiffle wasn't a big deal until it was revived in England in the 50's.
Singer: Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap, Fifteen miles and a Cumberland gapTodd (VO): Now you can see they were trying to add an early rock 'n roll edge to it. And the Skiffle revival was hugely popular and influential in the UK. The Beatles started as a skiffle band.
Todd: Which is pretty much the only thing anyone knows about skiffle.
Todd (VO): After that, skiffle kinda goes away and you don't have to worry about it.
Todd: Now that I think about it, it kinda kept on.
Todd (VO): There was a lot of 60's music that was kinda jugband-ish, like the Grateful Dead. Creedence did a whole concept album about being a jugband. So, I guess, these old-timey bands banging on washboards, it was still present in pop culture in 1969 and 1970.
Todd: Which brings us to Mungo Jerry.
Todd (VO): Mungo Jerry is basically just Ray Dorset. That's the guy with the giant massive mutton chops and the...I don't even know what you'd call it...a Brit-fro? Everywhere has told me that this man is 100% Caucasian, but no white man has the right to have that haircut! And the other guys are an eternally rotating cast, as is usual in these videos.
Todd: I'm finding out that having your success limited to one song is not really conducive to having a stable lineup.
Todd (VO): He started Mungo Jerry in 1970 after a bunch of his other bands didn't take off. And if you know your musicals, you might recongnize the name.
Cats: Mungojerrie and RumpleteazerTodd (VO): Of course, he got the name from the source material. The band actually happened about 10 years before Andrew Lloyd Weber's horror musical about hideous feline monstrosities.
Todd: But where they really took off was at a music festival that year where they, as complete unknowns, appeared on a bill with, like, the Grateful Dead, and Traffic, and Black Sabbath. And even though they were no one, apparently they just killed it. Because within months, they had a #1 hit. What was so amazing about them that they outshone the Dead and Sabbath?
The Big Hit
The Failed Follow Up
Did They Ever Do Anything Else?
Did They Deserve Better?
Transcript in progress