The British rock scene in the early 70’s was bombastic to say the least. Bands like Black Sabbath, Cream and Led Zeppelin were starting out and receiving blanket radio airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. Out of nowhere following an appearance at a major music festival emerges a quartet by the name of “Mungo Jerry” which was based on a T.S. Eliot poem,”Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” . They really were not like anything that was going on in the rock scene at that time: kind of a fluke! Headed by a most affable and charismatic bloke– Ray Dorset. Their sound was based on blues, Jug Band and Skiffle rhythms. Dorset grew up in London during the post WWII era where scarcity prevailed due to rationing was still in existence and dreams would be evolved by listening to any music you could put your ear to. Dorset wrote a song that had become the biggest summer record of all time. The infectious song “In The Summertime”, was released. The record, an easygoing, catchy skiffle-like/dance hall piece reflecting the mood of the season in its title and the sexual ethos of the late ’60s was an instant hit, shooting to number one in England in only two weeks and riding the charts for much of the summer. Concerts and television appearances followed in profusion. It was a Top 10 hit in America, appearing on the charts for almost an entire Summer and was a success in practically every country it was released; ultimately selling approximately 40 million copies around the world.
In fact when the band was featured on the Brit music show “Top of the Pops” Dorset had to ask his boss while working for Timex Watch, time off so that he could perform in its second week of release where it had the top spot! Dorset when we wrote to him countered, “The song is a celebration of life from an optimistic and philosophical view inspired by watching American movies and cruising around in cars listening to pirate radio. The lyrics taken out of context have various meanings and indicate several instances of what today would be considered to be gross political incorrectness, however, they had stood the test of time and probably have more clout than they did when the record was first released.” Dorset known for his rather explicit “mutton chops” were the biggest things in the business and it soon became the fashion rage all over the world. Dorset regarding his new found fame and his fashion acumen, “I was voted number one for them in the Melody Maker music weekly. I always seemed to do things in excess and I must say that it made shaving a lot quicker then as it does now that they are gone! In my view, fashion is about everybody attempting to follow the trend that has been driven into them by media brainwashing, this is something that I learnt retrospectively, some people went along with what we were doing, and others did not. When you make music that does not fit in with the sound of a particular radio playlists, then your music will not be broadcast, the ideas people are the trend setters make the fashion in all art forms.”
Shaggy’s version of “In The Summertime”
“Summertime” has been place during it four generation release in tons of movies and commercials and was covered by reggae/dancehall titan Shaggy where it again was a worldwide smash. We asked Dorset about how the song did as far as its money making progress and he was pretty explicit regarding the realities of the “money-go-round” with his “golden goose”, “I do very well out of the syncs. “In the Summertime” is known throughout the universe and it gets used in ads, TV shows and movies in many countries, but to be honest, I don’t consider that I get my fair share of publisher/writer income because when I signed the original publishing contract I was very naive and knew virtually nothing about the business so I only get fifty percent of what comes in.
Mungo Jerry .. “Wild Love”
On the recording side the whole band, as it was at the time signed up to the record company, they had their own studio which e recorded in and so they owned the original masters which are now in the hands of BMG/Chrysalis. I’ve been cheated out of a lot of money, the music game is known to have some of the worst crooks mixed up in it and I have dealt with some of the worst, but I pursued the culprits and continue to do so, one guy, that co publishers under-accounted to me, I found out and fought him for over five years until he had to conced, it cost him a lot, me too because time is precious, you don’t get it back, some of the lawyers in the business are no better, they charge over the odds to cover overheads of having their headquarters situated in lavish building in expensive city locations. The new media makes it possible to “cut out the middlemen”, but you have to know a lot about the music business to go it alone. I’m still learning the game after over forty years in it, times have changed and you have got to go along with the marrying of art and technology in a positive way.”
Mungo Jerry had a few fluttering hits that followed but none were the “game changer” as “Summertime” but Ray Dorset will most be remembered for mastering a sound that a plethora of artist that followed would imitate their “world-beat” rhythms. Bands like The Police, The Clash and The Rolling Stones owe their mojo to Mungo!
I want to thank Ray Dorset for his time, his instincts of the past, present and future of the music business.