Nov 06

MUNGO JERRY – “Baby Jump”

FT + Popular68 comments • 7,433 views

#297, 6th March 1971


MUNGO JERRY – “Baby Jump”Mungo Jerry’s shot at the mutant blues suffers from its proximity to Hendrix on the one side and T Rex on the other. Those sci-fi and glitter visions make “Baby Jump” sound like a smirk, not a strut, a cartoon growl that’s too broad to be funny (despite its clever-clogs lyrics). The band try hard to sound like wild men – but only the piano man, making his instrument into a toy laser pistol, manages it. Worst mistake though is the horribly unnecessary false ending, a perfect case study in how to kill a song’s energy and make it outstay its welcome. .




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  1. 1
    Doctor Casino on 8 Nov 2006 #

    This outstays its welcome WAY before the false ending – and in fact, the sheer awkwardness of the stop-and-start (“AwrightawrightawrightAHHH!!”) actually kind of improves the song, everything else being so totally rote, predictable, and grating. 4 would be the appropriate score if not for the singer guy, who manages to make things even worse both through the vocal performance itself (which reminds me of when Dave Matthews tries to sound spooky, eg, “Halloween”) and the godawful lyrics. The Da Vinci/Mona Lisa thing is just hack songwriting, but the Humbert/Lolita thing is pretentious hack songwriting, and it’s as awful here as it will be when we get to “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2006 #

    The false ending actually leads to a very crude cut-and-paste reprise of the record’s opening 90 seconds, which lends more to its general cheapskate aura. Dr C loves it, but alas the record I cannot abide.

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    Tom on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Yes in case I didn’t make it clear, the problem with the false ending is that it’s not a real ending.

    The other problem is that the “alrightalrightalright” just makes me want to listen to the FAR FAR BETTER Pipkins instead.

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    Erithian on 8 Nov 2006 #

    What puzzles me is why this is the only Number 1 between 1961 and 1999 that I’m not aware of ever having heard. Was it so bad that none of the oldies stations play it, and I contrived to miss Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club at just the right time?

    Mungo Jerry revisited the “Alright Alright Alright” theme with a song of exactly that title two years later. I remember reading the words in one of those proto-Smash Hits type magazines: “repeat “Alright” 16 times, then repeat whole song right through”, that sort of thing. Not a bad single though.

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    Tom on 8 Nov 2006 #

    What was the 1999 song that broke your run!!

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    Erithian on 8 Nov 2006 #

    One of the Westlife ones – mind you, when you’ve heard one…

    Struggling to recall hearing “You Make Me Wanna” by Usher the year before to be honest. Not a genre of music I waste much time listening to (dons tin helmet again)

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2006 #

    I vastly prefer the next number one Ray Dorset wrote, though it’ll be a long time before we get to that…

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    Rosie on 8 Nov 2006 #

    I don’t especially like this song, and I’d almost think it’s one that, like Erithian, I don’t remember except that on listening again I recall the Lady Chatterley/Gamekeeper Humbert/Lolita bit and almost nothing else about it. Which says it all, really.

    I have to take issue with Doctor Casino though. Hack writing it may have been – certainly was in fact – but why does a literary reference make a lyric ‘pretentious’? As somebody who thinks being well-read is nothing to be ashamed of, I rather resent that attitude along with the very word ‘pretentious’. Perhaps somebody will reassure me that I’m misinterpreting something.

    Four seems about right although, Tom, you’ve given lower scores to better songs.

  9. 9
    wwolfe on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Having read this entry and the replies, I think I’ll stick with only having heard “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry and allow them to remain the likable one-hit wonders they were in the States.

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    jeff w on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Since this is the last time Mungo Jerry will be troubling Tom, I would welcome some discussion about them in general.

    A few months back I borrowed from our local library a box set compilation of early 70s pop which had a whole bunch of Mungo Jerry UK hits on it (they had eight Top 40 singles in toto). I copied these tracks onto my work computer – and at the moment they’re still sitting there cos I don’t really know what to do with them. But they are of interest – and make me wonder who bought MJ records and how the group was generally regarded at the time.

    What struck me particularly is how diverse their hits were. “Lady Rose” is a slight retread of “In The Summertime” (with a little of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” thrown in) but, that apart, they all adopt different styles. For example, only “Baby Jump” has this gravelly Tom Waits-meets-Animal-from-The-Muppets vocal style. And while the lyrics to 2Baby Jump” are certainly dodgy, I do quite enjoy the vocal delivery of them. There are other minor pleasures here too: the guitar solo which is almost entirely one-note (albeit with octave leaping), the overuse of the piano glissandi, the sheer moronicness of the whole thing – which the false ending only enhances (notice that what happens after the “alrightalrightalright” bit seems to be a full-on repeat of what preceded it.

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    jeff w on 8 Nov 2006 #

    haha – xpost with mr wolfe!

    I should add that MJ did go on to make two genuinely likeable singles circa 1973/74 – first (the confusingly titled) “Alright Alright Alright”, and secondly “Longlegged Woman Dressed In Black”. In fact if anyone has an mp3 of the latter they could YSI, I’d really appreciate it.

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    jeff w on 8 Nov 2006 #

    (I see I am repeating some things others have already said. Sorry about that.)

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    bramble on 8 Nov 2006 #

    I dont think the literary allusions here make it pretentious , less so than when we get to Sting and Nabokov.It’s that they seem a bit incongruous against the rest of the lyrics. It does stretch the imagination to think of Da Vinci saying of the Mona Lisa, ‘she’s got beautiful form, the best I’ve ever seen, I’m going to get her tonight, I dont care where she’s been’. I think the false ending was just copying what they did at the end of In the Summertime. On a note of extreme trivia, I think this might be the first number one since Russ Conway and Roulette not to have any drums or percussion (tambourines included) on it.

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    Doctor Casino on 9 Nov 2006 #

    I agree wholeheartedly that there’s nothing to hide about being well-read, and in fact I’d love to hear a good lyric that invokes Lolita. My suspicion with lyrics like this is that they represent kind of a high-school English mentality, where you read one good book and become convinced that it’s the greatest book ever and that by waving around references to it you can project the appearance of well-readness. Put another way, there are certain references so well-worn that to employ them instantly conveys a naif posturing at erudition. I’m thinking as well of the awkward reference to Pavlov’s dog in “Brian Wilson” by the Barenaked Ladies….there’s this feeling that they read about these concepts/books, kind of got the basic gist of them, and then figured referencing them glibly in a lyric could cover for the lack of anything else to say.

    I would also lump in Smoky going on about Pagliacci! Either the audience is opera-hip enough to know who Pagliacci is or they’re not. If they are, then the song’s borrowing of that trope will be immediately obvious, and dropping the reference doesn’t add anything to the song, since it’s just one line that (like most of the lyrics to this underwritten track) just recapitulates the main point of the song: He’s a clown with tears. If the audience doesn’t know Pagliacci, then the lyric is going to sail right over their heads. Why put it in there, except to try and make the song sound smart and grown-up?

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    intothefireuk on 9 Nov 2006 #

    A basic 12 bar blues which oddly is exactly the same as the following number one song, a certain ‘Hot Love’. However executed somewhat differently this seems to represent perhaps where the 60s ends and 70s really begins. As already stated elsewhere the vocal performance is pretty horrible and the overal production makes it sound like it was recorded in a dustbin. I have no idea how the hell this made it into the charts let alone number one as it has seemingly little of note about it. Bring on the glam.

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    to slightly defend sting here — not a stance i usually opt for!! — the line in “don’t stand so close to me” is one of a whole sequence of “unreliable narrator statements” from the switching perspectives (he’s describing a dodgy pupil-teacher relationship, a lot of it via statements which are intended to be SEEN THROUGH as the deluded or self-exculpatory positions of the teacher, at the same time as invoking the actual sense of damaging lust): so it’s at least arguable that the line “He starts to shake and cough/just like the old man in/that book by Nabakov” is the situation as described from HER perspective (viz she is teacher’s pet type kid feeling she is being hit on), and is thus (in principle) GOOD writing — bcz she is the type of pupil who MIGHT reach for a comparison in a book she’s just been studying

    which is not to say sting can’t be MONUMENTALLY PRETENTIOUS at time — and may have been being so here also (i don’t actually think he pulls the device off properly — this line sequence in fact comes across more like objective POV than (as i’m suggesting it shd be heard as) harassed clever pupil POV: “It’s no use, he sees her/He starts to shake and cough/Just like the old man in/That book by Nabakov”)

    i have a fondness for the “dark sting” period, where he wz takin the role of creepy pervs and makin them the “hero” of his pop hits

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    Tom on 9 Nov 2006 #

    Wikipedia has dark mutterings about a postal strike which played merry hell with the charts around this time – I would like to believe that Baby Jump in fact got to #32 and had to be promoted to No.1 when data for all 31 hits above it were lost!

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    perhaps it was (later to be outlawed) secondary picketing spilling over from the long-running anti-“Grandad” strike at EMI?

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    Erithian on 9 Nov 2006 #

    Once again, it’s a subject we should really be discussing in nine Popular-years’ time, but re “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, I’m prepared to believe that Sting had actually read “Lolita”. What stands out for me though is how the words “shake and cough” are crowbarred in to rhyme with “Nabokov” – a clunkingly awful rhyme of a kind you get quite often with Sting (see also “Russians”, “Walking On The Moon”, etc etc)

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    Doctor Casino on 9 Nov 2006 #

    Worse, to rhyme with “Naaaaahbuhkov!”

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    Dadaismus on 10 Nov 2006 #

    I don’t rememeber this song, or is it just the title i don’t recognise?

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    Erithian on 10 Nov 2006 #

    I was just discussing this over a pint at lunchtime, and my friend recalled part of the lyric:

    “She wears those see-through sweaters, she likes to wear her stockings black
    And if I see her tonight, you can bet your life I’ll attack”

    Could be part of the reason it doesn’t get played on oldies radio!

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    Chris Brown on 10 Nov 2006 #

    Although I’m British, this is well before my time, and so remains one of the declining number of chart-toppers I’m confident I’ve never heard (there’s certainly more than one to come, though).

    This is the era when that postal strike precluded Record Retailer from compiling an album chart (Guinness books used to award Bridge Over Troubled Water an unbroken run across this period, but they were persuaded to use an alternative source in later editions). Maybe the postmen were picketing outside record shops and one person managed to scrape through and buy this. ;-)

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    Marcello Carlin on 11 Nov 2006 #

    At Club Popular last night we agreed that this was perhaps the most obscure of all British number ones. It does, however, boast one of the best piano lines of all British number ones, so I’d be inclined to give it one out of ten just for that.

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    Doctor Mod on 15 Nov 2006 #

    This song made no impression in the States, but I knew I knew it from somewhere. This morning I woke up remembering–it features in the background during a crucial scene in The Crying Game. All things considered, it takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

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    Mark Grout on 27 Nov 2006 #

    Well, I like the godammn record.

    ALso, this was another one of those “maxi-singles” where you got a b-side on the same side as the A, and a 15 minute “live” recording of two tracks on the actual b-side.

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    margothz on 14 Dec 2006 #

    wow, you ppl just plain don’t really like Mungo Jerry music at all, huh? Sounds like to me, lol. Ok, so you don’t like this type of music.
    The song ‘Baby Jump’ .. I like it. It sounds good. lol. It has a really good beat. I think it’s cute, lol. Then again, hmm, I guess it’s only because I’m female. dear god, oh well. hah hahhh…….
    Their other songs are pretty good as well. Yeah, I’m just one person. I love music. Just my opinion. heh……
    .. have a good one anyway people..
    : )

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    Waldo on 23 Feb 2007 #

    Marcello is right. Many has been the time when I’ve been discussing pop and rock with people of my age and older how so many simply don’t remember this topping the charts. An obscure Number One indeed.

    I happen to think it’s a belter and the references to Lady Chatterley and Lolita are most amusing and should be taken in the tongue-in-cheek manor Ray Dorset intended them. Mungo Jerry, it must be remembered, were a fun band and “Baby Jump” is a busting little piece of honky tonk rock. Credence could have used it.

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    and everybody elses Mark G on 19 May 2008 #

    funnily enough, I thought about CCR when I heard “Baby Jump” soundtracking a bouncy castle yesterday.

    Still, I think it’s yes obscure, but damn awesome.

    The grimiest record to get to number one ever?

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    and everybody elses Mark G on 19 May 2008 #

    Oh, and about having fake reprises: So did “In the Summertime”

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