Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Sincerest Form: Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs: "Seaside Shuffle"

The world of music is dominated by spirals; which is to say that nature's greatest design (in graphics terms, in my opinion anyway) is musical, or vice versa.  The Spiral Jetty notwithstanding, music is the art that gets the spiral motion, right down to the movement of 78s, vinyl albums/singles, cassettes, etc. 

In that same way, a song can beget other songs and so forth until the velocity of the thing has run its course...and here we have a song from the rather wet summer of '72 that is about the simple joys of heading down to the sea...so why does it sound so familiar? 

Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs was a made up name (by UK Records' Imp of the Perverse, Jonathan King) to bring a little bubblegum magic to a no-nonsense rockin' blues band called, in real life, Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts.  They had been the house band at the Studio 51 Club in London for some time, and had this song in their repertoire; on a few occasions a band called Mungo Jerry had supported them, and had no doubt heard the song.  The Thunderbolts released it as a single but it got nowhere, and what do you know, a few months later (I may be exaggerating, but these things never take that long) Mungo Jerry had a huge hit with their own shuffle, "In The Summertime."  Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts were chagrined, of course, but what could they do?  They kept playing their rockin' blues and righteously waited, getting a bit miffed again at the success of "The Pushbike Song" which was now twice removed from their own song.  And so in the summer of '72 they re-released this Jona Lewie-written song and finally had a hit, the spiral properly leading towards them for once, towards the interior where it all began.  They had another single, "On A Saturday Night" but this was their one and only real hit; one that begat others. 

In writing about this song, I've realized that Mungo Jerry's success has pushed this song into The Void; I've never heard it on the radio.  Jona Lewie has a right to be upset about that, but on the other hand, he did write "Stop The Cavalry" which is sure to be heard many times this Christmas as it was when it came out in 1980; I heard it yesterday doing the grocery shopping.  At bottom that song too is an easy shuffle with a point, this time political, but between all the "dum-a-dum-a-dum-dum"s and brassy good cheer, it can be easy to miss.  (I wonder now if people even know it's an anti-nuclear song tucked inside a Christmas song.)  Between that and his other, moodier song about being stuck in kitchens at parties (where perhaps he met Paul Young making some toast) Jona Lewie has all the time in the world to compose and record when he wants; the chagrin of 1970 has long worn off.

Next up:  how did we get to hip hop so soon?

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