Year of Release: 1970
If at first you don't succeed, try again… and again…
"Dancing In The Moonlight" really is a song which took years, arguably decades, to reach its full "classic" potential. A minor cult hit for the American band Boffalongo, whose member Sherman Kelly penned it, it slept soundly for another couple of years until Sherman's brother Wells, who drummed for King Harvest, introduced it to the band in 1970. Smelling a top tune immediately, they covered it and watched happily as it climbed to Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Before King Harvest got their mitts on it, though, the remnants of the Tonbridge, Kent based group Jason Crest recorded it for British release. Consisting originally of Terry Clarke on lead vocals, Terry Dobson on lead guitar, Derek Smallcombe on rhythm guitar, Ron Fowler on bass, and Roger Siggery on drums, they had a long and chequered history. Formed in 1964 as The Spurlyweeves, changing their name to the Good Time Brigade in 1967, then finally Jason Crest upon earning a contract with Philips, the cult popsike legends had cut many fantastic sides by the end of the sixties, not least the semi-legendary, psychedelic doomy screamer "Black Mass" - once heard, never forgotten. Sales had not been on their side, however, and after five years of loyal but presumably skint service the lead singer Terry Clarke quit in 1969. Shortly prior to this, bassist Ron Fowler had left to be replaced by John Selley.
Rather than giving up entirely, the group quickly recruited Brian Prebble from the Riot Squad, and drafted in Brian Bennett from Leviathan to add an additional guitar to the mix. Philips gave them the heave-ho, the new moniker High Broom was adopted, and a contract to produce one LP for Island Records was signed. However, aside from this version of "Dancing In The Moonlight" and its flip, nothing else emerged from the agreement. Stylistically it is impressive to hear how the band had managed to jump from their slightly woozy, small-town back-street alley popsike into a harder, rougher country rock sound. This sounds so damn North American that you'd never guess any member of Jason Crest had anything to do with it, and it possibly could have been a hit under the right circumstances. The flip "Percy's On The Run" also rocks out, being about as psychedelic as a bottle of sour mash bourbon.
Presumably the under-whelming performance of this single lead to Island executives wondering whether they'd actually signed a lame duck, and nothing more was heard from the act. A pity, because Jason Crest at their best were a proposition to be reckoned with - but having undergone such an extreme series of line-up changes, it's arguable that what we're listening to here is effectively an entirely different act, and one which may never have scaled the same creative heights.
As for "Dancing In The Moonlight", it's deathless. Toploader's chirpy cover of it stormed the British charts in 1999, and it wound up as a prominent feature to the soundtrack of Chris Morris's satire on home-grown Islamic terrorism, "Four Lions". Whether you're celebrating the fact that you're about to bomb the London Marathon, or just partying in general, it's become an uptempo summer fun record for all ages. Whether that's what Sherman Kelly ever envisaged is besides the point, but I'm sure the royalties must keep him relatively content - and what is fascinating (to me, if no-one else) is the way each cover version of it seemed to add extra elements to the previous attempt, gradually shunting the track away from its rugged beginnings into a lighter, more frivolous sound.