Dorset has said that the song only took ten minutes to write, which he did using a second-hand Fender Stratocaster while he was taking time off work from his regular job, working in a lab for Timex.
The initial UK release was on Dawn Records, a new label launched by Pye. It was unusual in that it was a maxi single, playing at 33-1/3 rpm, whereas singles generally played at 45 rpm. It included an additional song also written and composed by Dorset, "Mighty Man," on the A-side, and a much longer track, the Woody Guthrie song "Dust Pneumonia Blues," on the B-side. As the record was sold in a picture sleeve, also not standard at the time, and only sold at a few pence more than the normal 45 rpm two-track single, it was considered value for money. The small quantities of 45 rpm discs on the Pye record label, with "Mighty Man" on the B-side, and without a picture sleeve, were pressed for use in jukeboxes. These are now rare collector's items.
In 2012, Dorset sued his former management company Associated Music International, run by his former friend and business manager Eliot Cohen, claiming over £2 million in royalties from the song that he believed had been withheld from him.
In an interview with Gary James, Dorset explained the origin of the "motorcycle" sound towards the end of the song: "I said, 'We'll just get a recording of a motorcycle, stick it on the end of the song and then re-edit the front and then put the front off to the motorcycle so it starts up again.' But I couldn't find a motorcycle. Howard Barry, the engineer had an old, well, it wasn't old then, a Triumph sports car, which he drove past the studio while Barry Marrit was holding the microphone. So, he got the stereo effects from left to right or right to left, whatever. And that was it."
In 1995, Jamaican-American rapper Shaggy covered the song, and released it as the lead single from his third studio album, Boombastic. A year after its release, the song was re-recorded and released specifically for the film Flipper under the title "In the Summertime" ('96 Version). Aside from the addition of rap lyrics, Shaggy's version also substitutes other lyrics for the song's original line containing "have a drink, have a drive." Shaggy also performed the song on an episode of Baywatch.
The song's lyric "have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find" led to its use in a UK advert for the campaign Drinking and Driving Wrecks Lives. It featured the first verse against people enjoying drinks in a pub during summer, then stopped to show a fatal car accident caused by drink driving.
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