45: “Sally Put Your Red Shoes On” b/w “Gasoline Alley Bred” by Johnny Johnson and His Bandwagon. Bell 1185. Released November, 1971.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The Bandwagon was a soul vocal group that started in 1967. Stateside success eluded them, but their single “Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache” reached #4 on the UK’s Top 40 chart in October, 1968. The song was considered to be a key example of the Northern Soul sound, and would be covered by Dexy’s Midnight Runners in 1980.

The group disbanded in 1969, only to be reformed in London by its lead singer as Johnny Johnson and His Bandwagon. They continued to find success, though by the time of this single’s release, they were starting to lose favor with their original fans for becoming a bit more commercial. 

Indeed, the uptempo vibe of “Sally Put Your Red Shoes On” is a lot more ingratiating than the tougher feel of their first breakthrough single. The strings and horns come together smoothly and the lyrics rhyme dancin’ with romancin’ like a million songs had done before since. It’s still a worthy little pop confection, though.

The B side of “Gasoline Alley Bred” (first released by The Hollies in 1970) is a slower and more soulful affair, one that tells the story of a couple moving back home to the country after giving life in the big city their best shot. The smoother sound is an asset here, allowing Johnson to convey the bittersweet emotion with the keening grit of his voice. Beautiful stuff.

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