08 January 2009

Johnny Johnson & His Bandwagon - Mr Tambourine Man mp3

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Johnny Johnson and His Bandwagon - Mr Tambourine Man

Tony Macaulay was one of the great British bubblegum songwriters of the 60s and early 70s, but he was obviously in thrall to Motown and usually put a dose of soul in the mix to leaven the sweetness.

His first major hit - he was only 23 and had written the song two years earlier - was Baby Now That I've Found You by The Foundations, and then a year later Build Me Up Buttercup. In between there were a couple of singles you're less likely to have heard of, of which I strongly recommend Back On My Feet Again, another sunny stomper cut from the same cloth as the biggies.

He wrote a bunch of other singles in the same wide-eyed catchy bouncy vein usually recorded by non-existent bands such as Edison Lighthouse's Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes.

Meanwhile, at the same time as Build Me Up Buttercup, there was a punchy pop-soul band called The Bandwagon in the charts with Breakin' Down The Walls of Heartache. Subsequently something of a northern soul staple and covered by Dexys Midnight Runners on the B-side of Geno, this corker was released on the CBS imprint Direction.

The Bandwagon - Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache

You just know from the name and artwork that the label's a winner. Any time you see a single on Direction, unless it's a piece of Sly Stone perfection, it's something you've never heard of. And yet, if you like the tang of some later northern soul urgency, it rarely disappoints. If you come across anything on Direction, always give it the benefit of the doubt and buy it.

The talents collided in Love Grows' year 1970 with Macaulay writing and producing the (now 'Johnny Johnson and His...') Bandwagon hits Sweet Inspiration and Blame It On The Pony Express as the flagship singles for the Soul Survivor album.

The following year there was this single. You've got a real soul band and a bubblegum producer at the helm, so whether you're thinking Byrds or Bringing It all Back Home it's a scarcely recognisable version of Mr Tambourine Man. Bright, bouncy, brilliant and a bit baffling, it's a fabulous little corner of pop weirdness.

Later in the 70s Macaulay teamed up with another British bubblegum mainstay, Roger Greenaway, to do You’re More Than a Number in My Little Red Book and Kissin’ in the Back Row of The Movies for the Drifters.

Then he swapped soul for Soul, writing and producing Don't Give Up On Us, Silver Lady and other fucking awful sickly syrupy shite for the Starskyless Hutch gone dewy-eyed romance singer David Soul. They sold gazillions and clutter up charity shops to this day.

download Mr Tambourine Man (4.4MB MP3)