Few songs have been more maligned lately than the time honored standard Mustang Sally!
In fact, for a least a half a decade, there has been this Facebook Meme floating around on whether or not a (local, cover, or even touring) band should even play the venerable RnB classic made famous by Wilson Pickett.
Crazily Facetiously, there is even a ‘Flow Chart’ titled Should you play “Mustang Sally” at your gig! I think part of the reason the tune is so disparaged is that it is a simple 3 chord ( I, IV, V) progression with an AAB 24 bar form. And, almost anybody can play it! Like any double edged sword, the simplicity in learning and performing has made it a ubiquitous stable in cover band repertoires for decades! Like many things, familiarity breeds contempt. Earned or not.
“Mustang Sally” is an R&B song written and first recorded by Mack Rice in 1965. According to music historian Tom Shannon the song started as a joke when singer Della Reese wanted a new Ford Mustang. Rice called the early version “Mustang Mama” but changed the title after Aretha Franklin suggested “Mustang Sally”.
Rice’s version made it to #15 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1965. Pickett’s version climbed to #6 on the R&B charts and #23 on the Pop charts in 1966, #4 in Canada on the (RPM) charts, and #28 in the UK Singles Chart on its original release and #62, when it was re-released in 1987.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Wilson Pickett’s recording of the song at #434 on a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The Young Rascals covered the song in 1966, changing the year of the “brand new Mustang” from 1965 to 1966.
The chorus of the song includes the lyrics “ride, Sally, ride”—a phrase which became fodder for newspaper headlines in 1983, when astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. The Lou Reed song “Ride Sally Ride”, which quotes these lyrics throughout, is the first track on his 1974 album Sally Can’t Dance. The same lyric is found in “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone in 1968 and in the children’s song “Sally the Camel”.
The song featured prominently in the 1991 film The Commitments and appears on the film’s soundtrack album, sung by Andrew Strong. It was released as a single from the album and reached #63 in the UK Singles Chart, #43 on the Australian charts and #17 on the New Zealand charts.
Groove Therapy – Mustang Sally
Below is a more modern envisioning of the tune. Almost a reinvention of the original – with a much different bass line by our own Nathan Shorter. Enjoy!