Friday, 18 June 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 65 (Top Five): Songs Abouty Canines

Doggone it, those canine songs just keep coming up on my mp3 player – ever since Elvis Presley scored big with ‘Hounddog’ every musical pooch seems to want to get in on the act of an AAA album. So this week in a specially extended version of the top five, we celebrate the groups and artists who went to the dogs...with some added commentary by the AAA resident canine Bingo (with a big hello to Max The Singing Dog).

6) Neil Young: “Old King”, a track from “Harvest Moon” (1992): Other than rock and roll, the genre with the biggest canine count is surely country, with that my-little-ol’-dog-just-died genre that proved so successful/awful depending on your taste. Neil adds his own take on the genre for his ‘country’ album, recounting the story of his genuine pet Elvis, who faithfully guarded Neil’s many ranches for him while he was away and died suddenly while out walking with his master. Neil changed the name of his pet to ‘King’ , just in case furious Elvis fanatics got the wrong end of the stick about the death scene in the song. No Bingo, you’re not old, just sleepy. Key line: “I had a dog and his name was King, I told the dog about everything”

5) Belle and Sebastian: “Dog On Wheels”, a track from “Push Barman To Heal Old Wounds” (1996): A song about a childhood toy from B and S, pictured on the cover of the original ‘Dog On Wheels’ EP from which this song was taken. Somewhere the dog on wheels confident to the narrator’s childhood’s angst and woes gets muddled with the present day narrator’s latest troubles in his love life. A typical yearning and nostalgic melody from Stuart Murdoch is matched by a typically weird set of lyrics that nevertheless conjures up perfectly the idea of man’s best friend always being there for his master. Come back Bingo, where have you gone now?!  Key lyric: “When I was a kid I was astounded by you, now I’m still a kid I am indebted to you”

4) The Monkees: “Gonna Buy Me A Dog”, a track from “The Monkees” (1966): We’ve had the death scene and the childhood companion, now the theme that the narrator’s pet loves him more than his girlfriend. At least, I think that’s what’s going on in this song, it’s really hard to tell what with Micky and Davy giggling over the top of it and making jokes. Not that ‘Dog’ could ever be anything other than hilarious in its very nature, what with lines like ‘she used to keep me so contented, but I can teach a dog to do that!’, although writers Boyce and Hart swear they wrote it as a genuine ‘straight’ song. How this song ever ended up being released given the ridiculous amount of originally unreleased gems in The Monkees’ canon is anybody’s guess, although true to the spirit of the TV series the outtakes were used instead of the ‘proper’ version. Stop making me laugh Bingo! Key line: “I’m gonna buy me a dog because I need a friend now”

3) Cat Stevens: “I Love My Dog”, a track from “Matthew and Son” (1967): A dog song on similar lines, written by a Cat, err, Cat Stevens (hang on....) Cat’s first single, released when he was all of 17, is a rather sweet and naive song in stark contrast to what’s to come later although its idea that the narrator’s love may fade for his girl but never for his dog is quite cute. A classic catchy chorus and a typically (for this era) lush arrangement gets this song out of the dog house. Ahh Bingo, I love you too! Key line: “All he needs is love and that he knows he’ll get”

2) The Beatles/Paul McCartney: “Martha My Dear” from “The White Album” (1968)/”Hey Bulldog” from “Yellow Submarine” (1969)/”Jet” from “Band On The Run” (1974): Macca was well known for his love of animals, even in the days before he met Linda. Many Beatle interviews have recalled since how Paul’s pet sheepdog Martha often broke the ice between the Beatle and ordinary mortals, becoming as popular within the Beatles fan club as her master. ‘Martha, My Dear’ is the canine’s only real appearance in song, although her name is just an excuse for a typically breathless piece of made-up Macca nonsense. Cracking tune though. John Lennon was less well known for his love of pets (although he did keep cats in later life) and his take on the subject ‘Hey Bulldog’ is a much more acerbic and possibly self-hating diatribe set to a pounding beat and nonsense lyrics. To be honest, title aside, it has very little to do with dogs at all, but we couldn’t avoid including it on this list given Paul’s quite simply amazing dog impression on the fade-out! Finally, Macca moved on to owning a group of black Labradors after Martha died and the eldest – named Jet – became the subject matter of one of Wings’ better rockers in the 70s. Another confused lyric, involving a suffragette and apparently a diatribe against the media attacking his wife (and this was before Heather Mills!), means you probably wouldn’t call this a ‘dog’ song, but you can imagine Macca calling his dog in with the chorus of this song (‘Jet!...oohooooh ooohooooh...Jet!’) Stop doing that Bingo, you silly dog!

1) Pink Floyd “Seamus”, a track from “Meddle” (1971)/”Dogs”, a track from “Animals” (1977)/The Dogs Of War”, a track from “A Momentary Lapse OF Reason” (1987): Even that long list can’t compete with the most dog-loving band of all however. Pink Floyd don’t strike you as natural dog owners (most of them infamously owned cats as ‘political statements’ about being ‘apart from the pack’) but the idea of a dog-eat-dog world still inspired quite a few tracks from the band. ‘Seamus’ is the joker in the pack, a bluesy instrumental starring fellow AAA member and Small face Steve Marriott’s dog howling his way through the song. Seamus was apparently taught by his master to howl whenever music was being played and although Steve never got round to including Howling Dog-Wolf on his records, David Gilmour decided he’d ‘borrow’ the dog one day when he was house and dog sitting for Steve, his near-neighbour and a star was born. That’s a different dog you can see in the ‘Live At Pompeii’ film, by the way, the one and only time the band tried doing the song live. The second song on our list, ‘Dogs’ is an 18-minute opus from an album that divided all of humanity into dogs, pigs and sheep: dogs were the loners, a slightly crazy lunatic bunch that didn’t believe what the ‘pigs’ were telling the ‘sheep’, but it never did them any good, what with their dying alone and being ‘dragged down by the stone’. Finally, ‘Dogs Of War’ is a far less convincing stab at the same idea, with unseen military commanders unleashing their ‘pack’ of lies onto us all. What are you doing in the pub, Bingo! Put down that glass!

So, as the doggedly determined canine tries to sing ‘New York New York’ to annoy The Face Of Bo one last time, we say good bye for another issue. We’ll return next time, when David Cameron’s budget will be out and he’ll yet again be in the dog house with us...

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