As a child, whenever I played at a friend’s house where there was a dog, I would always spend a lot of time bonding with it. I guess I knew even then that I was “a dog person” because I was so attracted to their enthusiasm and friendliness.
When I returned home from these visits, I would invariably plead with my mom: “Can’t we please get a dog?” She flatly refused, saying she wasn’t interested in her carpets and furniture getting stained and muddied, nor the prospect of fur shedding everywhere.
She also knew full well that the care of said dog would end up falling squarely on her, once the novelty of pet ownership had worn off on me. And she was probably right about that. “Once you grow up and have your own house, you can have all the dogs you want,” she’d say. And that was that. I had to resign myself to making friends with all my friends’ dogs instead.
Jump ahead 20 years to when my future wife and I were first dating. One day, a co-worker in my newspaper office walked in and announced that he and his wife had to give up their puppy because the apartment they were moving into didn’t allow pets.
“Anyone want a dog?” he asked. I looked up from my work and straight into the eyes of the most adorable black doggy face I’d ever seen. Love at first sight.
“Judy,” I gushed over the phone, “oh my God, you have to come see this puppy, he’s so cute, we have to get him!” Once she’d met the dog and agreed how irresistible she was, we took her home that night, and named her Ebony. To this day, we give that dog credit for bringing us closer together as a couple, and we were married shortly thereafter.
Following Ebony’s passing at age 12, we eventually took the plunge a second time, getting a Shih-Tzu named Cocoa as a playmate for our two young daughters. Sure enough, just as my mother warned me, I found that the girls soon lost interest in the daily walks, the feeding, the cleaning up, not to mention the vet visits and other responsibilities, and guess who did the lion’s share?
But it’s the snuggling on the couch, the fetching and horsing around, the unconditional love that makes having a dog so rewarding. And that’s why, last weekend, we bit the bullet and signed up for one more go-round. Meet Higbee, our nine-week-old Bernedoodle (that’s a mix of Bernese mountain dog and poodle). Cute as can be — now only seven pounds — but we’re told he could grow to be 80 pounds. Hoping for maybe 50-60 pounds. We shall see.
In commemoration of our new acquisition, and for dog lovers everywhere, this week I offer you a playlist of rock songs about dogs. Woof!
“Dogs,” Pink Floyd, 1977
Floyd’s songwriter Roger Waters, a scathing critic of the ethics and greed of the business world, wrote a 17-minute piece about the subject, originally titling it “You’ve Got to Be Crazy,” but then renaming it “Dogs” as part of Floyd’s 1977 LP “Animals.” He points out how businessmen and dogs both can give the appearance of being friendly and polite but are often hiding a darker agenda: “You got to be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed, and then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight, you got to strike when the moment is right without thinking…”
“Puppy Love,” Paul Anka, 1960
Anka was only 19 when he wrote this heartbreaker about the huge crush he had on teen queen Annette Funnicello at the time. It followed two other sad tales, “Lonely Boy” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” and reached #2 on the charts. Anka wrote about how the adults always referred to teen love as inconsequential “puppy love,” but to the teens, it was monumental: “How can I ever tell them this is not puppy love?…” A decade later, Donny Osmond, while still singing with The Osmond Brothers, charted four consecutive Top Five solo hits, including a saccharine-sweet remake of “Puppy Love.”
“I Wanna Be Your Dog,” The Stooges, 1969
Iggy Pop and his raucous Detroit band The Stooges became prototypes for both heavy metal and punk with distortion-heavy tracks like “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” in which the narrator states his masochistic desire to lie down and be the subservient pet: “Well c’mon now, I’m ready to close my eyes, and now I’m ready to close my mind, and now I’m ready to feel your hand, and lose my heart on the burning sands, and now I wanna be your dog…”
“I Love My Dog,” Cat Stevens, 1967
Very early in his career, for his debut LP “Matthew and Son,” Stevens wrote this somewhat simplistic tribute to his dog, which reiterated the belief that human relationships may come and go, but a dog will love you unconditionally ’til the end: “I love my dog as much as I love you, but you may fade, and my dog will always come through, all he asks from me is the food to give him strength, all he ever needs is love and that he knows he’ll get…”
“Atomic Dog,” George Clinton, 1982
Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic collective were nearing the end of their late ’70s heyday when they released the funky, psychedelic “Atomic Dog” in 1982. The song’s lyrics wonder philosophically why some men persist in their unsuccessful sexual pursuits, like dogs running after cats: “Like the boys when they’re out there walkin’ the streets, may compete, nothin’ but the dog in ya, why must I feel like that, why must I chase the cat, nothin’ but the dog in me, bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah…”
“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,” Lobo, 1971
Kent LaVoie, who preferred to call himself Lobo (Spanish for wolf), had several Top Ten hits in the early Seventies, beginning with this easy-going, country-flavored hit in 1971. He actually had a dog named Boo, and wanted to include him as a character in the song: “Me and you and a dog named Boo, travelin’ and livin’ off the land, me and you and a dog named Boo, how I love being a free man…”
“You Lie Down With Dogs,” Alan Parsons Project, 1979
In this deep track from Parson’s fine 1979 LP “Eve,” the lyrics offer a grim reminder to women to be careful in their selection of lovers by using a time-honored piece of advice: “Well, you lie down with dogs, you fall in with thieves, you’re gonna catch something, but you do as you please, you’re scratchin’ an itch that nothing can ease, you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas…”
“Walking the Dog,” Rufus Thomas, 1963
Thomas was a Memphis-based singer, DJ, dancer and comic entertainer whose biggest success was the #10 hit “Walking the Dog” in 1963, later covered by The Rolling Stones on their first album, and by a dozen other artists (Aerosmith, Roger Daltrey, Green Day among them). Thomas also recorded other novelty dance hits like “Can Your Monkey Do the Dog,” “Somebody Stole My Dog” and “Do the Funky Chicken.”
“I Want a Dog,” Pet Shop Boys, 1988
UK synth-pop act The Pet Shop Boys have been the most successful duo in British music history, and hugely popular throughout Europe, but far less so in the States. Still, they scored five hit singles here in their first few years, including the #1 “West End Girls.” On their third LP, they conjured up an engaging synth-groove on “I Want a Dog,” a paean to canine companionship: “I want a dog to walk in the park when it gets dark, my dog will bark at any passers-by, oh, you can get lonely, I want a dog, when I get back to my small flat, I want to hear somebody bark…”
“Dog and Butterfly,” Heart, 1978
Ann and Nancy Wilson wrote this pretty acoustic piece for Heart’s album of the same name. Its lyrics explore the concept of learning one’s own limitations through the example of a dog, who would love to fly like the butterfly but must instead take comfort in “rolling back down on the warm soft ground, laughing up to the sky…”
“Diamond Dogs,” David Bowie, 1974
The striking album cover artwork of Bowie’s eighth album “Diamond Dogs” depicts him as a grotesque half-man/half-dog, and the songs, especially the title track, feature his visions of urban chaos and scary nihilism that presaged the punk rock revolution a few years later: “In the year of the scavenger, the season of the bitch, sashay on the boardwalk, scurry to the ditch, come out of the garden, baby, you’ll catch your death in the fog, young girl, they call them the diamond dogs…”
“Gonna Buy Me a Dog,” The Monkees, 1966
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote many songs in The Monkees’ catalog, including this whimsical throwaway from their first album. Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones joked their way through the lyrics, which focused on how a dog was a better and more loyal friend than a human: “You know my girl just called me up and she woke me from my sleep, you should have heard the things she said, you know she hurt my feelings deep… She used to bring me my newspaper ’cause she knew where it was at, she used to keep me so contented, but I can teach a dog to do that, I’m gonna buy me a dog ’cause I need a friend now, I’m gonna buy me a dog, my girl, my girl, don’t love me no how…”
“Dogs in the Midwinter,” Jethro Tull, 1987
In this deep track from Tull’s Grammy-winning LP “Crest of a Knave,” Ian Anderson equates the greedy, ravenous nature of society’s villains with scavenger dogs who have been outside too long without much to eat: “The boss man and the tax man and the moneylenders growl like dogs in the midwinter, the weaker of the herd can feel their eyes and hear them howl, like dogs in the midwinter, though the fox and the rabbit are at peace, cold doggies in the manger turn last suppers into feasts…”
“Hey Bulldog,” The Beatles, 1968
Its working title was “Bullfrog,” but when Paul McCartney started barking during the ending of one take, they ended up changing the title to “Hey Bulldog.” It’s a Lennon song that is only marginally about dogs, but it’s one of The Beatles’ best latter-day rockers, hidden among the retreads and film-score tracks on the “Yellow Submarine” soundtrack LP, so I couldn’t resist including it on this list.
“Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin, 1971
The lyrics of this sexually charged hard rocker make no mention of a black dog, or any dog, but again, I wanted to include it because I love it so much. Robert Plant said they named the song after an anonymous black mutt that visited their Headley Grange retreat in the British countryside while they were recording. It’s the opening track to their most successful LP, known as “Untitled,” “Zoso” or “Runes.”
“Hound Dog,” Big Mama Thornton, 1952
Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, wrote the 12-bar blues classic “Hound Dog” in 1952 specifically for the great Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. Said Leiber, “It’s basically a Southern blues lament about a black woman throwing a gigolo out of her house and her life.” Thornton’s rendition was influential and authentic, and although Elvis Presley’s version with altered lyrics became a far bigger chart success four years later, it is Thornton’s original that is far superior: “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, been snoopin’ ’round my door, you ain’t nothing but a hound dog, been snoopin’ ’round my door, you can wag your tail but I ain’t gonna feed you no more…
A few more I should comment on:
The incessantly annoying “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men (2000) compares men to dogs and their inherent need to hump something.
Carrie Underwood’s “The More Boys I Meet” (2007) objects to men’s behavior toward women and concludes she’d rather have a dog’s companionship any day.
“Bitch” by The Rolling Stones (1971) is not about a dog, nor a woman, just a resigned complaint about how tough life can be: “It’s a bitch.”
“The Puppy Song,” Harry Nilsson, 1969; “The Dogs of War,” Pink Floyd, 1987; “Bird Dog,” Everly Brothers, 1970; “Do the Dog,” The Specials, 2002; “Dog Eat Dog,” Walter Becker & Donald Fagen, 1971; “Black-Eyed Dog,” Nick Drake, 1974; “My Dog and Me,” John Hiatt, 2003; “Sleeping With the Dog,” Jethro Tull, 1991; “Dog Days are Over,” Florence + The Machine, 2008; “Rain Dogs,” Tom Waits, 1985; “Walking the Dog,” fun., 2009; “Dog Eat Dog,” Adam and The Ants, 1980; “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window,” Pattie Page, 1953.