Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dog Music

Popular music hasn’t been too kind to the canine.

Once upon a time that wasn’t the case. In days gone by, everyone was asking how much is that doggy in the window. But the dogs in the songs I grew up with were either nasty – the mean junkyard dog in “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” – or worthless – Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” – or an afterthought used to complete a rhyme – “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.”

That last one really ticks me off.

I mean, the dog named Boo doesn’t figure into the story at all. This guy is travelling all over the place living off the earth and stealing from hens or whatever, and the dog’s just along for the ride. The guy’s car gets more play in the tune than Boo does. And if his name were Herbie or Sheldon or some other nonsense, he wouldn’t have even gotten a mention at all. Try singing “Me and You and a Dog named Floyd” and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s not that people don’t love their dogs; it’s just that it’s hard to incorporate dog love into a song that rocks. I speak from experience. I consider myself something of a songwriter, and I choose odd subjects for my songs. I have a hard time taking soulful, dippy ballads seriously, especially those written to animals. (“Wildfire?” I mean, what is that? A love song to a dead horse? Please.)

Writing a song requires a line or a hook to get you into the groove, and on at least one occasion, that hook involved a dog. Out of nowhere, I started humming a line that I added words to, and the words were as follows:

“Got a load of birdseed and fed it to my dog.”

A fine, absurdist beginning. So then, of course, what happens next? Well, the bird can’t be too happy about that, can he?

So the next line was, naturally:

“The bird got very angry.”

That doesn’t rhyme, but it gives me somewhere to go. We have tension here. Drama. Bird vs. Dog. It’s kind of like Jay vs. Conan, only different.

So I took this and ran with it.

“The bird got very angry, and said I shouldn’t hog
All the seed for the dog when the bird needs it more
That was the start of the dog/birdie war.”

The song went from there into an epic battle where bullfrogs get shaved and animals are hitting each other with Wiffle Ball bats.

You can hear the demo here. It was recorded entirely by me, which won’t seem all that impressive once you actually hear the song.

That’s why we dare you to do better.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to offer exciting opportunities to songwriting dog lovers who want to make the dog ditty hip again. Check back next Wednesday for more details. In the meantime, keep your dogs away from the birdseed unless you have plenty of Wiffle Ball bats on hand.

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