“I wrote what?”

‘Atomic Dog’ is an Electro-Funk symphony and a futuristic ghetto-opera rolled into one.  Although this messy masterpiece wasn’t a massive commercial success, 1982’s ‘Atomic Dog’ became a classic in the streets and its basic groove has been sampled to spawn more Hip-Hop songs than any column of a reasonable length could list.  Unsurprisingly, the tune was created in a most unusual fashion…

George Clinton, the ringmaster of ‘Parliament/Funkadelic’, has admitted to struggling with Crack cocaine and on the day of the ‘Atomic’ studio session, the rock was getting the best of him.  Clinton was high when he entered the studio, feeling extremely paranoid and, for whatever reason, disturbed that his band was recording without him despite the fact that all they’d worked on was a drum track which was accidentally being played in reverse.  After taking in the rhythm, an incensed ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ immediately demanded the microphone and began to drop an extremely strange verse, improvising his way through a list of dog breeds that you wouldn’t find in any kennel.  After finishing his 40-second rap with the refrain “Why must I feel like that…nothing but the dog in me”*, Clinton bolted out of the studio to “Chase the cat” while the rest of the group looked at each other

Gary Shider; his outfit gets more and more pragmatic with age

Gary Shider; his outfit gets more and more pragmatic with age

wondering what to do; Luckily, ‘P-Funkateers’ Garry Shider and David Spradley went to work.  First, Shider and Spradley arranged a HEAVY, one-note bassline to groove with the bounc backwards beat.  Next, they spliced up the recording tape, spreading out George Clinton’s ramblingsto make room for a theatrical and elaborate section of ensemble vocals which were arranged to fit around Clinton’s cracked-out dog-story.  Then, they computerized the tune with sleekand imaginative streaks of synthesized music, some of which was meant to sound like a dog pursuing an unwilling feline.  Last, they added fairly standard drum and guitar parts which helped bring the session back to planet earth and fill out the instrumental section.  The final result of this mixture of Crack and craftsmanship was, in my opinion, an absolutely perfect song which makes it very hard to believe that the whole thing was a complete accident.

It’s like a tornado blew through a junkyard and built a Ferrari.

atomic dogWhen George Clinton eventually returned to the studio in a lighter mood, he was pleasantly surprised with what Shider and Spradley had constructed around the rant he, by this time, had forgotten all about and decided to help finish the track, adding a few more vocals and conducting the choir to pant like puppies.  The finished product never cracked (pardon the pun) the Pop, top-100** which is another good reason to measure chart success skeptically.

*That bit, in my opinion, sounds a lot like Duke Ellington’s ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’
**Dan Fogelberg was ruling the top-ten, need I write more?

Posted on by andycooper in CHASIN' THE FUNK, STORY BEHIND THE SONG

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