Per Gessle – Gessles nio i topp – Nine songs about dogs

Last Saturday Per Gessle and Sven Lindström talked about dog songs in Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio. ”Tea at 8 o’clock I took the dog for a walk in the morning. I never really liked him but let’s keep that between you and me.” Touched By The Hand Of God. Nah. It wasn’t on the list.

Per says he likes cats much more than dogs. He is a cat person. Sven is also a cat person which is probably because their neighbour’s dog in Växjö in the ’60s bit him in the leg. Since then he has a skeptical attitude towards dogs. Per tells they had a Norwegian Buhund when he was a little child. His name was Buster. When Mr. G’s mom was coming home by bus, Per put a leash on the dog and Buster was so happy he dragged Mr. G along for tens of metres until they reached Mamma Elisabeth. Per says he must have been 5-6 years old then. He still likes dogs anyway.

Per’s Top 9 songs about dogs

9. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
8. The Everly Brothers – Bird Dog
7. Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
6. Tom T. Hall – (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine
5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Dogs on the Run
4. The Who – Dogs
3. Elvis Presley – Hound Dog
2. Neil Young – Old King
1. The Beatles – Martha My Dear

The first song the guys are talking about is David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. Sven is surprised, because he thought this would be on top of Per’s list. Mr. G says Diamond Dogs is an eminent album from 1974. He already loved it when it was released and still does. It is related to George Orwell’s novel, 1984 and the science fiction touch is there all over. It’s David Bowie himself who plays the guitar on the whole album and the influence of The Rolling Stones can be heard. Previously, it was Mick Ronson who played the guitar and he was one of the world’s best guitarists. He had his own style. One could hear it when e.g. Rebel Rebel was played live, it never sounded like on the album, because it was Bowie who played it on the album. The riff in Diamond Dogs sounds a bit like Keith Richards, Sven says. Per adds that the saxophone sound fits the guitar amazingly well in the song. Sven mentions the single flopped and Mr. G says maybe because it was 6 minutes long. The lead single from the album was Rebel Rebel, but according to Mr. G, there are no real singles on this album. It’s not that type of an album. There was more single material on Aladdin Sane. Diamond Dogs is more like an epic.

Next on the list is Bird Dog from The Everly Brothers from 1958. Per first heard this song in the interpretation of Hep Stars. It was written by Boudleaux Bryant. He wrote a lot of songs for The Everly Brothers and for many others. Bryant was often writing together with his wife, Felice. Their better known songs are Love Hurts, All I Have to Do Is Dream, Wake Up Little Susie, Bye Bye Love. All phenomenal songs. Per says he met their son, Del Bryant. He was the leader of BMI, the largest music rights organization in the United States. Del visited Per in his apartment in Stockholm, he handed out awards for their success on American radio. He is a very nice person, still lives in Nashville and talks a lot about his parents. Sven says one gets starstruck by meeting a legend. Per jokes and says it’s cool he knows someone whom Sven doesn’t know in person. Regarding Bird Dog, Sven says it was released only a few days after it had been recorded and a couple of days later it already entered the US Billboard and very soon became No. 2. It succeeded fast. Per says releasing a song so fast after recording it is not unique. John Lennon’s Instant Karma is another example of that. Mr. G thinks Bird Dog is shockingly good.

The guys are talking about nostalgy and Per says the older you get you realize that you heard tens of thousands of songs and you like maybe 2-3-5,000 of them. When you like 5,000 songs, it’s hard to take in new music. Sven says there are some artists who don’t sound like anyone else and they are hard to be copied. The Everly Brothers were like that. Many tried to sound like them though.

Mr. G asks Sven about his dog-related bravados. Sven says the closest he got to a dog-related bravado was buying an album in 1971 where the first song was about a black dog. It was Led Zeppelin’s fourth album and Black Dog was the first track on it. The title refers to the black labrador that was wandering around outside the studio while Led Zeppelin were recording their album. It was their most successful record. Jimmy Page once read in a magazine that Led Zeppelin was compared to Black Sabbath and he hated Black Sabbath. He thought they sounded ridiculous and played primitively, while Page was an equilibrist on his instrument. Many thought it was Jimmy Page who wrote the riff to Black Dog, but it was John Paul Jones, bassist in Led Zeppelin. It was inspired by an old blues riff, as Per heard, but according to Sven, it was inspired by Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud album, which is more acid jazz than blues. The guys agree that it’s something one had not heard before and they haven’t heard anything similar since then either. The riff is fantastic and so are Robert Plant’s voice and John Bonham’s playing the drums. It’s one of rock history’s coolest recordings of all time. Black Dog wasn’t released as a single in the UK, but they released it in the US with Misty Mountain Hop as a B-side.

The next song is (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine from Tom T. Hall. Per says there was a quite controversial Swedish version of it, Hundar, ungar och hembryggt äppelvin by Alf Robertsson. Sven says it’s rather a black hole for him. Mr. G says he always liked Tom T. Hall’s songs, e.g. Harper Valley PTA, which was a big hit when Per was a child. He also always loved That’s How I Got to Memphis. There are many versions of it, one by Solomon Burke for example. Per asks Sven if he has any relations to Tom T. Hall. Sven replies that Tom for him sounds very similar to one his old favourites, Roger Miller who made country songs, but with a little pop feeling. Mr. G says the storytelling style that was present in those times’ country music is fantastic. Sven asks Per if he knows what the ”T.” stands for in Tom’s name. Per jokes and says ”Tax” [Swedish name of Dachshund /PP]. Sven says the T was just added to make the name look better. Per jokes further that it could have stood for Teddy. Sven asks Per if he knows who made a Swedish cover of Harper Valley PTA. Mr. G thought it was Siw Malmkvist, but it was Björn Ulvaeus and the song’s title was Fröken Fredriksson. The Swedish lyrics were written by Stikkan Andersson.

Song No. 5 is Dogs on the Run from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Per asks Sven if he has any relations to this song. Sven replies he does, but it’s not really positive. Mr. Lindström says the album on which it was relased, Southern Accents was a concept album, but he doesn’t know what the concept was. Sven thinks Tom Petty should have renamed the album to Southern Accidents. Per agrees that this one is Tom Petty’s weakest, but there is e.g. Don’t Come Around Here No More on it. Tom wrote it together with Dave Stewart from Eurythmics. Sven thinks that’s the only good song on Southern Accents. Per disagrees. He also likes The Best of Everything, co-produced by Robbie Robertson. Mr. G also likes the title track, Southern Accents. He thinks it’s one of Petty’s finest songs. Mr. G says Tom Petty was magical at the end of the ’70s and in the beginning of the ’80s with albums like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or Long After Dark. Then came some boring years. Then he came back with albums produced by Jeff Lynne. Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open. Per thinks Petty needed some new collaborators to satisfy his recreational drug habit. The guys agree that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is one of the world’s best rock bands.

No. 4 on the list is a song from 1968, Dogs from The Who. Per didn’t have it as a single, but always loved it. It was also released on an early compilation album of The Who. Mr. G thinks it’s a strange song, it’s not a hit in any way. It’s like the result of a weird mid period between all the big The Who hits and Tommy. Dogs has a wonderful melody. It is about greyhound dogs and people are talking in cockney accent in it. Sven thinks it might have been inspired by Lazy Sunday from Small Faces. Singles by The Who released before were Pictures of Lily and I Can See for Miles. Phenomenal, classic The Who singles. Then nothing and then comes Dogs. Per thinks it’s brilliant. Mr. G also listens a lot to Join Together and The Seeker.

No. 3 is Hound Dog from Elvis Presley from 1956. Per thinks they add Elvis Presley rarely to their top9 lists. According to Mr. G, Elvis was a great singer and Sven says one can understand why his songs exploded in the ’50s. Hound Dog was recorded originally by Big Mama Thornton 4 years before Presley’s version came out. They sound very different to each other. Elvis’ version was a bomb on the radio, one can understand it. Sven tells that in 1956 Elvis was a flop in Las Vegas. A band called Freddie Bell and the Bellboys did a version of Hound Dog with somewhat changed lyrics and that became Elvis’ version later. Per says they should watch an Elvis movie in the evening. Then some dog movies. Sven says maybe they could combine it. Elvis did like 600 movies in Hollywood, are there any dog movies among them? Per laughs and says Lassie. Haha.

No. 2 on the list is Old King by Neil Young. Per says the song has a nice melody about Neil’s dog called King. It’s on the 1992 album, Harvest Moon. It’s kind of a spiritual follow-up to Harvest (1972). Harvest Moon is fantastic from A to Z. Sven also thinks Neil Young is awesome. One of his absolute favourites is Long May You Run from him. He always comes back. Per says it feels like Neil Young has so many things that when he opens a box that he forgot to open in 15 years, suddenly a song pops out which he wrote 15 years ago and was absolutely amazing already then. Per and Sven are wondering what kind of dog Old King could have been. Maybe a labrador. Mr. G asks Sven if he could imagine Neil Young with a poodle or a Dachshund. Sven adds Chihuahua. Haha. Sven mentions there is a photo taken by Henry Diltz where Neil Young appears with a dog and it’s definitely not a Chihuahua. Per adds he knows the picture where Neil is inviting the dog for a joint, which is not politically correct.

No. 1 is Martha My Dear by The Beatles. Martha was Paul’s dog and the song is about her, Per says. Sven asks if he is sure about it, because there were speculations that the song might be about Jane Asher [Paul’s former girlfriend]. Per says he is 100% sure it’s about the dog. Sven adds that’s what Paul says too. According to Mr. G, it’s a typical dog song. It was one of the last songs to be recorded for the White Album in 1968. According to Per, it’s an absolutely fantastic composition, only Paul McCartney can write such music. Sven thinks it’s a complex and tricky song. Mr. G thinks it’s kind of music hall music and no one else in The Beatles wrote this type of pop music. It’s a typical McCartney song, like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. The guys agree that the White Album is The Beatles’ best album ever. It’s not an album of singles. John’s songs don’t sound like Paul’s and George Harrison blossomed as a songwriter on this one with While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Sven shares a trivia at the end of the program. Martha was born in 1966 and passed away in 1981. She was a sheepdog. One of Martha’s offspring, Arrow, appeared on the cover of one of Paul’s live albums.

5-year-old Per Gessle with Buster (photo from Per’s archives published in Att vara Per Gessle)