It begins with a slow shuffle. A kind of limping along groove. Like Johnny Thunders in a leg cast.
“Woke up this mornin’ girl next to me, suckin’ on cigarette burn for all to see, I just grinned poured some Jack in my coffee”
That slow shuffle holds itself steady on the door frame as Top Dog Tyla rasps out his opening lyric. It was 1989 and I was but a callow youth. The Dogs D’Amour were the first real rock and roll band to come to our little town in years.
It was on a school night, that the Satellite Kids tour rolled into the local theater we’d seen pantomimes and school plays in as kids. Suddenly that hall was imbued with a magic I didn’t know it capable of. Real rock and roll. In our town. Wonders would never cease.
My school buddies and I had really got down and into our own rock and roll bands the year before. No longer listening to our parents Beatles, Stones, Quo, Queen, Faces and Floyd records exclusively. Monsters Of Rock at Castle Donington had featured some huge names the previous summer, including our new favourite band Guns N’ Roses. They had bridged the gap between the old Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac feel and the edgier Richard Hell and Stooges sound. They came to the UK regularly enough since It’s So Easy had slipped it’s way into our hands on 7″ of vinyl, but The Dogs? They looked like GNR (Well a UK pastiche of them) and they played songs about being elegantly wasted and girls with smudged eyeliner. They were close enough and they came to us.
Their debut album ..In The Dynamite Jet Saloon… is a five star album in any decade of rock and roll. It featured some fantastic singles, some beautiful balladry and riffs shot from the hip. It had 4 Keef Richards wannabes on the cover and it helped build on the EP’s and indie singles (their tiny label China Records was also responsible for bringing The Levellers to the wider world) the band had built their burgeoning reputation on.
By the time 1989’s Errol Flynn was released this harmonica driven blues was standard fayre for the now solid line up of Tyla, Steve James, Jo Dog and Bam. The Dogs made their second classic album with Errol Flynn, due to copyright reasons it had to be re-titled King Of Thieves in the USA but in our eyes they were on their way.
A UK Sleaze Rock Band who toured with Mother Love Bone. Underneath What?, The Quireboys and LA Guns. In the same year they’d performed the bizarre feat of getting a mini album Grave Yard Of Empty Bottles into the top 20 UK singles chart. Yep an album in the singles chart. It was just under 20 minutes long and had 8 brilliant acoustic blues numbers on it.
Messing with the system was in their DNA. That lolloping riff in Ballad of Jack is built around a chorus so English you couldn’t accuse them of faking…
“All I want is a cup of tea”
The Dogs had the UK rock scene in the palm of their hands. So of course (this being the story of a rock and roll band) they fucked it all up. Follow up album Straight!?*! and the masterful …More Unchartered Heights Of Disgrace were both still fantastic albums and yet it wasn’t their insistence on punctuation in their album titles that drove the band into the ground. They believed in the stories their songs told. Their “Schtick” was too real and the band have fallen apart and back together a dozen times since.
“I know this guy who’s go loads of scars, the bonfire of the vanities up his arm, he disinfects them with tears from a jar like the venom from a rattlesnakes heart”
This is the ballad of Jack