Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ring the bell, Fido

Back in the days when I used to spin rock and roll records on college radio (for you youngsters unfamiliar with the terminology, records were large round discs of vinyl with tiny grooves cut into the surface, which reproduced sound when played using a device called a phonograph, and rock and roll was the dominant form of American popular music in the pre-hip-hop/rap/Britney era), I occasionally played a cut by a band known as Pavlov's Dog.

Pavlov's Dog sounded a little like Blue Öyster Cult, only with less clever and labyrinthine lyrics, without the unparalleled electric guitar wizardry of the BÖC's Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, and with a lead vocalist who sounded nothing like the Cult's Eric Bloom. In fact, the singer for Pavlov's Dog, a guy named David Surkamp, didn't sound like anyone you've ever heard. I'm not even sure he sounded human.

The only comparison I can make is with another old-school hard rock band, the Canadian power trio Rush ("Limelight," "Tom Sawyer," "Fly by Night"). Surkamp sounded like Geddy Lee of Rush might sound if he snorted a balloonful of helium just before he stepped in front of the microphone. I often speculated on-air that the name of the band surely derived from the fact that Surkamp's trebly tenor tessitura was capable of notes only canines could hear.

I kid you not.

The only knowledge I have of Pavlov's Dog is that single album, entitled "Pampered Menial," that I used to throw on the turntable on my radio show. The music was bizarre, but in a vaguely cool sort of way, like those incomprehensible early Genesis albums when Peter Gabriel was still the singer, Phil Collins was just the drummer, and instead of quirky yet radio-friendly pop hits like "Misunderstanding" and "Invisible Touch," they filled their records with dark, dense, ponderous stuff like "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway."

But, as is true of almost every facet of recorded history, someone has created a Web site devoted to the myth and mystery that is (or was) Pavlov's Dog. Which is, after all, as it should be.

I'm salivating just thinking about it.

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