Luke Haines' History Of Rock n Roll Animals

From Lou Reed to Mark E Smith singing about dogs. Here's the history of our furry friends spoken through the medium of rock n roll.
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From Lou Reed to Mark E Smith singing about dogs. Here's the history of our furry friends spoken through the medium of rock n roll.

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Rock and Roll is an occult discipline and its finest practitioners have all been animistic (mystic) pantheists. The true children of the moon just love to get down with the furry freaks. And now, friends, I join them. My new waxing 'Rock And Roll Animals' is a song cycle about a fox, Jimmy Pursey (Sham 69 chief herbert rabble rouser); Nick Lowe The Badger (elder statesman of 'the new wave') and a cat called Gene Vincent. (long dead rock n roll icon) .Theirs is a story of righteousness and rock and roll (the three R's) and how three feral dudes take on their nemesis, the poster thingy of unrighteousness - The Angel Of The North. The whole shaggy tale is thence revealed within this hot disc's cool grooves. “But,” cry the children, “there was stuff that came before, was there not?” I must grudgingly concede that there was – to whit, other animalistic recordings before my own do exist. Dig.

Sharp-eyed creatures will have spotted that I have appropriated Lou Reeds' own 'Rock N Roll Animal' opus in my album title. You need not bother with Lou's elpee (great songs mangled by bad heavy metal session musos. Good cover though). You'll have far more fun with 'Animal Language' taken from Lou's fantastic 1974 cynicism/ennui fest 'Sally Can't Dance.' And what is this 'Animal Language' tune all about? Lou helpfully explains in an interview with Nick Kent.

'It's about this woman who has a dog, and it gets shot 'cos it barks too much...and then this cat...uh...I forget what happens to the cat but something happens to the cat...anyway the dog and the cat meet...and then, uh ...some dude sees 'em both and puts a board up between 'em.'

Fantastic stuff. Lou Reed, natural mystic.

Syd Barrett was of course a real natural mystic. Animal friends plagued his plagued mind. Elephants, terrapins, octopus, rats and wolves all fight for space. Best of all is 'Lucifer Sam' – Syd's 1967 feline freakout. 'Sam' (Syds' moggie) sits next to 'Ginger Jennifer Gentle' (Syds' chick). 'You're the left side, she's the right side... oh no,' wails the psychedelic magus. Oh no, indeed. Ying and yang, pass the chang. Which brings us neatly to The Only Ones, and more rock n roll cats. 'Some times I think of you out there in the night' whines Peter Perrett on the classic 'Out There In The Night'. It's a pining song of love gone awol. Except it's not. It's about Peter Perretts' cat. When I first found this out I was appalled. But that was bad me. Now I am a pantheistic muthafucker and I embrace Peter Perretts' cat.

Dogs then. There are few songs that have anything good to say about dogs (in the previously discussed 'Animal Language' Lou took the correct decision to have the song's 'dog protagonist' shot). Dogs. God's cruel joke. Nature's dunces on a never-ending shitty-stick chase. If this were a list of animal songs (and it isn't, it's a meditation) there would be no dog songs on it, dogs are rubbish. Mark E Smith knows this: 'Rot from dog on grass and over-delicate dog, detracts light from indiscrepant non dog lover' warns MES on 'Dog Is Life.' He's right, and it's more serious than we first thought. The dogs are taking our light, brothers and sisters.

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Smith may be no friend of the dog, but one thing he certainly knows about is Rabbits. In The Falls' startlingly good 'What About Us' MES talks us through the Harold Shipman murders, from the point of view of  'A rabbit from Germany.' The song climaxes in a rousing chant of 'What about Us Shipman?' as if a thousand Deutsch bunnies demand their rightful share of Shipman's drug stash. Possibly. Though we'll never know for sure. One thing we do know for sure is that you should never kill a hare. Kill a hare and an unending amount of bad shit will befall you. In the movie 'Withnail and I' there is a scene where a hare is delivered by a poacher. There's a common misconception that Withnails' bad luck is down to him being a hapless narcissist. Not so. It's all down to the hare. Mark E Smith would understand this.

Dogs, cats, rabbits, this is all well and good. But where are the pigs and sheep? Sadly, they can be found all over Pink Floyd's, disastrous 1977 'Animals' album. Roger Waters – the sombre to Syd's sombrero - makes the dire mistake of dissing our four-legged friends. 'Sheep' become Rog's metaphor for slow witted folk. 'Pigs' represent Mary Whitehouse and Thatcher, and 'Dogs,' well let's just say that Roger contributes another rotten – and very long - dog song to the useless canine canon. Roger Waters' big mistake, (much like Withnails' with the hare) was to pour scorn on his animal guides. Is it any wonder that his solo career 'went to the dogs'??

For reasons of space (and 'sanity') there is much I have had to omit: Marc Bolan – a true 20th Century Mystic Superstar - was concerned with beasties both earthly and mythical, culminating in 1976's 'Futuristic Dragon' – a kind of nuclear cocaine funk album, that even George Clinton might have thought a bit OTT.

So what have we learned? Well, in 17 century Essex if you started frothing about your animal familiars you'd have been strung up on the nearest gibbet. In the 21st century do the same and the worst that might happen is you'll get called a 'retard' on the internet. So, friends we've come a long way, there is nothing to fear, embrace God's creatures and they will embrace you. Rationalism is a bore, man. Howl at the moon then be still. Listen...the rock n roll animals are talking to us.