Friday, June 27, 2014

Dogs In Space

"Dogs out there, floatin' 'round, it's rattling the human race, dogs in space."
-Dogs In Space, Michael Hutchence, 1986-

Bath, England. It was 1988. I had the good fortune of attending the University of Bath the summer of that year as an amazing diversion from four years of college (perhaps the greatest block of time in one's life). One warm summer evening at a university dance I happened upon a beautiful girl also from America. Her name was Melissa. We hit it off. That same week we went out to a local art house theatre, a cinema called The Little Theatre (since 1936) and attended a screening of a little known cult film, Dogs In Space (1986), directed by Richard Lowenstein. The Australian post-punk film starred the late Michael Hutchence of INXS. I have relatively faint memories of that film, and mostly wanted the opportunity to hook up with this beautiful brunette half way across the world. Getting naked was more important if unsuccessful. Hutchence would have been proud of my effort though. There was something exciting and alluring about all of the freedom and unknowns. Being young and thrill-seeking only sweetened the adventure and spirit of those unforgettable days. There was room for the memory of that one-week stand.

The 1980s epitomized, for me, the pinnacle of great music. It seemed every new song by many beloved bands over the decade was indeed a new sensation. Has there been a stronger decade in sound and style? Music was and remains very much a part of who I am today. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, whether in Boston or London, it seemed there was rarely a music store that I didn't seek. From Edinburgh, Scotland to Brighton, England to New York City's Record Runner, I visited them all for the chance at a rare find of an exclusive CD, CD single, promo or video collection. The possibility of finding something special was always met with the sweet sounds of music filling each store. Those were indeed the days.

Take the soundtrack for Dogs In Space, of which Hutchence provided four songs including the haunting Rooms For The Memory. Good luck finding this rare collection.

As a young man growing up in the hey day of creative music yielding from the New Romantics and before that the burgeoning synth era of the 1970s, I was drawn to music like fishes love the sea. There is something primal about the human connection and sound created by us. I would have been lost without it. It was definitely part of who I had become and remains an important part of my existence today.

Also during those influential years were influential films. I loved Lasse Hallstrom's My Life As A Dog (1985; 1987 USA). The sweet, and sometimes difficult trials in coming of age are captured beautifully while the protagonist often compares his journey to that of the fascinating story of Laika, the Russian dog in space. For whatever reason, I connected with the plight of that boy and that dog. That film and the music artists of that defining decade like Michael Hutchence who ironically wound up appearing in a film called Dogs In Space seemed to tap into a certain sense of discovery as well as an inability to put a handle on what it all means. It's something I constantly struggle with. That title seemed to capture the many unknowns of this life. Sometimes it feels like we're just floating along in that way. That, and the connection to Hutchence and the vast talent of the 1980s music scene seemed an awfully fitting title for a music blog.

As The The's Matt Johnson once penned rather eloquently in Slow Emotion Replay from Dusk (1993), "The more I see, the less I know."

So for the launch of this blog, Dog In Space, I really wanted a simple phrase that really sung to me and spoke volumes about the music from the era I loved of which I could wax poetic with connections to my own life. Sing Blue Silver from Duran Duran's The Chauffeur (Rio) was considered but unavailable. The Lizard Mixture (I always loved that phrase)seemed perfect. The lyric from Duran's New Moon On Monday (Seven And The Ragged Tiger) was also unavailable as a blog name. In fact, there's nothing more frustrating than folks who have taken these names and done absolutely nothing with them. I mean, if you have usurped a blog name, for the love of God, start bloody blogging. I actually tormented myself for a good week just trying to come up with a decent name for this blog. I turned to Thompson Twins, a-ha and others for the perfect catch phrase to coin for this blog. Say what you want about Simon Le Bon but the man can turn a phrase. Telegram Force from Union Of The Snake was also considered.

Ultimately I settled on Dog In Space because the blog is just me, in the singular, and it captured the music era that I loved, a feeling from that period that has endured with me from a film from that era that I loved. There was just an all around 80s connection of which this blog will indubitably focus but not be exclusive. This is a music blog and I won't confine myself to a single decade despite being the greatest of all. But music for all of us is intimately connected to memories and experiences. It seemed the perfect vehicle for trying something new while celebrating the past.

Music is in my blood. I wanted very much to reflect and muse about the music I love, inspired me and continues to inspire and hopefully keep the posts short and sweet. I hope you'll take on me and join this pleasure dome.

After all, this dog is still floating through space and aren't we all just dogs in space anyway?

Dogs In Space Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: It featured Dogs In Space, Golf Course, The Green Dragon and Rooms For The Memory by Michael Hutchence. It also included a contribution by Ollie Olsen. Olsen would collaborate with Hutchence on the excellent Max Q (1989) project. The brief INXS side project yielded strong selections including Sometimes, Way Of The World, Ghost Of The Year and Monday Night By Satellite.


  1. Has there been a stronger decade in sound and style? Well, sure, the 60's, specifically the late 60's going into the 70's. Though I'll admit probably the culmination of music and the time of the 80's was probably the best decade the music industry will ever see then or sadly again. I can identify with your fond remembrance of the decade and how it seemed that every week some new group or album was being put out. It was a euphoric and heady time for music and to be alive then. It was a fun decade for sure, but I don't think everything under that rainbow was pure gold.

    I too listened to MTV back then and bought many new records and bands. I like some of the punk stuff too, but now given hindsight, some of my favorite music is still from the decades I grew up in (Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Rolling Stones, etc.) and that might be the biggest influence on one's taste or at least a strong one. I think there's music from ever decade that is good and can be found. But for me, the 80's lost a lot of its sheen. Part of it too was by corporate design (granted that's not new, going back to the Beatles, and Elvis). But I think by the 80's the record companies realized how easy kids were to manipulate, how to produce bands, sell bands, and assembly line the results, and now they had a tool: MTV where they could influence them even further, along with fashion, etc. Sure I still enjoy some of that music and it brings back a lot of great memories, but I find that a lot of the punk music was made by amateur musicians that really amounts to three or four chords and a lousy haircut and a bunch of energy signifying nothing. The new age sound was more refined, but no less packaged, a bit too commercial for my own personal taste, wore pretty thin (disposable) after a few listens. A lot of the tunes were melodic, fun, and pretty accessible, if that's what one wishes in music. But beyond that initial experience, does anything remain to be attained from something commercial or hummable? Plus a lot of that, let's face it, was also wrapped up in corporate packaging--fancy haircuts and hip clothing.

    I'm not trying to knock what you like, I'm just voicing my own take on it. Somewhere around the grunge sound, which for me was nothing more than heavy metal making a comeback I decided I wanted more from music. It seemed it was getting too disposable. Sure some of the music I grew up with (C,S, & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, among many others) I still enjoyed, but the newer music (grunge) and the constant promotion of music as some sort of ploy, enticement to buy more, now buy this, was getting to me. It was buy this one week, the next week that's old, now buy this. I started to listen to classical, and some jazz. I wasn't new to jazz, but the classical opened up my head to something new. It has lasted the test of time, it's still around, and doesn't need MTV or a slick magazine to promote it.

    So that's about where I am today. I do still love music, new and old. It certainly has been one of the things that's given me solace in life.

  2. I'm not sure what to make of your thoughts here.
    Obviously they are pretty cynical towards Pop.
    And I understand that to some degree.

    But overall, and I certainly get what you are saying at the bottom of your second paragraph I just don't see it quite the same way.

    Certainly pop is pretty disposable and there is great pop across the decades. But for me a good tune or melody is pretty satisfying.

    And many artists that I do enjoy are still making music and have found ways to do so without the corporate packaging so I guess there is an audience for it.

    Jazz is a different story. But we agree different music is a pleasure in whatever form it finds its way to us.