The Family Dogg: It’s Just a Way of Life

There can’t have many people excited at the arrival of a long awaited Family Dogg compilation.  But when one landed in my work in-tray several days ago, fresh off the CD press, I was eager to get home and hear what it had to offer.

I have a vague memory – so vague as to be almost a sort of sensory dream – of being exposed to that Dogg genre of finger-clicking harmony-pop in its heyday when I was very small.  It would have been the music which wafted from Sandra’s tranny next door, through her open back door as I spent many hours on my garden swing.  And I think of it too when I went into the kitchens of friends’ houses after school for orange squash and Playbox biscuits.  The radio would be on – Radio 2, I think, which I never heard in our house – and the sound which accompanied that great after-school feeling and the warm kitchen smell would be The Family Dogg, or something very like it.  That swinging, oooh-waaah!!  Doggy sound coloured the air and made me feel happy.

The Family Dogg is the sound of music before I could put a name to music, simply there, a part of childhood, a way of life.  I instinctively liked it and yet it seemed to come from a place not quite known to me.  My parents were exclusively Radio 4 (and sometime Radio 3) listeners.  I could hear that this harmony-rich music shared something of the ease and good-time grooviness of advertisement soundtracks – sort of mid-way between Martini and ‘you can be sure of Sure. ’ It aspired to a kind of adult sophistication through a pop sensibility and yet as a five year-old didn’t feel entirely out of my reach.  It was the music liked by settled-down people in their thirties so the fact that I liked it too maybe made me feel a bit grown-up. With no older brothers or sisters to soak up a rock sensibility from above, it felt like I had a direct line to this kind of thing.  And I could sing – as well as swing – along to it.  Now, when I hear the intros to I’ll Wear a Silly Grin, or Julie’s Just Gone I almost expect the breezy voice of Jimmy Young to come-in over the top, promising us a recipe after this one from The Family Dogg.  It is the sound of 1960s suburbia, for adults, heard by children like me.

So it felt right that when I got my purchase home, and noticing the windows needed cleaning, I put on CD1 and got to it with a squeegee. And on a cool, fabulously sunny April evening something of that old happiness came back to me.  The afternoon had been taken up with a dull meeting at work but now all felt right with the world again.  Maybe that’s how Sandra felt in 1969 too.  I know I did.

The Family Dogg: A Way of Life: Anthology 1967-76

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