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.