September 24, 2020

The album opens with with two authentic slices of ripped-jeans, glue-and-speed teenage punk thunder…

Ah, classic first-generation UK punk! For those of us who were in our teens at the time, this sort of thing is invariably fantastic nostalgia, evoking memories of a time which was genuinely exciting to be a part of. Even though it was trumpeted very much as a ‘which side are you on?’ situation by the likes of the NME and Sounds weeklies, it was more than that. I, and many others I knew, still adored our Pink Floyd, Yes, Zeppelin and Sabbath collections, of course, but at the same time there was a real sense of this being ‘our’ music, in a generational sense. Back then, your parents were genuinely scared of the Sex Pistols – it wasn’t just a case of ‘turn that rubbish off’, it was seen and feared as a real threat to society, and it was hard not to get caught up in that when you were fifteen. However, while the ethos behind the punk movement was the ‘anyone can form a band’ idea, much of the music still holds up today as being real quality, hard and fast rock music. The Pistols, the Damned, the Clash, the Saints et al, of course. But another contender one rung lower on the fame ladder were Manchester foursome Slaughter And The Dogs – and this, their sole album before the original line-up split just as it was being released.

Do It Dog Style, back cover (reproduced in booklet)

In fact, the origin of the band name is a good deal less violent and more musical than one might think, being a combination of two of the band’s favourite albums – Mick Ronson’s Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. Now, naturally, this fact didn’t exactly feature high up on the Dogs’ CV at the time, but it does become all the more understandable when listening to the original Do It Dog Style album, featured here on Disc One of this three-disc set, as the musicianship is far better than one might assume from the title and fearsome cover illustration. The album does open, however, with two authentic slices of ripped-jeans, glue-and-speed teenage punk thunder. Track one is what many still consider their masterpiece, the immortal Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone. Lampooning the hippy-dippy song title Where Have All The Flowers Gone, it hurtles out of the traps like greyhounds down at the dog track on a Friday night, and simply tears along as you hold on for the ride. It’s also a song with a message, however, as the former skinhead ‘boot boy’ of the title laments the fact that all of his old gang have grown up leaving him as a relic of his past. It’s a theme which can resonate with anyone who belonged to a particular ‘scene’ in their youth, and it is punk lightning in a bottle. Victim Of The Vampire follows in a similar vein (pun intended!), and though still impressive fuels feelings that this may be simply a blast of adrenaline from days of yore.

Not so, however, as Boston Babies, up next, is much closer to an Eddie And The Hot Rods type of R&B-influenced high energy rocker, and the first signs of the band’s true musical chops come in. Drummer Brian ‘Mad Muffet’ Grantham contributes some brilliant 100mph fills which really catch the ear, while the bass lines of Howard ‘Zip’ Bates are inventive and melodic (indeed, it is Bates’ bass work which shines perhaps brightest of all across the album), and guitarist Mick Rossi peels off a thrilling solo toward the end. Even Wayne Barrett’s vocals are ‘cleaner’, as he doesn’t strive for an overly ‘punk’ delivery. The first two tracks are great, but some variation was needed, and from here on it comes in spades. A cover of Lou Reed’s Waiting For The Man swaps the original’s sleazy groove for a heavy riff treatment, and pulls it off superbly.

Contemporary press ad, reproduced in booklet

Another cover, this time of the old chestnut Quick Joey Small (Run Joey Run) features guest guitar from none other than Barrett’s guitar hero Mick Ronson, and it is a masterful version, at once powerful yet extremely catchy and memorable. Released as a single, it really should have been a big hit. Other highlights pepper the second half of the album, including finale Dame To Blame and – perhaps the album’s high point – the much more nuanced Since You Went Away, on which Mick Rossi’s guitar takes centre stage. Tasteful and restrained embellishing the gentler first section of the song, he goes on to unleash his inner ‘Free Bird’ as he solos superbly over the storming close. There’s even a cover of the New York Dolls’ Who Are The Mystery Girls, which gives the Dolls themselves a proper run for their money. Some of this material isn’t a whole world away from some of Alice Cooper’s more ‘garage’ sounding stuff from his early ’70s albums. It’s an extremely underrated album.

Disc Two is a round-up of archive and unreleased material called ‘Cranked Up Really High’, and while it is variable, it contains some essential material. Chief among these is, of course, the song Cranked Up Really High itself, the band’s first single, and something of a punk touchstone. In fact, it is a rather clever lyric, as it avoided the censors by appearing to be a celebration of musical volume when it is actually about heroin. Omitted from the album at the time, no collection would be complete without this one. There is also the very first batch of four tracks the band recorded, which only eventually got a release in 1979, including the seminal, proto-metal schlock-horror of Edgar Allan Poe. Two live tracks which appeared on the revered compilation album The Roxy, London, WC2 are very pleasingly included, as are some other B-sides and singles. Four more live tracks are exciting if not the best quality, but nice to have.

The third disc contains a live album from 1978 recorded in Manchester entitled Live Slaughter Rabid Dogs, originally a limited release, and is really entertaining for some of the between song banter, including the band’s berating of some troublesome elements in the crowd, especially after ‘a pint pot’ is announced by (presumably) a very irritated Rossi to have hit his guitar, but failed to break it! The band did not back down from a disruptive presence, that much is evident. There’s some great playing, but the mix could be better, with the vocals largely much too high – surprising for an official album (if not a major label release). In truth, this is very much a bonus though – the real meat, and what most people will want above all, one suspects, is the original album and the key tracks from Disc Two. And they won’t be disappointed.

There’s a great multi-fold digipak with studio notes from the original recording reprinted, and also a reproduction of the original Live Slaughter album cover, which was a white card sleeve with just a sticker and a stamp with the band name and logo. Needless to say there is a photo-packed booklet with much more info about these original Dog Days. Great stuff, and well overdue this treatment. Where have all the boot boys gone? Right here. But this time without kicking your head in. Your ears, now maybe…

1+