Atomic Fun Link

|

Friday fun link: the video for George Clinton's "Atomic Dog." This gets sampled all the time, but when was the last time you heard the whole song? While you're watching, enjoy the early-'80s video-game imagery and reflect on the fact that it once seemed futuristic.

Footnote: This was a monster hit in 1983, but only on the R&B charts; while Prince and Michael Jackson were crossing over to the pop Top 40, Clinton was shut out completely. The 12-year-old Jesse Walker was puzzled each week when he read the various top 10 lists in the newspaper and watched this record he'd never heard hang onto the #1 spot on the black chart for a month. Later I'd learn just how strange the racial politics of '80s radio could be when I picked up the album Sun City, a "We Are the World"-style multi-artist effort aimed at eradicating apartheid. In order to get some airplay on white rock stations, the LP's producers, with no visible sense of irony, included a second version of the title song with all the rappers removed.

Bonus footnote: "Atomic Dog" was also the nickname of the fetal-rights terrorist James Charles Kopp.

Double secret extra bonus: Ace Backwords imagines a different outcome to the 1992 election.

NEXT: "FrankenTrees" On The March—Scientists Report Sequencing First Tree Genome

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Jesse, you were 12 in 1983 and never heard “Atomic Dog”? What a square! Try changing the radio dial man!

  2. Changing the radio dial didn’t help: I was square to the nines. Back in those days my favorite song was “Mr. Roboto.”

  3. …and you know what? I still kinda like it.

  4. George Clinton/PFunk had all kinds of R&B hits dating back to the late ’60s (“I Wanna Testify” by the Parliaments in ’68), but his only major crossover pop hit was “Flashlight” in ’77.

    But the PFunk was always probably a little too ‘out there’ for mainstream pop success, including “Atomic Dog.” Prince and Michael Jackson made a lot more bland music back then that could make it to Top-40 radio, even though Prince has gone on to do a lot of cool stuff since then.

  5. Don’t feel bad, Jesse. I was jamming to Tainted Love and Hungry Like a Wolf (maybe ’84).

  6. apropos that last link, wasn’t there also an Onion article about George Clinton threatening to drop da bomb on Iraq?

  7. with no visible sense of irony, included a second version of the title song with all the rappers removed.

    Hate to be the contrarian, but this has more to do with style and preferential taste. As a white guy who is quite an afficianado of Rap and much Black(tm) music in general, I happen to be acquainted with a large number of white folks who hate rap. As such, radio stations whose primary audience are white folks wouldn’t get near an albumn with rappers on the marquis. I don’t see this as a ‘racist’ thing, I see it for what it is: branding.

    Rap was relatively new to white audiences in the 1980’s and as such didn’t enjoy the broad audience that it does today. It was looked upon as a novelty at best, from most white audiences. 50 Cent is practically a household name today.

    Aside: I remember listening to a rock station in El Paso texas back in 1986, when The Beastie Boys released their first albumn. The DJ played it on a special show (apparently he had not listened to it prior to his show) and about the third track in, he stopped the show and went into a five minute hyphenated rant about how badly it sucked. The rappers are, as we all know, white. The album: License to Ill

    It shot to the top of the charts.

  8. Oh, I understand the dynamic. But don’t you think it’s funny that an anti-apartheid album would include a special all-white version of the title track?

  9. […]it’s funny that an anti-apartheid album would include a special all-white version of the title track?

    I do, and the irony-o-meter does register. Anyone have any data on how popular the albumn was with the young (white) kids in South Africa?

  10. George Clinton threatening to drop da bomb on Iraq?

    On Stankonia (oct 2000 release date) Outkast did a tune called Bombs over Baghdad.

    Just sayin’.

  11. I have memories of George Clinton on Letterman playing “Atomic Dog.” When I peer through the pipes, all I can find is an appearance from 1986 with Garry Shider and the Late Night band where they play “Give Up the Funk.” The performance that I recall featured George setting up a loop and maybe playing with the Paul & the band, but I don’t remember any other Funkateers with George. Does anyone have any info about this or are my memories becoming just the way I wish things had been?

  12. A 45 of “Mr Roboto” was the first recording I ever owned.

  13. I remember years ago reading a piece in the Village Voice about how “Atomic Dog” was played on the sound system before some concert, and how all the black kids grooved while the white kids stood in silence. The writer then castigated the white kids for not knowing about something so important to the black kids.

    That was the moment I realized the Village Voice was written by dicks.

  14. George Clinton/PFunk had all kinds of R&B hits dating back to the late ’60s (“I Wanna Testify” by the Parliaments in ’68), but his only major crossover pop hit was “Flashlight” in ’77.

    Comment by: ChrisO at September 15, 2006 12:29 PM

    “Tear the Roof off the Sucker” did pretty well, too.

  15. Didn’t you guys have MTV in’83? I was few years older but I distinctly remember the first time I saw the “Atomic Dog” video. I knew who Clinton was but that was the first time I had seen him. I was like, “Look at this crazy mofo!” Good times, good times.

  16. I have never been fully won over by rap, and I was a big fan of punk/new wave as early as 1977. The Beasties, one must remember, failed as punks. They were notoriously inept at playing their instruments, which, when one is talking about punk, is really saying something. I hear they are better players by now. 🙂

    Toastin, MCing and rapping are all part of the same schtick, which can be quite clever, but I, and millions of white guys the world over, have a limited tolerance for “musicians” who can’t (or won’t) produce a frickin’ melody!

    Kevin

  17. Toastin, MCing and rapping are all part of the same schtick, which can be quite clever, but I, and millions of white guys the world over, have a limited tolerance for “musicians” who can’t (or won’t) produce a frickin’ melody!

    Sometimes the melody is quite subtle. It could be part of the looped samples or it could be part of the rap. Some MCs are quite good at rapping a melody (e.g. Cee-Lo who is currently half of the crazy-big Gnarls Barkley). It is also important to remember that there is music that is rhythm based rather than melody based. Rock’n’roll, jazz, heck, just about ALL American music styles were born of a combination of European melodies and African rhythms. If one listens with an open ear, so to speak, one can find that music that seemed to be lacking an essential ingredient on initial listens actually has many different pleasures to be mined.

    But really, I don’t care if you don’t like rap, hip-hop, Fela Kuti, or Babatunde Olatunji. That’s your business.

  18. highnumber:

    Please note that I said limited tolerance, not no tolerance. As for the melody being part of a sample, my grandparents’ generation had a joke about that:

    Q. So, do you play a musical instrument?

    A. Yes, The Victrola.*

    Actually, I quite like some Afro-pop, on the occasions that I encounter it. As for my preference for melody, I grew up singing, and am just not as enamored of tuneless chants. When really well done, I enjoy it, but Sturgeon’s Law applies as much to rap as to everything else.

    Hip-hop need not be rap, though it certainly includes it.

    Kevin

    *Granda worked for the Victor Company. 🙂

  19. Why must I feel like that?
    Why must I chase the cat?
    Ain’t nothin’ but the dog in me.

    Word

  20. Very nice Jesse, very Friday, and very fun. But can monsieur Clinton ever top the deep artistry and subtle contrast between gender empowerment and crass exploitation of this multimedia triumph?

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=LcTshXcHhsg

  21. George was responsible for one of the best lines in all of pop lyricdom: “My heart wrote a check that my ass couldn’t cash…”

    Or, something like that…

  22. …then there’s Shit, God Damn, Get Off Your Ass And Jam. He should’ve won the Pulitzer for that one; hell, if they can give one to that asshole Wynton Marsalis…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.