Dogs' Life

British punk-era warriors Slaughter and the Dogs regroup for a shot at the respect they never got

A moment of air on the phone line is followed with, "I always wondered what'd be like to be inside Wayne's head for 10 minutes."

In 1976 journalist Caroline Coon was significant because she was the first mainstream critic to delineate the punk scene for a wider audience outside of the Xeroxed pages of Sniffin' Glue fanzine. She compartmentalized punk rock as a cultural movement, and grouped older pub bands like Eddie and the Hot Rods in with punk's first wave spearheaded by the Pistols. She defined the scene in broad terms, and England now had a new phenomenon.

"The atmosphere among the punk bands on the circuit at the moment is positively cut-throat," Coon wrote in a 1976 issue of Melody Maker. "It's the Before or After Sex Pistol debate: 'We saw Johnny Rotten and he CHANGED our attitudes to music' (The Clash, Buzzcocks), or 'We played like this ages like this before the Sex Pistols' (Slaughter and the Dogs), or 'We are miles better than the Sex Pistols' (The Damned). They are very aware that they are part of a new movement and each one wants to feel that he played a part in starting it."

Slaughter and the Dogs: Punk's unheralded graduates of the class of '76.
Slaughter and the Dogs: Punk's unheralded graduates of the class of '76.
Slaughter and the Dogs: Trying to avoid the pathetic punk reunion land mine.
Slaughter and the Dogs: Trying to avoid the pathetic punk reunion land mine.


Scheduled to perform on Sunday, February 3, with Beltones, Pistol Grip and Glass Heroes. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Boston's in Tempe

By '77, the Dogs were sitting in the UK Top 30 with two tracks alongside the Buzzcocks, Wire and X-Ray Spex on the now-essential Live at the Roxy (Jan-April '77). They'd supported both the Pistols and the Damned in London and had garnered a countrywide fan base. They had signed to Decca and were about to release a string of well-received singles. The promise of punk rock was ripe and glowing. The promise had taken the Dogs out of dreary Manchester.

Rossi reminisces: "The very first time we had ever been on a plane it was like, 'This is Great! We're going to Holland for shows!'"

Punk success allowed the Wythenshawe teens access to their rock-star heroes, namely Mott/Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. Rossi would ditch school early on to see Ronson's solo Slaughter on 10th Avenue tour dates.

"I was a huge Bowie/Ronson fan as a kid," Rossi enthuses. "At one gig I was down in front and Mick recognized me from being at the Sheffield show. It made my day. So that night me and a pal had sleeping bags and we were gonna sleep at the train station to wait for the train. First we waited backstage to meet Mick. We wound up at a party back at his hotel. At one point we were gonna leave to get to the station. But Ronson went ahead and had gotten us a room at the hotel. The man was an absolute gentleman, always helpful, an angel really, besides being one of the absolute best guitarists that ever lived. That's how our friendship started.

"When we got the record deal with Decca," he continues, "I called up Ronson and asked him to play on the record. You know, I was so innocent and we were such kids. That's the great thing about being so young 'cause you don't know any better so you just speak from the heart. I called him up like the excited teenager that I was, and I go, 'Hey, Mick, I just got my first Gibson. We're recording at Decca studios where Bowie did Diamond Dogs! Do you wanna come down and play something?'" Rossi pauses to let a breath of nostalgic laughter pass. He continues, "So Ronson just goes, (here he affects a posh rock star tone) 'Yeah, sure.'

"We had money from the record deal so I had bought all this new equipment because I never had any. Mick came down, strapped the guitar on and kinda reset my amp. Within minutes I heard the exact Ziggy Stardust sound! I was like, 'Oh, my God!' After he left, I copied all his settings, man."

Ronson guested on the band's single, a rattleboxy version of the Kasenetz-Katz bubblegum classic "Quick Joey Small," and also a cover of the New York Dolls' "Who Are the Mystery Girls."

Slaughter and the Dogs' 1977 Nick Tauber-produced debut, Do It Doggie Style, is the only place on earth where the Bowie guitarist can be heard playing a New York Dolls song on a punk-rock record. The debut holds up surprisingly well for both Ronson fans and punk-rock purists; very punk garage, a kinda tattered, teen-angsty Shadows of Knight meets early Alice Cooper. A worthy import reissue is available through UK label Captain Oi.

On Do It Doggie Style's second tour, the band hit its peak and sold out London's 3,000 seat Lyceum Theatre. For a bunch of teens from Northern England, life, it would appear, was grand.

Then the inertia set in. UK punk began earnestly reiterating its own arrogance ad nauseam and the fuck-boredom-let's-get-smashed-and-break-shit stance became who's-the-biggest-rock-star pose. And Rotten's naive notion that rage could inspire wreckage unfortunately was not supported in most of the buzz-saw seven-inches imported out of London in late 1977. Though the Clash, you'll recall, stayed the course.

The Dogs' highs went low. With steadfast rumors that singer Barrett was a bit off-center, the band suddenly fell apart.

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