The 10 classic rock songs about dogs make reference to man’s supposed best friend. Some of the tunes mentioned are actually about a canine that has earned the honor to be sung about. There are also some that refer to dogs as a figure of speech. Either way, there is a dogmatic (pun intended) charm to the list of classic rock favorites mentioned in this article. For music fans who also happen to be dog lovers, perhaps you’ll find a song or two on the list that’s a personal favorite of yours.
10 Classic Rock Songs About Dogs
#10 – I Want a Dog (performed by Pet Shop Boys)
Released in 1987 from the album Actually, “I Want a Dog” was an upbeat song performed by the Pet Shop Boys that sang about the advantages that come with owning a dog. Playfully as a soft pop number, they sang about how a dog’s companionship conquers the feeling of loneliness in their own home. The unconditional love of a dog always welcomes home their masters and is always a best friend that can be counted on. There were several different breeds of dogs mentioned in the song, starting and ending with a Chihuahua as an apartment-friendly dog. While “I Want a Dog” may not be a standout favorite track from the same album that featured “It’s a Sin” there is a cuteness behind its easygoing, synth-heavy performance.
#9 – Dogs of Chernobyl (performed by Megadeth)
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine used the dogs left behind during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine as a reference to describe the end of a relationship. “Dogs of Chernobyl” featured a woman walking out on a man that made him feel abandoned. The inspiration behind the song came after Mustaine watched a horror movie about four children who were at the Chernobyl site and came across the dogs. For him, it triggered an emotional reaction at the thought of dogs being left behind instead of being allowed to evacuate with members of the human population. From there, “Dogs of Chernobyl” began to take shape and was included in the 2022 album, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
The song itself wasn’t about the conflict of war. The timing of the song’s release as the war between Russia and Ukraine erupted was a coincidence and nothing more. “Dogs of Chernobyl” came to Mustaine as a survivor of his throat cancer diagnosis in 2019. It was during this time he sought information about radiation poisoning as he wrote out the lyrics to this song. Thoughts of Chornobyl’s meltdown came to mind at that time, not war. The dogs referenced in “Dogs of Chernobyl” described the horror of uncertainty. The reality of not knowing what’s going to happen next is often too scary to think about, especially when trapped in such an unhealthy environment. Even though this song is the newest on the list, it’s still destined to become a classic. What’s great about “Dogs of Chernobyl” is the children laughing in the background as the ominous opening leads into a powerful riff that’s been a Megadeath trademark since the group began rocking sold-out concerts in 1983.
#8 – Dogs – Pink Floyd
We couldn’t put together a list of classic rock songs about dogs without including Pink Floyd’s classic track. The Pink Floyd song Dogs was originally released on the band’s album Animals. The album was released in 1977. Recently the band released a remixed version of the Animals album on vinyl that sounds incredible. We highly recommend any Pink Floyd to pick up the 2018 vinyl release of one of the band’s greatest album releases.
#7 – Martha My Dear (performed by The Beatles)
Written by Paul McCartney, “Martha My Dear” was an incredible love song about his sheepdog. Recorded by The Beatles for their 1968 double album, it was also suggested it had something to do with the breakup McCartney had with Jane Asher. “Martha My Dear” was a popular song that was covered by a number of recording artists but nothing beats the original. This is a beautiful pop song that’s proven to be a timeless easy-listening fan favorite. It’s playful and easily identifiable as a Beatles classic. Whether listened to as a song about a dog or about a loved one, there is a nostalgic charm to this song that’s just too irresistible to ignore.
#6 – Diamond Dogs (performed by David Bowie)
“Diamond Dogs” was the title track from David Bowie’s album that was released in 1974. Performing with the “Halloween Jack” persona, Bowie made heavy use of a guitar sound that signaled his drift away from the glam rock image he became famous for. This was deemed an unusual single released by David Bowie and it only peaked as high as number twenty-one on the UK Singles Chart.
While his native country found “Diamond Dogs” too brooding for their liking, it became a favorite among North American fans when Bowie toured Canada and the United States right after Diamond Dogs was released as an album. “Diamond Dogs” was never officially released as a single outside of Europe but holds its ground as a favorite among David Bowie fans. “Diamond Dogs” was performed as a sci-fi-style post-apocalyptic song that came across as an angry arena of metaphorical dogs duking it out.
#5 – Dog Eat Dog (performed by AC/DC)
Released in Australia as a single in 1977, “Dog Eat Dog” came from AC/DC’s album, Let There Be Rock. It became a number sixty hit on its official music chart. The songwriting team of Bon Scott, Angus Young, and Malcolm Young used dogs as a reference to describe the ruthlessness of the corporate world. AC/DC technically sang about the dog-eat-dog world of the music industry, knowing how difficult it is to get noticed and earn a decent record deal. This is also a mentality that applies to everyday life as people struggle to survive in what sometimes feels like the world has turned into a fighting dog pit.
The signature riffs and Scott’s vocal performance made “Dog Eat Dog” a popular favorite, especially after fans outside Australia learned about these men from the land of Down Under. Not long after AC/DC became popular in North America, “Dog Eat Dog” became a favorite song of choice on programs like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Crazy canines caught on film would have their footage shown on television which was sure to have the audience erupt in laughter.
#4 – By-Tor and the Snow Dog (performed by Rush)
“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” was a title that came to Rush’s road manager, Howard Ungerleider, after encountering two dogs at a party he was at. One was a German Shepherd while the other was a tiny white dog. The German Shepherd’s name was By-Tor because he always bit whoever entered Ungerleider’s house. The tiny white dog was the snow dog referenced in the song.
“By-Tor and the Snow Dog” was broken into four parts that had guitarist Alex Lifeson perform as the snow dog while vocalist Geddy Lee took on the role of By-Tor. It was a battle between the two dogs that saw the nervous little snow dog emerge victorious. This recording was featured on the 1974 album, Fly by Night and it was released in 1975. This was also the first recording that had Neil Peart in the lineup as the band’s drummer and lyricist.
For eight and a half minutes, “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” started off as a song that would later have 1975’s “The Necromancer” emerge as its mythological sequel. Fly by Night and “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” marked the beginning of a new era Rush as newcomer Peart played a key role in the group’s rise to global stardom. Embracing the realm of fantasy in their musical material was a niche Rush perfected as a progressive rock band that won millions of dedicated fans worldwide.
#3 – I Love My Dog (performed by Cat Stevens)
“I Love My Dog” was the first single released by Cat Stevens. When it was released as a single in 1966, it peaked as high as number twenty-eight on the UK Singles Chart. This debut from his first studio album, Matthew and Son, paved the way for Stevens to become a folk-rock legend around the world. In the song, he made it clear a dog’s love is unconditional. Although the song pointed out Stevens loved the leading lady in his life, the love he had for his dog was equal.
He also pointed out his dog will always come through when times get tough, even if for some reason his love interest doesn’t do the same. For Stevens, the inspiration behind this song came from a dachshund he found tied to a post outside a bookstore in London, England. When he realized it seemed to be abandoned, he took it home with him. “I Love My Dog” was a song that earned Stevens the first record deal that would lead him to global stardom. “I Love My Dog” is as classic as it gets when singing about dogs and how much we love them.
#2 – Black Dog (performed by Led Zeppelin)
Released by Led Zeppelin as a single in 1971, “Black Dog” was a song that came about after the band encountered a nameless black Labrador Retriever. The dog wandered around the Headley Grange mansion located in Hampshire, England, and the band members fed it whenever they saw it. At the time, they were trying to come up with a name for a song they were writing at the time. As it turned out, they thought about the friendly canine and came up with “Black Dog.” The idea of the song itself came to John Paul Jones after hearing music from Muddy Waters. He wanted to take a stab at electric blues with rolling bass, along with a riff that would become part of the song’s journey.
It was a formula that worked as it became one of the greatest classic rock songs of all time. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Black Dog” became a number fifteen hit. Around the world, except for the UK, “Black Dog” was released as a single and became a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and Switzerland. On the US Cash Box chart, it was a number nine hit. Traditionally, Led Zeppelin wouldn’t release singles in their home nation but it still became a popular favorite as enough copies were sold that earned “Black Dog” a silver certification with the British Phonographic Industry.
“Black Dog” became one of Led Zeppelin’s signature songs and was a concert staple whenever they performed on stage. Many aspiring rock stars and recording artists covered their own versions of “Black Dog” but none are as iconic as Robert Plant’s legendary vocal performance. What makes “Black Dog” so memorable is the acapella performance by Plant at the song’s start. From there, the guitar riffs dictate the direction of this song that has become Led Zeppelin’s signature classic.
The song itself didn’t make any direct references to dogs. The title was used as a metaphor as the singer felt like a dog abandoned by a woman who stole his car as she ran off, stealing his car in the process. “Black Dog” came as a title that would become one of the most identifiable songs that defined Led Zeppelin’s legacy as one of the greatest guitar bands of all time.
#1 – Hound Dog (performed by Elvis Presley)
Originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton in August 1952, “Hound Dog” reached the height of its fame after the iconic Elvis Presley covered his version of it four years later. His version sold over ten million copies worldwide and remains on the list as one of the greatest songs of all time. When his version was released as a single, it topped the US Billboard Hot 100, the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
In 1988, Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It’s also listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” also holds the record as one of the best-selling singles of all time. This is a timeless rock classic only Elvis Presley himself could perform with such tenacity. Thornton’s version was no slouch, either. Hers was an R&B classic that also earned a spot on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2013, her version was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The popularity of “Hound Dog” was covered by several recording artists and was constantly subject to controversies and lawsuits. As for the two most recognized versions of it, Thornton’s “Hound Dog” made reference to a man who did her wrong. Presley’s “Hound Dog” literally made reference to a dog that didn’t quite measure up as the ideal companion the singer hoped for. Presley’s alteration of the lyrics was deliberate and was designed to be a silly song. At the time, Presley’s lyrical performance was harshly criticized by executives of the music industry. After selling millions of copies and winning over scores of fans, there was no denying Presley’s raw talent and star power. Just like Presley himself, “Hound Dog” is an iconic rock legend.
Feature Photo: Michael Hardy/ Unsplash
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