This classic funk song explains why men are always going after women: It's because they have a little a dog in them, and dogs chase cats.
Clinton admitted to being in an "enhanced" state when he recorded this, entering the studio "blind as a bat and out of my head." For most earthly beings, this would result in nothing more than cosmic slop, but Clinton was used to working under these conditions - he created much of his Funkadelic material on acid.
He came up with the opening spoken line, "This is a story of a famous dog," and ad-libbed the rest of the lyrics, stumbling on the hook:
Why must I feel like that
Why must I chase the cat
It's nothin' but the dog in me
When this section materialized, he knew he had a song.
Clinton worked on this song with his longtime musical director Garry Shider and with the keyboard player David Spradley, both of whom put together the track and share the songwriting credits with Clinton.
This dog barks and pants throughout the song. Clinton had his vocalists add to the rhythm and percussion by making the dog noises.
The unique sounding rhythm of this song is a result of a simple two-bar drum beat, played backwards using tape.
Clinton got really into arcade games (especially Galaga) when he developed the album, which is why he called it Computer Games. Much of the album explores the advance of technology and the coming computer age, but he wanted to balance that out with a primal vibe - a reminder that no matter how advanced we become as a civilization, men are still dogs at the core. The synthesizer on this song represents the technology, which is offset by the pure instinct of the dog.
"'I'm chasin' the cat' and lines like that, I was just doing that symbolically, like chasin' a woman or chasin' whatever, those instinctive things that you don't have much to do with, the automatic muscles," Clinton told Creem in 1983.
When Clinton taped his vocals, the backing music was playing backward due to an engineer's error. Clinton didn't even notice.
The music of Rufus Thomas was an influence on this track. Thomas used the dog as a symbol for man's animal instinct on many of his tracks, most famously "Walking the Dog
" in 1963.
This was a #1 R&B hit for four weeks, starting on April 16, 1983, when it knocked Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean
" from the top spot.
Computer Games was first George Clinton solo album. He mixed and matched musicians throughout the '70s for his groups Funkadelic and Parliament, along with a parcel of other projects. This made for lots of inventive music, but the legal issues eventually caught up with him, since labels don't like their artists working for the competition. By recording under his own name, he was able to push forward while the issues with his other projects sorted out. Many of his Parliament/Funkadelic musicians played on the album, including guitarist Eddie Hazel, bass player Bootsy Collins, sax man Maceo Parker and keyboard player Bernie Worrell.
Fallout from "Atomic Dog" showed up in hundreds of songs that sampled it. Among them:
" by Digital Underground
"Brothers Gonna Work It Out" by Public Enemy (1990)
"My Summer Vacation," "No Vaseline
" by Ice Cube (1991)
"Pumps And A Bump" by MC Hammer (1994)
"Bow Wow (That's My Name)" by Lil' Bow Wow (2000)
"American Way" by Nas ft. Kelis (2004)
Clinton likes to point out that this was written and released in the Chinese Year of the Dog - 1982.
Snoop Doggy Dogg sampled this on his first single, "What's My Name," changing "Atomic Dog" to "Snoop Doggy Dogg." Snoop is a big fan of George Clinton; they appeared together in Nike commercials in 2002.
The album version runs 4:46; the single was cut to 4:15, with the 12-inch "Atomic Mix" clocking in at 10 minutes. When Clinton and P-Funk play it live, it can go on for quite a bit longer.