Three Dog Night unleashes their deep stash of Top 10 hits on Salinas.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Three Dog Night – named after the indigenous Australian technique of cuddling with three wild dingoes instead of one on the extraordinarily cold nights – may have left the handlebar mustaches, the bellbottoms and the hard drugs behind, but the music continues to live on after four decades. In fact, echoes of “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” will bounce around Oldtown Salinas on Sunday night.
Their 1971 megahit “Joy to the World” (sometimes miscalled “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog”) will forever be an anthem synonymous with the golden era of ’70s pop; its hypnotic repetitiveness has made it an irresistible sing-a-long for children of all ages.
“Joy to the World” was just one of Three Dog Night’s 21 consecutive Top 40 hits churned out in the early ’70s (more than the Temptations). Three Dog Night sold so many records and concert tickets they’ve become one of the Top 10 highest grossing bands in rock and roll history.
They didn’t write their own music, but found a niche: uncovering golden nuggets of musical genius that were sometimes unknown to the world.
“Once we started getting hot, then we started getting songs sent to us,” Danny Hutton, one of the band’s original members, told popentertainment.com. “At the time, they were demo records. We had a ‘for sure’ pile, a ‘maybe’ pile and a ‘no’ pile. The ‘for sure’ pile would be very small.”
Hoyt Axton – an opening act who toured with Three Dog Night – originally penned “Joy to the World” for an animated television show that never aired. The band also reshaped tunes by songwriters Laura Nyro, Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman.
Their covers ultimately become original life forms all their own. Three Dog Night’s slow buildup to an eruptive peak in their version of Nilsson’s introspective “One” is epic. Their interpretation of Newman’s “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” is a landmark of the time: a melding of funk, rock and a side of disco that was later used as a definitive track on the Boogie Nights soundtrack. In 1969, their re-envisioned take on “Easy To Be Hard,” from the counterculture Broadway play Hair, was their first Top 10 hit.
Three Dog Night’s reign hasn’t come without its hiccups. Chuck Negron, one of the original-founding members, was fired from the band because of his heroin addiction. And keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon admitted in his autobiography, One Is The Loneliest Number, that he had a $500 a day heroin habit that ended up costing him most of his fortune. But through the addiction and a hiatus or two – the band reunited in the mid-’80s and has been touring ever since – the high energy of Three Dog Night keep both their crowds and themselves as warm as a pack of snuggling wild dogs.
THREE DOG NIGHT plays 7pm Sunday at Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $50, $75. 758-8459.