In past articles we’ve looked at classic Floyd songs like Echoes and Comfortably Numb, which both are favourites to many and the essence of David’s tone from two eras. Still, the song that brings out the enthusiastic grin on most of us is of course Dogs. For me it was what got me into this crazy hobby – trying to figure out how the hell David got his magical tone. In this article we’ll examine the history of Dogs, David’s tone and playing on the different versions and ways to get THE tone.
Dogs dates back to the middle of the Dark Side of the Moon tour. Pink Floyd had been performing Dark Side in its entirety since early 1972 – a whole year before the album was released and as they kept on adding new dates to the tour they badly needed new material. In October 1974, after a short tour in France in June, the band spent four weeks at the Elstree Film Studios and King’s Cross in London producing a brand new stage show for the upcoming British (British Winter Tour ’74) and North American tours. During the session they wrote two new songs – Have a Cigar and You Gotta be Crazy (later renamed Dogs). Roger’s lyrics dealt with his frustration and anger towards politics, the music industry and self-centred people who if needed would kill to get what they wanted – a theme he had also used for Shine On, Sheep and Have a Cigar. David wrote most of the music later stated that he was particularly proud of the chord progression.
While Have a Cigar and Sheep was two fairly basic rock songs, Dogs had much of the same structure as Shine On with elements stretching right back to Atom Heart Mother and Echoes. The earliest version even had a long choir part in the middle section, similar to what David and Richard used to do on the 4-piece live version of Atom. Throughout the 1974-75 tour Roger would rewrite the lyrics several times as David found it too hard to sing – there were just too many words (Musician, August 1992).
Sheep and Dogs revealed a heavier side of Pink Floyd. Although the band never fully entered the prog rock scene they used elements in their compositions blending it with their deep roots in blues and jazz. Dogs is perhaps one of the more prog oriented songs they’ve written with several tempo changes and various different bits and pieces pasted together rather than building dynamics on the same chords throughout as they often did on many of the earlier songs.
Pink Floyd recorded Animals in their new studio Britannia Row between April and December 1976. David’s main setup included:
Fender Telecaster Custom
- 1959 two-colour sunburst ash body and rosewood neck
Ovation Legend acoustic steel string guitar
Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads
- with Mullard 4xEL34’s power tubes and 4xECC83’s pre-amp tubes
WEM Super Starfinder 200 cabinets
- with 4×12” Fane Crescendo speakers
Yamaha RA-200 revolving speaker cabinet
All acoustic rhythms were recorded with an Ovation Legend steel string. There are two tracks paned to each side. A Telecaster was used for all electrics – both rhythms and leads – fed into a split between a Hiwatt 100w head with a WEM speaker cab and a Yamaha rotating speaker cab. On 1974-75 live performances the Telecaster had a Gibson PAF pickup in neck position that was later replaced with a Seymour Duncan custom Telecaster pickup for the Animals tour. It’s not documented if this was before or after the recording sessions but David is mostly using the bridge pickup anyway. Note that all guitars were tuned down one step to D G C F A D. This was also done on the live performances.
According to Pete Cornish, drawings for a new pedal board dates back to early 1976 while he began the work around early June. As it probably took some months to finish one can only assume that the board wasn’t used on the album as David might have recorded his guitars earlier on. In an interview with Guitar Player in January 2009, Phil Taylor says that he introduced David to the Big Muff as early as 1974 (Phil joined as road crew in June 1974 and bought a lot of new equipment for David during the summer months including new Hiwatts, WEM cabs and the Jedson slides) although there’s no sign of it in David’s 1974-75 rig nor can it be heard. It was also around this time when David and Phil started tracking down vintage guitars, some of which are still in David’s possession today like the ’55 Fender Esquire (as seen on the About Face cover), the #0001 Strat and the ’58 Gretsch Duo Jet (last used on Where We Start studio and live versions).
David used an Electro Harmonix 1973 ”ram’s head” Big Muff for all the leads, which were blended with the Yamaha rotating speaker giving his tones a nice swirling character. If you compare the fast solo between verse 2 and 3 with the bluesy solo in the mid section of the song you can hear how David uses the Yamaha to create dynamics between a wet swirling tone and by not using the effect a dry, earpinching tone.
Early live version 1974-75
The early version of Dogs is quite different to the version that ended up on the Animals album years later – both in terms of David’s playing and tone and the song’s structure. As with Shine On and Sheep, Dogs was a very rough diamond and didn’t really take shape until the North American shows in early 1975.
David’s tone is a huge contrast to the bright, earpinching Hendrix influenced Dark Side of the Moon tones. As on Shine On, David’s using a combo of the Colorsound Powerboost + MXR Phase 90 + Binson Echorec throughout the song – rhythms and all solos. His playing is much more blues oriented than what he later did on the album and bare strong resemblance to many of his influences like BB King and Peter Green. One can almost imagine that as much as the band is tired of playing the Dark Side of the Moon album, David is equally fed up with his screaming fuzz tones and has gone all old school bashing out Albert King riffs if they were his own. This approach also makes a nice contrast to the seemingly prog oriented structure of the song.
”Manchester Day”, Manchester, UK 9 December 1974
- One of the earliest known recordings of Dogs. Check out the choir part in the middle section. Incredibly soulful.
”Ivor Wynne Suite”, Ontario, Canada 28 June 1975
- Great show and awesome playing from David and perhaps one of the best sources of the Colorsound Powerboost + MXR Phase 90 tone.
Album and 1977 tour version
Both Dogs and Sheep were ditched from the Wish You Were Here album and it took another two years for them to be released on what is often referred to as Floyd’s final escape from their psychedelic past. As the warm, organic almost comforting sound on Wish You Were Here is a powerful contrast to Roger’s lyrics about alienation and psychological absence, Animals is a throughout cold and sterile album underlining some of the most aggressive lyrics Roger has ever written.
Animals and perhaps Dogs in particular includes some of David’s most untypical and innovative work. Although the solos resembles those he played on the early version they’re now much more defined – and more solos if you will – rather than just random blues improvisation. David’s tone has also drastically changed from being warm and soulful as on the previous albums to a cold and bright presence. This only strengthens the aggressive feel of the album and David’s playing cuts through the mix like a sharp knife running right through your spine.
While the studio version includes acoustic guitars for the rhythms David would play this on his Telecaster as in 1974-75 only now with the Electric Mistress, instead of the Phase 90 (on the first 3-4 shows he would use the Phase 100). Both David and Snowy played the twin or duet solos.
Animals marks a new era in terms of David’s tones – an era that included his first solo album in 1978, The Wall and Final Cut and even the present On an Island album and tour. On the 1977 tour he would play all solos with a combo of the ”ram’s head” Big Muff boosted by the Colorsound Powerboost and coloured by the Electric Mistress with the MXR digital delay. David also used two Yamaha rotating speakers on stage adding a hint of that swirly tone from the album.
”Dragged Down by the Stone”, Paris, France 22 February 1977
- Although not one of the best shows, this recording is a great reference to David’s tones in the beginning of the tour.
”Animal Instincts”, Oakland, USA 9 May 1977
- My absolute favourite version. David’s tone is simply out of this world!
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (BC109)
Pete Cornish Custom Fuzz /P1
MXR Phase 100
Colorsound Power Boost
Cry Baby wah wah
(send/return for EH Big Muff and EH Electric Mistress)
Pete Cornish Tone pedal
Pete Cornish volume pedal
(send/return for delays, Binson II/Morley EVO-1/MXR DDL)
MXR Noise Gate/Line Driver
Between 1973-75 David had been using a fairly basic pedal board consisting of a Fuzz Face (silicon), Colorsound Powerboost, MXR Phase 90 and sweep pedals for volume and wah wah as well as a UniVibe including its control pedal and send/returns for the Binson units. The new Cornish board included most of these effects and a handful new ones. During rehearsals for the upcoming tour at the Olympia Exhibition Hall in London in January 1977 the board went through some changes. Some pedals changed places and the old Colorsound Power Boost was added. The board included a Pete Cornish P1 (or Cornish Fuzz as it was called at the time), which was a clone of David’s ”ram’s head” Big Muff. David also added the ”ram’s head” and an Electric Mistress that were placed on top of the board connected via send/returns. Both pedals were later built into the board. See this article for a complete in depth analysis of the Pete Cornish Animals pedal board.
Getting the Dogs tone
David used a Telecaster on the album and live versions but you can without problems use a Strat. I recommend vintage style low output pickups for this song such as Fender CS69 or Duncan SSLs or 50s and 60s pickups for the Tele. Modern pickups like US/MIM Standards or EMGs will sound a bit too boomy. If you’re playing in a band it can also be wise to have an additional guitar standing by for the special tuning.
Ampwise a Hiwatt, Sound City, Reeves etc would obviously be the best choice. The powerful clean tone is essential and since Dogs is THE Big Muff song from the era I would advice not to use amps that break up easily or the gain channel in any way. David also used a lot of different Fender amps in the 70’s and you’d get a great tone with a Dual Showman stack or combos like Twins and Bassmans. For smaller setups I recommend a Peavey Classic or something similar. Again, the rule is as much headroom as possible. Check out the Buyer’s Gear Guide for more tips.
Always connect your effects into the front inputs and set your amp to something like this: bass 50%, treble 50-60%, mids 40% and the master volume should be about 1/3 of the channel volume. I also recommend linking the normal and bright channel inputs for more presence (link the upper normal and lower bright and plug your guitar into the upper bright). Set the bright volume slightly lower than the normal volume.
David’s pedal boards and racks may seem frighteningly huge but he rarely uses more than 3-4 effects for each song. I think the essence of Dogs is to use the right distortion pedal for your rig. Although David used a Big Muff you might find your self strugling to get the same bright, crispy tone and maintaining a smooth rich sustain. In some cases you should probably consider a different pedal – one that suits your rig better. Check out this article for more tips.
1. Early version 1974-75 tone
Colorsound Power Boost (clean boost/mild overdrive) – treble 10:00, bass 12:00, gain/volume 12:00 and master 2:00.
MXR Phase 90 – rate 1:00
Echo/delay – 370ms
If you can’t find or afford a Colorsound Power Boost, check out the Absolutely Analog Fist, ThroBak Overdrive Boost or Vintage FX Colordrive. You can also use similar sounding pedals like a BK Tube Driver, Boss BD-2 (preferably a Keeley model), Exotic RC Booster or the popular Fulltone OCD booster. If you can’t find or don’t have any of these you could also use a Tube Screamer or similar pedals although these do have a bit too much mid range for this specific song and it’s not the best pedal to use as a booster for your Big Muff.
I recommend a vintage style MXR Phase 90 unit. Compared to the standard block logo model, which has a nasty bright tone, the script model has a very warm smokey flavour. Do also check out the classic Electro Harmonix Small Stone too and the BYOC Script 90 Phaser.
For authentic analog echo I recommend the Electro Harmonix Memory Man, MXR Carbon Copy and Trex Replica. Of course, any delay unit will do.
2. Album and 1977 tour tone
EH “ram’s head” Big Muff – sustain 2:00, tone 11:00, volume 1:00
Colorsound Power Boost (clean boost/mild overdrive) – treble 10:00, bass 12:00, gain/volume 12:00 and master 2:00.
EH Electric Mistress – rate 10:00, range “off”, colour 10:00
Echo/delay – 370ms
There are many different Big Muffs to choose from and you can get a great tone with almost any of them. Personally I find the more modern units like the Sovteks, Cornish P2 etc to be a bit too dark and boomy for the Animals era but you can tweak these for a brighter tone. David’s used a “ram’s head” model so an original or a clone would be the best choice and I also recommend a “triangle” model for slightly more sustain and just an overall smoother tone. As discussed above a Big Muff might not be the best choice for some amps and pickups and in that case I’d get something a bit more versatile like a RAT, which is ideal on smaller amps with little headroom or humbucker pickups. You could also go for a MXR Distortion +, Marshall Shredmaster or a Keeley/Analogman modified Boss DS-1 (stay away from the stock model).
The Electric Mistress is a must for the 1977-83 period but if you for some reason don’t have one or want one you could go for a MXR Flanger or a chorus of any kind, preferably an analog model. David used a ’76 model but there’s very little differnece between this and the present Deluxe model. I don’t recommend using the new stereo version for this song… or any Gilmour tones.
By 1977 David had started using digital delays, which has a brighter more accurate tone compared to the darker sounding echo. Any Boss unit will do fine or you can check out some of the more refined models like the Eventide Time Factor or TC Electronic Nova Delay.
On both versions above you could also add a compressor, preferably a MXR Dynacomp or similar for a bit more attack and smoother lead tones.
My stage setup
Fender CIJ ’62 Custom Telecaster reissue with Fender Custom Shop 62 pickups
Sound City 50w amp with linked inputs – bass 50%, treble 50%, mids 40%
Gollmer Composus – comp 1:00, sustain 1:00, volume 2:00
BYOC Large Beaver “triangle” – gain 2:00, tone 11:00, volume 1:00
Colorsound Power Boost – treble 10:00, bass 12:00, volume 12:00, master 2:00
EH Deluxe Electric Mistress – rate 10:00, range “off”, colour 10:00
Boss DD-2 – level 11:00, feedback 2:00, time 12:00
I’m using a set up similar to David’s with some minor variations. As a basis for all my tones I use the Colorsound Powerboost to get a more dynamic clean tone and for boosting the Muff. I’ve also added a compressor for a bit more attack on the rhythms – turning it off on the “twin” and “dry” solos. We use acoustic guitar on the verse, so I’m playing the random strums and picking as heard on the album version.
For all leads I’m using a BYOC Large Beaver “triangle” model clone. I find this a bit smoother than the “ram’s head” David used but there’s not a huge difference between the two. Since I’m using the Colorsound as a booster the Muff is set fairly mild just between overdrive and mayhem. For the “twin” and “dry” solos I roll off the guitar volume just a bit to better tame the tone and create dynamics.
I keep the Mistress on throughout the song except for the “twin” and “dry” solos, where I like a bit more tidy tone. I love David’s nasty jet tone from the later US shows and to get that I’ve set the range at 9:00 on the Deluxe for a slow sweep.
So, hopefully we’ve cover most of the song now. The fast tempo makes you want to just hit every pedal and bash out all the cool licks from every bootleg you’ve heard but although David’s using powerful tools he’s playing is incredibly soulful and sensitive so you need to really tame your tones and find the right balance between gentle distortion and juicy sustain. Please feel free to share your favourite Dogs setup!
– “Animals”, original recording 1977
– “Machester Day”, Manchester UK, 9 December 1974
– “Ivor Wynne Suite”, Ontario Canada, 28 June 1975
– “Animals Tour Debut” Dortmund West Germany, 23 January 1977
– “Dragged Down by the Stone” Paris France, 22 February 1977
– “Animal Instincts” Oakland USA, 9 May 1977
– “Echoes – The Complete History of Pink Floyd” by Glen Povey
– Animals official song book 1977
– Guitar World magazine, December 2006
– Musician magazine, August 1992
– Guitar Player magazine, January 2009
– Guitar World magazine, February 1993