Pavlov’s Dog

Pavlov’s Dog was an American rock band from St. Louis that released the 1975 album Pampered Menial on ABC and Columbia, followed in 1976 by At the Sound of the Bell. Their intended third album remained a bootleg (The St. Louis HOUNDS, 1977) until its first proper release in 2007. Material from their pre-label days (circa 1973) appears on The Pekin Tapes.

Singer and chief songwriter David Surkamp later teamed with English singer Iain Matthews (Fairport Convention, Plainsong) in Hi-Fi, a Seattle-based new wave|rock band responsible for the 1981–82 indie titles Demonstration Record and Moods for Mallards.

Members: David Surkamp (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Safron (drums, percussion, 1972-76, 2009-present), Steve Scorfina (lead guitar, 1972-78), David Hamilton (keyboards, 1972-76), Douglas Rayburn (Mellotron, flute, bass, percussion, 1972-90), Richard Stockton (bass, 1972-78), Siegfried Carver [Richard Nadler] (violin, viola, Vitar, 1972-76), Thomas Nickeson (acoustic guitar, backing vocals, 1976-78), Kirk Sarkisian (drums, 1976-90)


Background

Pavlov’s Dog formed in 1972 in St. Louis, Missouri, where singer David Surkamp assembled a seven-piece band with guitarist Steve Levin, bassist Rick Stockton, drummer Mike Safron, violinist Siegfried Carver, and keyboardists David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn.

Surkamp grew up on folk and played piano, mandolin, and ukulele as a child. He first teamed with Stockton in a high school band, High On a Small Hill. In 1970, Surkamp headed the Mainline Records release Street Suite by blues-rockers Touch (not the same as the Portland, Ore., Touch).

They named their new act Pavlov’s Dog after the canine-conditioning experiments of Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. In their second year, Levin cleared for guitarist Steve Scorfina, who played in a pre-record lineup of REO Speedwagon.

In March 1973, Pavlov’s Dog demoed four songs: Scorfina’s “Natchez Trace” and the Surkamp originals “Brand New Day,” “Fast Gun,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” They retained “Natchez Trace” and “Fast Gun” for their intended first album, recorded in October 1973 at Golden Voice Studios in Pekin, Illinois. Pavlov’s Dog self-produced the fourteen songs, intended for release on a major label.

Pavlov’s Dog pitched their album to multiple labels, including ABC Records, which signed the band to a $650,000 deal. However, ABC deemed the Golden Voice sessions ill-suited for general release. To flesh out their sound, ABC linked Pavlov’s Dog with Blue Oyster Cult producers Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman.


Pampered Menial

Pavlov’s Dog released their debut album, Pampered Menial, in February 1975 on ABC Records. It features new versions of “Fast Gun,” “Natchez Trace,” and two additional re-recorded Golden Voice songs: “Theme from Subway Sue” and drummer Mike Safron’s “Song Dance.”

David Surkamp wrote the remaining tracks apart from the Steve Scorfina co-write “Late November” and violinist Siegfried Carver’s miniature “Preludin,” which segues into the epic closing track, “Of Once and Future Kings.”

Pampered Menial features a seven-piece lineup with twin keyboard work from David Hamilton (organ, piano, synthesizer) and flutist Doug Rayburn (mellotron). Surkamp (rhythm guitar) and bassist Rick Stockton anchor Scorfina’s lead work; countered on select passages by Carver, who doubles on the Vitar, an electric guitar–violin hybrid pioneered by jazz-funk musician John Blair.

A1. “Julia” (3:09)
A2. “Late November” (3:10)
A3. “Song Dance” (4:58)
A4. “Fast Gun” (3:08)
A5. “Natchez Trace” (3:40)
B1. “Theme from Subway Sue” (4:25) The phrase “Subway Sue” was Carver’s transcribed mondegreen of Surkamp’s original title, “Someday Soon.”
B2. “Episode” (4:02)
B3. “Preludin” (1:37)
B4. “Of Once and Future Kings” (5:23)

Sessions occurred in 1974 at CBS Studios in New York City, where Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman co-produced Pampered Menial between Blue Oyster Cult’s third album (Secret Treaties) and their 1975 live release On Your Feet or on Your Knees. CBS staffer Tim Geelan engineered Pampered Menial in succession with 1974–75 Columbia–Epic titles by David Sancious (Forest of Feelings), Horacee Arnold, Rupert Holmes (Widescreen), and Weather Report (Mysterious Traveller).

Pampered Menial first appeared in a gatefold sleeve with a white-framed reproduction of Low Life, a 1829 canine painting by English animalier Edwin Landseer. The back cover features another 1829 Landseer work, High Life (an affluent house pet, in contrast to the street dog). The inner-gate contains a full-spread sketch of Landseer seated in his living room, where he plays bagpipes to an audience of five dogs.

ABC lifted “Julia” as a single (b/w “Episode”). In early April 1975, Pampered Menial entered the Billboard 200, where it peaked at No. 181. Just as it exited the charts, Columbia Records purchased the band’s ABC contract and reissued Pampered Menial in a sepia gatefold with serif fonts and the same artwork (minus the white framework).

Pavolv’s Dog found commercial success in Australia, where Pampered Menial reached No. 23 on the Kent Music Report. In New Zealand, CBS lifted “Song Dance” (b/w “Natchez Trace”).

Soon after Pampered Menial, Carver and Safron both left Pavlov’s Dog, which continued as a drummer-less six-piece with acoustic guitarist Thomas Nickeson.


At the Sound of the Bell

Pavlov’s Dog released their second album, At the Sound of the Bell, in April 1976 on CBS. It features a revised lineup with English drummer Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson) as an honorary seventh member.

At the Sound of the Bell contains four David Surkamp solo compositions: “Megan’s Song,” “Try to Hang On,” “Gold Nuggets,” and “Valkerie” (a typographical misspelling of the Norse name Valkyrie).

Steve Scorfina co-wrote “Mersey” while keyboardist Doug Rayburn collaborated with Surkamp on the rest, including “She Came Shining” and the climactic epic “Did You See Him Cry.” Rayburn plays mellotron and juggles bass duties with Rick Stockton.

On Sound of the Bell, Pavlov’s Dog features three guitarists: Scorfina (lead), Surkamp (acoustic, rhythm), and new member Thomas Nickeson (acoustic). They’re assisted by American sessionist Elliott Randall and English sideman Les Nicol (ex-Methuselah). Additional guests include mandolinist Paul Prestopino, violinist Gavyn Wright (Penguin Cafe Orchestra), and saxophone stars Andy MacKay (Roxy Music) and Michael Brecker (Brecker Brothers).

A1. “She Came Shining” (4:24)
A2. “Standing Here with You (Megan’s Song)” (3:47)
A3. “Mersey” (3:03)
A4. “Valkerie” (5:22)
B1. “Try to Hang On” (2:08)
B2. “Gold Nuggets” (3:25)
B3. “She Breaks Like a Morning Sky” (2:22)
B4. “Early Morning On” (3:21)
B5. “Did You See Him Cry” (5:36)

Sessions occurred in October 1975 at New York City’s Record Plant, where Pearlman and Krugman co-produced At the Sound of the Bell in sequence with Agents of Fortune, the breakthrough fourth studio album by Blue Oyster Cult. Bell was engineered by John Jansen, a soundman on 1975–76 albums by Artful Dodger, Procol Harum, Roger Daltery, and Supertramp (Crisis? What Crisis?).

On Sound of the Bell, Surkamp plays the Veleno guitar, a rare aluminum-body model with a two-pronged headstock. Metal craftsman John Veleno produced about 200 such guitars between 1970 and 1978. Star players included Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Todd Rundgren, and Gregg Allman.>

Mackay lent his parts amid soundtrack work on the ITV musical series Rock Follies, his main project during Roxy Music’s hiatus. Randall also appeared on 1976 albums by Ashford & Simpson, Cory, Enchantment, Henry Gaffney (Waiting for a Wind), and Steely Dan (The Royal Scam). Wright played concurrently in the Mountain Fjord Orchestra, which add strings on Sound of the Bell.

CBS art director John Berg designed the cover to At the Sound of the Bell with graphic illustrator Andy Engel (Herbie Hancock, LaBelle). It depicts model Michael Mantel as the Hunchback of Notre-Dame; photographed under bells (front) and on a perch (back) by Jerry Abramowitz, whose photography appears on concurrent albums by Billy Joel (Turnstiles) and Al Di Meola (Land of the Midnight Sun). The bells allude to Pavlov’s canine experiments, which involved a ringing bell.

In Australia, At the Sound of the Bell reached No. 37 on the Kent Music Report.

Soon after sessions wrapped, Tom Nickeson filled the vacated keyboard slot of David Hamilton. Despite its status as a fan favorite, “Did You See Him Cry” proved too complex for Pavlov’s Dog in live settings.


Third (aka ‘St. Louis Hounds’)

In 1977, Pavlov’s Dog completed a third album comprised of nine originals and “Today,” a Jefferson Airplane cover. However, their relations soured with Columbia, which abandoned efforts to translate the band’s live popularity and Australian commercial success to the US Billboard charts.

Without a label, the album wound up vaulted apart from a limited-run bootleg overseen by guitarist Steve Scorfina, who retained a tape of the master. He pressed 100 copies under the name The St. Louis HOUNDS, the inferred title and band name.

The St. Louis HOUNDS features five originals by David Surkamp, who co-wrote “Painted Ladies” and “Trafalgar” with keyboardist Doug Rayburn. Side B contains songs by Scorfina (“It’s All For You”) and guitarist–keyboardist Thomas Nickeson (“While You Were Out”).

A1. “Only You” (4:33)
A2. “Painted Ladies” (3:22)
A3. “Falling In Love” (3:27)
A4. “Today” (3:08) originated on Surrealistic Pillow, the 1967 second album by Jefferson Airplane; written by their male vocalist Marty Balin.
A5. “Trafalgar” (3:10)
B1. “I Love You Still” (4:05)
B2. “Jenny” (4:07)
B3. “It’s All For You” (3:50)
B4. “Suicide” (2:04)
B5. “While You Were Out” (2:38)

The St. Louis HOUNDS features five-sixths of the in-house Bell lineup (Surkamp, Scorfina, Rayburn, Nickeson, bassist Rick Stockton) with new drummer Kirk Sarkisian. The bootleg appeared in a plain black-and-white sleeve that identifies the players but lacks any mention of Pavlov’s Dog. However, Scorfina dedicated the bootleg to “people who never had the chance to experience the ‘Dog.'”

Sessions took place in Richmond Heights, Missouri (specified on later versions as Studio Technisonic Studios, St. Louis).

In 1992, an Italian bootleg label (Anthology) issued Third, the first CD release of The St. Louis HOUNDS, now attributed to Pavlov’s Dog.

In 2007, Pavlov archivists Rockville Music remastered and officially released the album under a new title, Has Anyone Here Seen Sigfried?, a reference to group co-founder Siegfried Carver, who left between the first and second Columbia albums. This CD release adds the 1977 demo “I Wait For You” and eight live tracks, including the otherwise unrecorded “A Little Better” and “A Look In Your Eyes.”


The Pekin Tapes

In 2014, Rockville Music released The Pekin Tapes, which gathers the ten October 1973 songs for their intended (pre-ABC) debut album, plus the four March ’73 demos. It features five newly unearthed songs and four (“Subway Sue,” “Natchez Trace,” “Song Dance,” “Fast Gun”) that Pavlov’s Dog re-recorded for Pampered Menial. They titled the disc after Pekin, Illinois, the location of Golden Voice Studios.

In contrast to Pavlov’s proper albums, The Pekin Tapes features three distinct songwriters and lead vocalists. David Surkamp submitted three songs (“Subway Sue,” “Dreams,” “Fast Gun”) and also sings compositions by guitarist Steve Scorfina (“Natchez Trace,” “Stomp Water Magic”) and drummer Mike Safron (“Song Dance”).

Scorfina sings his third contribution, “It’s All for You.” Keyboardist David Hamilton sings both his writing submissions, “Time” and “Clipper Ship.” Violinist Sigfried Carver wrote the lengthy closing instrumental, “Preludin & Fellacio in E Minor,” which begins with the prelude later affixed to “Of Once and Future Kings.”

The Pekin Tapes features the Pampered Menial lineup: Surkamp, Scorfina, Safron, Hamilton, Carver, bassist Rick Stockton, and mellotron player Doug Rayburn.

1. “Subway Sue” (5:53) David 
2. “Natchez Trace” (3:57) David 
3. “Time” (5:25) Hamilton 
4. “Stomp Water Magic” (3:50) David
5. “It’s All for You” (5:21) Steve 
6. “Song Dance” (5:44) David
7. “Dreams” (4:58) David
8. “Clipper Ship” (5:33) Hamilton
9. “Fast Gun” (3:35) David
10. “Preludin & Fellacio in E Minor” (7:30)

Rockville procured the forty-year-old recordings through a private inheritance, years after the Pekin tapes were presumed lost in a fire that destroyed Golden Voice. The disc adds the four self-recorded March 1973 demos, comprised of two distinct Surkamp originals (“Natchez Trace,” “Fast Gun”) and two songs re-recorded at Pekin (“Brand New Day,” “I Wish It Would Rain”).

11. “Brand New Day” (3:34)
12. “Natchez Trace” (4:07)
13. “Fast Gun” (3:42)
14. “I Wish It Would Rain” (5:05)


Discography:

  • Pampered Menial (1975)
  • At the Sound of the Bell (1976)
  • Third (aka ‘St. Louis Hounds’) (1977)

Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *