George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” from his 1982 album Computer Games is a song of classic proportions. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the song is a staple in our musical culture, known as a party classic and as a blueprint for musical trailblazers. For starters, it’s heard everywhere, even today. The song was reinvented in the 90s when Snoop Lion, the artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dog, sampled “Atomic Dog” for his first single “What’s My Name,” introducing it to a new generation. Even today, clubs still rock the song on the dance floor, igniting club-goers old and young to move to the beat. Those of us who attended college parties in the 80s, 90s, and new millennium know good and well that it’s the theme song of the historically Black fraternity Omega Psi Phi, often their entrance music to any party, step show or major event they host. “Atomic Dog” is funk incarnate.
While on paper it is considered a George Clinton album, Computer Games is still a group effort, for the members of P-Funk held it down on the entire album. However, “Atomic Dog” is arguably the crowned jewel of the collection. Computer Games was actually the saving grace album for Clinton, who had to stop using the names Parliament and Funkadelic due to legal reasons. “Atomic Dog” helped the troubled musician financially as it traveled to #1 on the R&B charts and continues to reap in benefits through copyright use, as it has been sampled ever since its release by Redman, Doug E. Fresh, and Ice Cube.
Urban legend abounds regarding the song and it’s hard to pin down the exact process to creating this timeless classic. Some purport that George Clinton was on a literal high when recording the song and that it is a virtual musical symphony of ad libs and jam session beats. Some argue that an engineering glitch jolted the track backwards to help create the thumping bark-like beats. George Clinton broke it down simply in a 2006 interview with National Public Radio: “I just had the word ‘dog’. That’s all I had in my mind. I had to ad lib a lot of it. The track was atomic. It’s a futurist track…I still don’t hear any tracks like that one.”
-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a music writer based in Maryland. Her bylines have appeared on SoulBounce.com, Honey Magazine, ForHarriet.com, and other print and digital spaces. Visit her website at KhadijahOnline.com.