“Dog Police”: Devo inspired this Memphis trio’s 1984 video about hound-faced vice detectives

By on August 7, 2017

On August 17, 1984, Night Flight’s Friday night full episode featured a music video by Dog Police, a trio of talented Memphis musicians whose hilarious song about hound-faced detectives busting up a bad blind date at a rock club also ended up inspiring a failed TV sitcom pilot a few years later, featuring Adam Sandler and Jeremy Piven.

Read more below, and watch the video in this full episode (two hours worth, commercials included!) over on Night Flight Plus!

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Dog Police were a side project for Memphis-based keyboardist Tony Thomas, bassist Sam Shoup, and drummer Tom Lonardo, who had been making music together as the Tony Thomas Trio since at least ’78 or ’79.

Each of them accomplished musicians, graduates of university music programs and sought-after for their individual as well as collective instrumental talents, and their main focus in the trio was playing late ’70s-era progressive-tinged fusion jazz-rock (think Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention).

Since they were usually focused on intricately-arranged pieces of music which were likely difficult to play, to blow off a little steam during rehearsals they ended up joking around and out of that period of musical insanity, inspired by then-current and experimental synth-led new wave bands like Devo, the trio came up with the concept for “Dog Police.”

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The trio’s name was derived from novelty-tinged song, the chorus for which was inspired or possibly just ripped-off from “The Spider Man Theme Song” from the popular PBS children’s show “The Electric Company” (“Nobody knows who you are!”).

Read more about Dog Police below.

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We probably wouldn’t have heard about Dog Police (the band or the song) if it hadn’t been for the music video they made for it, which aired on MTV’s late-night show “Basement Tapes.”

The main focus of this monthly, half-hour show was airing DIY videos submitted by unsigned bands who were hoping that MTV’s national exposure might lead to them getting a recording contract.

For six months, “Basement Tapes” — which debuted on Monday, March 14, 1983, at 11pm Eastern (later switching to 10pm Eastern) —  would air homemade videos sent in from around the country and MTV’s teenage audience watching at home could then call an 800- number (or was it a 900-?) and vote for their favorites.  All MTV could promise was that the video would then be aired for a month or so on their popular weekly “120 Minutes” show.

After weeks in regular rotation on MTV, advancing from the semis to the finals, the “Dog Police” video — produced by Wayne Crook and directed by Joe Mulherin — took second place, but its popularity also led to it showing up on other cable network shows which also aired music videos, like this July ’84 episode of “Night Flight” we’re sharing with you.

“Dog Police” would gain even more notoriety on September 3, 1984, when Weird Al Yankovic aired it during season one, episode two of his very own MTV show, “AL TV.”

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In the video, a sharp-eyed bartender appears to pick up a telephone to tip off three hound-faced detectives — members of some kind of doggy vice squad, apparently — who then show up at the club while her date’s in the bathroom, and they drag her out of the club while everyone, including her date, watches.

We have to assume that everyone who aired the video was cool with the idea that it presented the dog-faced woman enjoying everything doggy-style, too:

The boys in blue had my baby on the floor,
They were asking her if she wanted some more.
They pulled out a net, they pulled out a leash,
They said they were the…Dog Police!

What separated the “Dog Police” video from a lot of other amateur music video submissions, however, was the careful attention paid to its incredible production values, from the costumes and dog masks by William “Bill” Knopfler, to the 16mm cinematography by freelance documentary filmmaker Larry McConkey, was by then already one of the best Steadicam operators around (he’d end up working on movies like Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs and Martin Scorsese’s Good Fellas, shooting incredible footage like that famous Steadicam sequence at the Copacabana club).

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The club scene in “Dog Police” was actually shot inside the Antenna Club, the beloved long-gone Memphis dive bar where bands like Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, Bad Brains, the Replacements, R.E.M., and thousands more had played until the club closed some time in the mid-90s.

Dog Police released a self-titled, self-released album in 1985 which featured the title song, of course, along with ten more originals (a later CD version features three previously-unreleased songs).

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Dog Police: Tony Thomas, Tom Lonardo and Sam Shoup of The Tony Thomas Trio, circa 1985

In the spring of 1990, the video’s popularity also led to the creation of a TV sitcom pilot called Dog Police,” about a trio of psychic doggy detectives from outer space who wear fedoras and beige trenchcoats and grumble their dialogue to each other like they’re all channeling Humphrey Bogart.

Comic actor Adam Sandler made a cameo appearance in the pilot (which possibly was never aired more than once), and the show was to also prominently feature Jeremy Piven as a beat cop.

Whoa, that show sounds ruff ruff ruff!

Watch the “Dog Police” video — along with other surprises — in our full episode from August 17, 1984 (with commercials intact!), and you’ll find even more full episodes of “Night Flight” to watch over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Sam Shoup

    Hey Brian! Thanks for the excellent article. We all loved watching Night Flight during the 80s. I can confirm that we pretty much just ripped off the line from Spiderman. We were just joking around when we wrote it, and never dreamed that we would actually