Dogs of the World Unite: George Clinton’s Tex Avery-ish “Atomic Dog” video featured illustrator Overton Loyd’s award-winning animation

By on July 8, 2019

From time to time we like to revisit some of the artists involved in iconic music videos for our Art section here on the Night Flight blog, and one of the best examples we’ve found for you is R&B/Funk music icon George Clinton’s groundbreaking video for his electro-funk hit “Atomic Dog.”

Watch the video, which features animation by longtime P-Funk collaborator Overton Loyd — it’s in our “Take Off To Animation,” which first aired on February 17, 1984 — on Night Flight Plus.

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George Clinton’s non-narrative video for “Atomic Dog,” directed by Peter Conn, didn’t air on MTV until months after it was first produced.

It eventually did, but only after Michael Jackson broke the network’s color barrier with his historic “Billie Jean” video, which debuted on March 10, 1983.

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The colorful video is very reminiscent of Tex Avery’s ’40s/’50s cartoons and features scenes lensed at a video arcade — mixed in with animated canines, felines and dog-catchers — and also at a party (which we think is meant to represent the inside of an arcade game called “Atomic Dog”).

A sunglassed video gamer racks up impressive scores while party animals in dog and cat costumes prance around on catwalks.

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“Atomic Dog” was written by Clinton, guitarist Garry Shider (a.k.a. “Starchild” and “Diaperman”), and keyboardist David Spradley, a.k.a. “David Lee Chong” (b. Lee Seung Chang). It was co-produced by Clinton and Ted Currier.

Spradley had spent some five hours building the funky backing track — which features multiple synths (courtesy of Bernie Worrell & others), a Prophet 5 synth bass (playing two keyboard bass lines) and electronic handclaps, with occasional barking dog-type effects — at Detroit’s United Sound Studios.

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In the past, Clinton has talked extensively about how he’d free-associated and ad-libbed the memorable dog-themed lyrics for  “Atomic Dog” over a prerecorded track.

In Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?: A Memoir, Clinton elaborates on the use of “dog” as a signifier:

“Dogs had a long history in soul music, stretching back to that great string of Rufus Thomas singles in the early Sixties: ‘The Dog,’ ‘Walking the Dog,’ ‘Can Your Monkey Do the Dog,’ ‘Somebody Stole My Dog.’ I was thinking about how these combined comedy and soul, and also how they connected to other common phrases. Treat him like a dog. Dog day afternoon. It’s a dog’s life. What did those sayings mean, exactly? That men had instincts that couldn’t be suppressed? That failure was an inevitable part of the equation?”

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Clinton goes on to describe that most hard-luck cartoon characters were dogs (“They were hangdog. They were underdogs”) and says he settled on “Atomic Dog” because it was a Reagan-era idea, “something for the Cold War.”

In the song, he compares his own naughty behavior to that of a dog, the “unthinking, relentless instinct to pursue,” writing that the song’s famous line “Why must I chase the cat?” could have been about “pussy, drugs, or money…

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“Atomic Dog” was the second single released from his first solo album, Computer Games (1982).

It was Clinton’s first #1 hit since Funkadelic’s “(Not just) Knee Deep” in 1979, and resurrected Clinton’s career.

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The single, released in December 1982, managed to knock Jackson’s “Billie Jean” off the top of the Billboard R&B Singles charts on April 16, 1983, where it remained for four weeks.

“Atomic Dog” also charted at #101 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart (which doesn’t exactly make sense, but okay).

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Read more about Overton Loyd below.

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Overton Loyd

Overton Loyd (b. April 20, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan) had for quite a while already worked as a professional artist — drawing caricature portraits at state fairs and doing illustrations for magazines — before he went to work for George Clinton in the 1970s.

Perfecting a signature style which has been called “Funk Aesthetic” and “Bop Art,” Loyd illustrated the comic book included in Parliament’s classic album Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977).

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His iconic cover art illustations for Parliament’s 1978 album Motor Booty Affair might be his most recognizable work.

It features a cartoon drawing of the “Starchild” character’s arch nemesis, “Sir Nose D’voidoffunk,” holding his ears while what looks like a prehistoric bird of prey swoops down on him with its mouth wide open.

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Loyd’s cartoon portraits of some of the other characters mentioned in the album — including “Mr. Wiggles the Worm,” and “Rumpofsteelskin,” among others — can also be seen in the album’s animated TV commercial.

His cover art for the 1979 albums Gloryhallastoopid and This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N (by Bootsy’s Rubber Band) are also among his best-loved work.

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Loyd has also produced P-Funk’s multi-media stage shows, their outrageous costumes, and did digital illustrations for various P-Funk websites.

He’s worked in many styles, including loose pen and ink drawings, cartoon illustrations, and mixed media paintings.

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Loyd had moved into animation at the dawn of the music video era, and his work on “Atomic Dog” won him Billboard‘s “Best Use of Computer Graphics” award.

His love of caricature drawing also led him to work as the featured artist on TV’s “Win, Lose or Draw” game show, which aired from 1987 to 1990.

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More recently, Loyd was a guest art director for two episodes of animated series “Class of 3000″ (2006-2008), which aired on Cartoon Network.

Loyd’s fine art paintings — he describes his work as “urban expressionism” — have been displayed in many museums and numerous private collections worldwide.

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Night Flight’s “Take Off To Animation” — which also includes videos by Randy Andy, Chuck Berry, Machinations, Herbie Hancock, Adrian Belew, Jean Luc-Ponty and more — is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, 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.