Song Analysis

Space Dog

Monday 8 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

I have prepared this article this summer but, as I had a lot of work to bring up to speed for the other sections, I put it aside and didn’t write it because I knew this was the sort of long analysis that would have taken me at least three hours to write. I’ll add it as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can read Tori’s quotes about the song, including some very detailed comments that she only made in the fanzine Upside Down and that explain quite a lot of things about this hallucigenic — but very thoughtful — song. Enjoy!

“I can see how ’Space Dog’ is tricky, and I’ll come through with that one. But ’Space Dog’’s a mushroom trip anyway. It is supposed to be kind of—

Sun: I thought it was a "Ren and Stimpy" episode.

Tori: Ha, ha! Well, fine. Same thing. But the thing is, with a lot of the language, it’s not like ahead thought out, but it’s kind of like a camera, again, where I’m filming myself in these experiences. And the best way I can describe things sometimes is like how I’m tasting. With tangible things. Not just to say, ’These girls betrayed me, and I really feel bad now.’” (The Baltimore Sun, January 30, 1994)

“As far as ’Space Dog’ goes, it was a drawing on a mud wall in New Mexico. It was a shape, and it really was, if I could take a picture and show it to you sometime, the whole record was recorded in mud, mud walls, adobe and wood ceilings, wood floors, because Eric really loved the sound, which is why it sounds like it has that warm womb thing. Well, in one of the rooms, there was this— it’s Space Dog. A feather on his head, and it’s this sharp nose. It just really is. That’s how so many of these songs came, in this Under the Pink world. If you rip all your skin off, we’re all pink, and it’s about what’s underneath that. That’s how I see it, anyway.

’Space Dog’ would come and visit me, just as my alternative deity, so to speak. The idea that everybody puts their faith in, I don’t know, this yogi or this channel or this god or this saint or this whatever, well, ’Space Dog’ was like, hey, it’s my deity.

I was flying over Chicago. Before I got into the city, I was flying over, and I just felt this scene happening by this 7-11 I could see way in the distance. It was a very cold night. It was in March, and I was going in for a signing at Rose Records. I was flying in, and I felt this young boy, 13, 14 years old, with his family. He’s eating peas. His family is like, some of those people that show up on Oprah Winfrey sometimes, that you just go, My God, if I had to go home with them, I would contemplate, like, eating Pledge. And I just felt his presence. I felt him just opening himself up to another possibility, because his world was just so closed. The best thing he had near him was the 7-11 goddess.

I was just watching from the—I was in the window seat, and I was just watching, like, way down. I felt ’Space Dog.’ I’ve been talking to him, and I felt Space Dog going, ’Lemon pie. Coming through, lemon pie.’ It was very Agent 99. I kind of felt like Agent 99 going, ’Oh, Max.’ And this young man responded. There is something out there.

The idea, again, with ’Pretty Good Year,’ there’s a lot of triads in this whole record, and ’Pretty Good Year’ and ’Space Dog’ kind of kiss each other, where—let me focus my thought. In the bridge, ’Deck the halls,’ going back again, to, again, not having resolve. ’I’m young again. Somewhere, someone must know the ending. Where’s Neil when you need him?’ You know, that’s all in that. ’Is she still pissing in the river now?’ Patti Smith. ’Heard she’d gone, moved into a trailer park.’ Concept being, somebody that had all of these beliefs, and then just numbed themselves.

And Space Dog’s philosophy is, well, together, when I’m hanging out with him, it’s, ’So sure we were on something. Your feet are finally on the ground, he said.’ That’s Space Dog’s philosophy. And in the counter-vocal in the end goes, again, the betrayal stuff, mostly girls, and yet, if I’m in the present, and I’m on something, which is on the earth, on the ground, then I have total opportunity to decide what my reaction will be. I can’t decide anything else, but I can decide if I’m going to let something totally take over my life, which it did in ’The Waitress.’ But by ’Space Dog,’ I’m going, I do have a choice. It’s part of the growth.” (The Baltimore Sun, January 30, 1994)

“Very simply, for the last thousand years it [organized relion] hasn’t worked so well because it became about my dog is better than your dog. It’s not like a Dalmatian works for me, and a Pekinese for you, and the size doesn’t really count. So there is a level of why can’t I be a born-again Christian -if that’s the case, and not need to convert or judge everybody who chooses not to be.

What about honor and respect for another person’s way of worshipping? Organized religion doesn’t do that. There isn’t really a respect unless it’s in line with your way of thinking. The bottom line on organized religion, or at least the ones that I have studied, is: I don’t see where the teaching is about becoming your own savior, you becoming your own master teacher. You may be inspired by other people... Jesus may inspire you, Mary Magadalene may inspire you, Mohammed, Buddha, or Space Dog may inspire you, but...

That’s really the underlying theme of ‘Space Dog’... everybody’s worshipped everybody else, so why not him? His philosophy is way more interesting, plus you get to wear those cute yellow space suits. I think people are always looking outside of themselves, having to belong to some kind of organization, instead of going, ‘I’m enough, being with me is enough, being part of the universe... that’s enough.’ I think religion is a distraction. It’s there to keep you from taking responsibility for your own actions.

I think we all have the potential to be master teachers, like a Jesus, a Ghandi, or a Mary Magdalene. I keep bringing up Mary Magdalene, she was a master teacher. She’s just not recognized because no one wants to honor passion as a master teaching. I find this quite amazing, which takes us back to the Spin cover issue. Sensuality is not thought of as an honored thing like suffering is... interesting. Passion is my commitment. Passion for knowledge, passion for truth, passion for darkness, passion for all things. Passion for very, very red lips.” (Upside Down fanzine, issue #5)

“’Space Dog’ is very clear to me, although coded, kinda like Morse code or agent 99 - there are blueberries in Wisconsin. That means something to me and it should mean something different to you. This album was intended to appeal to your subconscious as well as your conscious mind. It’s an abstract work and I really wanted it to be.

In ‘Space Dog’ when I make the reference to Neil Gaiman and Patti Smith, or when I say ‘deck the halls’ this is going into the past where I had visions of how I thought things would turn out. Always coming back to the people that haunt you. ‘It’s you again, it’s you again’ or ‘Is she still pissin’ in a river, heard she’d moved into a trailer park’ meaning she didn’t carry the torch as far as she could.

There was a time when Patti Smith represented something to me that she doesn’t now. She made a choice to lay the torch down. Somebody like Neil Young... he’s still carrying the torch. Patti stopped and it broke my heart, but why should it? If someone stops carrying the torch, then you should pick it up yourself. Yes there is that whole thing about feeling let down - always feeling let down by other people, instead of going ‘they just don’t want to do it anymore and it’s okay.’ Why do I feel a sense of loss? Because I feel they have so much to say and they don’t wanna say it anymore. Why can’t I respect that? This is all in ‘Space Dog.’ This song is about giving your power to someone else - passing the torch.

There is also this huge underlying Holy Blood-Holy Grail theme in this song. The same goes for “Past the Mission,” they are very linked. What the Holy Grail was, the Blood Royal, was Mary Magdalene coming on a boat to the Mediterranean south of France carrying Jesus’ baby - the King of the Jews. It’s all in “Past the Mission.” So there are many layers in Under the Pink of ancient belief systems, myths, and such. They are all over the album.

So, whether you are talking about Dog Star and the information that has come through some of the medicine people about Orion and the wars that happened there - that’s all in ‘Space Dog.’ I was hanging out with some medicine women, who were talking about the wars on Orion eons and eons ago. These stories have been passed down though secret societies for centuries, and in many ways reflect what is happening on this planet today.

We don’t know our history. Our history is basically lost prior to a few hundred years ago. We don’t know about Atlantis or what thas was. Religion kind of did this, they made sure you only believe in certain things and controlled that. Well, some of the great medicine people on the planet have spent their entire lives keeping the myths alive, learning them and re-learning them, passing on this information. We are becoming divided into those who wish to hide and those who wish to learn. A lot of the stories handed down reflect this. We are becoming more aware. Little by little we are separating, not into black and white, Protestant or Jew, but into those who want to be honest with themselves and those who do not.

Those who want to grow will look into themselves for the real truths, and those who don’t will not grow. It isn’t a divided line... yet. I find things I’m hiding from myself all the time, but I’m looking for them. I want to grow and I know myself a little better everyday. Yes, sometimes there is pain, but always I grow from it. All of this learning is on Under the Pink in words or expressed in my music as emotion. So not only is ‘Space Dog’ a very involved song, but the entire album is kinda like ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ You know, door number one, door number two, or door number three... You can really go down any of them, but you’re better off listening to the whole album with a plate of linguini á la fungi.” (Upside Down fanzine, issue #5)

Space dog is one groovy cat.

Q: The Colonel?

“’The Colonel.’ These are all friends of mine." (BAM, March 11, 1994)