4 April 2018

Prince The Wonder Dog - Sausages (Wheels)/ We've Got A Dog



A novelty single by an actual real-life talking dog! - Well, kind of...

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1979

The TV programme "That's Life" washed endless pieces of absurd popular culture debris ashore in the seventies and eighties, but few have lived on in the public imagination as much as Prince the talking dog. Owned by the mild-mannered Paul Allen, a man who looked like a member of a twee indie band before such things really existed, the canine apparently had an impressive human vocabulary and was especially obsessed with the word "sausages". 

In reality, of course, all of the dog's words were formed by Paul Allen manipulating its jaw while it growled. He confessed to "That's Life" that his long-term ambition was to teach the dog to say the words by itself, but inevitably this plan never really came to fruition. This is deeply unsurprising as scientists also haven't managed to get dogs to talk of their own accord either - if nothing else, Allen was a man with lofty ambitions. You can see a full clip of his "That's Life" appearance here.

Prince ended up becoming a huge hit with viewers, to the extent that a single was almost inevitable. Amazingly, BBC Records and Tapes clearly passed on the possibility, and EMI took the dog on instead, resulting in this peculiar single. The A-side is a two-and-a-half minute musical skit on the dog's experiences in a recording studio dealing with a "music industry mogul" (inevitably, one of Esther's comedy stooges putting on a Hollywood voice). It should be abysmal, and there may be readers out there who will argue it is - it was certainly featured on the "World's Worst Records" blog several years ago - but I find it unnaturally funny. Something about Allen's gentle, understated manner, the use of the song "Wheels Cha Cha Cha" (always a good comedy stand-by) and the dog's ludicrous vocalisations make it far more amusing than it has any right to be. It's unashamedly cheap sounding and unbelievably silly, but if Danny Baker had discovered Prince The Wonder Dog rather than Esther Rantzen, a lot more of my readers would probably be appreciative of his existence. 

Given the shorter lifespan dogs have, I can only assume that Prince is no longer with us, but he will live on as the Prince of all our Hearts. An online rumour emerged a few years back that he passed away prematurely when he fell into a hole created by an electrician working on Paul Allen's property. I sincerely hope this isn't true. 

As for Mr Allen himself, I've no idea what became of him or whether he bought another dog after Prince's passing, but it certainly seems that his "talking canine" magic didn't make itself known to the public again, and I can only assume he returned to his ordinary day-to-day life. However, for his one moment of TV and recording studio fame, I salute him, and I will certainly never be able to hear "Wheels Cha Cha Cha" again without muttering the word "sausages" under my breath at the appropriate moments. 



4 comments:

Mark G said...

There was no Internet in those days, but it spread across the globe anyway

23 Daves said...

I had no idea it was a "thing" in other countries as well, but that almost doesn't surprise me. It does feel a bit like an internet viral way before its time.

Ian Fryer said...

Paul Allan worked at the same snooker table factory as my cousin Jimmy. Small world, innit!

Unknown said...

I don't know if anyone has pointed out that the producer of the original That's Life piece was the great documentary maker Adam Curtis, also speaking from recent sad experience it sounds like Prince is suffering from a collapsed trachea, and probably wasn't long for the world at the time of recording.