Greatest Hits: Three Dog Night

Many a year ago in Australia, the aboriginal inhabitants would snuggle with a dingo on chilly nights in order to keep warm; two dingoes if it was especially nippy; and, as you might guess, a particularly bone-chilling sundown required a three dog night.

When singers Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton, and Cory Wells failed in their tryout to sign a recording contract with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, they hired a backing band and formed the tri-headed Cerberus known as Three Dog Night. Beginning with their debut album in 1968, the group became a hit-making machine over the next 7 years, with 21 Top 40 singles, 11 of which went Top 10, and 3 of which topped the charts.

Because Three Dog Night primarily succeeded as a singles act and didn’t write their own material, the hip critics didn’t dig them at all. But music critics are often too concerned with hipness to maintain any kind of objectivity, particularly in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when they only wanted music by the children of the revolution, music to fight the power. If it made the charts, not cool; if it played on the jukebox, not cool; if the artist didn’t write it, not cool; if the kids liked it, not cool. The public, however, bought the singles in the millions.

As for not writing their own material, few artists in pop history excelled at arranging a song and making it their own more so than Three Dog Night. With only a few exceptions, their versions are definitive. Maybe not as much with the album tracks, but certainly with the singles — the ones the public bought in the millions.

Unfortunately, things began to go awry in 1975: Hutton was temporarily fired after sporadically showing up for a few albums, and Negron began to show the ill effects of the drug addiction which would take him 20 years to kick. The band broke up for 5 years but reunited in 1981 and still tour today (although Hutton is the only surviving original member at this point), making them one of the longest lasting bands left from the 1960’s.

So open up the window, let some air into this room. But keep a few dingoes around, just in case. Here’s all you need to know:

As the title at the top says, any Greatest Hits, Best Of, or Collection will work. While Three Dog Night made a few solid albums, they never put together anything cohesive enough to serve as a classic. All their singles in one place, on the other hand, make for some killer cohesion.

(Three Dog Night’s original master tapes were destroyed in the infamous Universal archive fire of 2008 which resulted in the loss of “an estimated 500K song titles” from over 800 artists, so I have no idea where current collections and album reissues source the songs from, but they sound fine to me.)

Their first big smash:

Their first #1:

A personal favorite:

Another personal favorite:

6 thoughts on “Greatest Hits: Three Dog Night

  1. “Never been to Spain” – is my favourite. I was a fan of their music, still am. And all be darned, I never knew about the origin of the group’s name. That is brilliantly just like them.

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