Three Dog Night “Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits”

I don’t usually care for greatest hits records (Chicago IX is a big exception) but I picked up a clean copy of this one for a couple of dollars for listening because I love some of their songs. I had a copy of the Harmony LP when I was little and I pretty much wore it out. It’s funny, this unadorned (no pics!) 14 song record strikes me as totally contemporary, in a physical object sense, but it’s 44 years old! The songs on here are from the years which I think of as the pinnacle of Western pop culture, and a few of these songs, to me, are as good as Top 40 radio has ever been. They were a huge band, but I don’t ever remember seeing them on any of those late night music shows, and I would not have recognized any of the guys. From the few pictures I’d seen, I thought it was a perfect band name because they all looked a bit lycanthropic and sleepless. I always assumed that the expression “three dog night” had something to do with heavy partying, but Internet tells me it means a night that’s so cold you have to take three dogs to bed with you for warmth! Thanks Internet.

This was a band with three lead singers with distinctive styles, but I never knew their names or who was singing what, and I still don’t, really. It’s a tight band, and I like the sound. What is most remarkable and interesting is the vast array of songwriters they did songs by. You can spend a rainy afternoon looking over their discography songwriting credits. My favorites here, first are the songs from Harmony, “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” written by Paul Williams, and “Never Been to Spain,” which is written by Hoyt Axton, as well as “Joy to the World,” another of my favorites. Probably my favorite song on the album is Allen Toussaint’s “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”—which is one of those songs that’s a bit corny in your memory, but loud, through good speakers, is like a new song. The sad thing is, my favorite TDN song, Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” is not on this record. It was, however, on their first greatest hits album. If you think about it—for a band whose first album came out in 1968—that this was their second greatest hits album—that’s just totally nuts.

One other odd thing I’m reminded of is there are a couple odd things that always kind of drove me crazy, as much as I love these songs. One is in Harry Nilsson’s song “One,” the lyric, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” I guess that’s more on Nilsson than TDN, and I’m sure people think that’s great, but it makes me think of someone out at restaurant, saying, “I’ll do the wings with the Sriracha aioli dipping sauce”—for some reason that’s always bugged me. And on “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” on the wind-down toward the end, where they’re singing, “Just an… ol/love song, just an… ol/love song”—kind of mixing the word old and love… if you listen to it again you’ll hear what I’m trying to describe. For some reason that just always bugged the shit out of me. I mean it still does—it bugs the living shit out of me. And I love that song.


5 Responses to “Three Dog Night “Joy to the World: Their Greatest Hits””

  1. 1 Jerf
    January 17, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I guess I didn’t realize that TDN actually had so many hits that I would recognize! (Though, I *did* know the origin of their name — I believe it’s an Inuit expression — and for some reason I seem to remember seeing them on stuff like “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” on tv, but trying to look that up, I was disappointed.)

    I actually just recently found a copy of a 45 of “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” and it really is a great, crazy song.

    OH — and yes, I HATE it when I hear people saying in a restaurant that they are going to “do” a particular food. I always imagine them taking it home and having sex with it.

    • January 23, 2018 at 11:05 am

      There is a surprising lack of old TV footage I could find on youtube, though a few good things. Mostly though, there is a lot from this one live show, which was a little bit later, and they seemed kind of tired.

      I don’t like it when people say “Do someone” for sex, either, it sounds predatory. That’s probably why I got bothered by saying that for food. When you think about it, “DO” is a kind of terrible word. “Just Do It” is one of the most disgusting popular ad slogans ever. And when someone says, “It’s what I DO,” it’s usually trying to justify some heinous behavior. Maybe the only good version of “do” is “don’t.”

      • 3 Jerf
        January 23, 2018 at 11:14 am

        ‘Maybe the only good version of “do” is “don’t.”’ — quote of the week, at the very least.

        And yeah, “do” as a euphemism for “have sex with” is so gross and impersonal, and yes, predatory. I was just reading a book by a marriage/sex therapist who was quoting a couple of his clients where they say, “I *did* him,” and “I *did* her,” even italicizing the word “did” — it was a real turn-off, I can tell you.

  2. January 23, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Not 5 minutes after writing that I heard Ivor Cutler say, “Cock a doodle don’t!”

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