Certain Songs #1231: Nazareth – “Hair of the Dog”

Album: Hair of the Dog
Year: 1975

In the mid 1970s, Craig, the metal fan — and future accountant — who lived across the street from me had all of the Nazareth albums, and listening to those albums, we came up with something called “The Nazareth Rule.” Unlike a lot of the crazy-ass “rules” I’ve listed over the course of one thousand two hundred and thirty-one Certain Songs posts, “The Nazareth Rule” isn’t really that wide-ranging. In fact, it’s specific to Nazareth themselves, and honestly pretty anachronistic four decades later.

Nevertheless, for posterity’s sake, I’ll record it here, so that future generations of people who enjoyed listening to a Scottish hard rock band — for whatever reason, they never quite rose to the level of “metal” — with raspy, scratchy vocals may understand. It’s simply this: put any Nazareth album on your turntable, then drop the needle in the exact middle of any song on that record, and no matter what song it is, they’ll be in the middle of the guitar solo.

Hell, you can do it with this song right here. According to my iTunes, “Hair of the Dog” is 4:09, half of which is 2:04.5. So what’s going on at that point in the song: the talkbox solo, as performed by lead singer Dan McCafferty. That talkbox solo is just one of several infamously 70s things about “Hair of the Dog,” the others being the cowbell on the opening and on the chorus, the lurching riff that drives it, and, of course, the chorus, which was borderline profane in 1975.

Now you’re messing with a
(A son of a bitch!)
Now you’re messing with a son of a bitch
Now you’re messing with a
(A son of a bitch!)
Now you’re messing with a son of a bitch

And while they weren’t comfortable with using “son of a bitch” as the title, reaching hard for the “Hair of the Dog” pun, which most people just assumed meant the colloquial term for drinking to get rid of a hangover anyways, they were totally fine with repeating it ad nauseam for the chorus.

And their American record company certainly wasn’t adverse to corrupting the youth of America, sticking “Hair of the Dog” on the b-side of their massive hit single cover of the Every Brothers “Love Hurts,” a straight-up torch ballad (and a the exception that proves the Nazareth Rule) that somehow wringed real pathos from McCafferty’s rasp. Maybe people thought it was Rod Stewart.

In any event, while I could never get through a whole Nazareth album, I did enjoy some of their other songs, especially the title track to 1973’s Razamanaz, and the 1980 radio hit “Holiday,” (which if any of you are going to remember — Tim and Doc — it’s going to be the chorus, which starts with “Mama, mama please” and then goes into a litany of things he doesn’t want his mama to do), but other than those, not so much.

That said, “Hair of the Dog” was a pretty big FM radio hit back then, and has survived to be a classic-rock staple, I’m guessing even more than “Love Hurts,” as well as being one the subject of a too-faithful cover by Guns n’ Roses on The Spaghetti Incident?!!?

“Hair of the Dog”

“Hair of the Dog” performed live in 1981

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