One afternoon back in the late '70s (or was it the very early '80s?), I took a nap on the living room sofa. While I was asleep, in another room Mary Ellen put on the album After the Heat by Brian Eno and members of the German band Cluster. As the sounds of Side 2 began to intermingle with my sleep, they manifested themselves into lucid dreams. I became aware that I was listening to a record during The Belldog some time around the point where the vocals start - it might have been the sound of a human voice for the first time on an otherwise instrumental album that startled me out of deep sleep. But it was as if the music was being channeled directly into my subconscious and I laid there a while longer in a state somewhere between sleep and consciousness, drifting along on the stream of music until I finally awoke fully, energized and strangely inspired, and I was forever changed.
Thirty-five years later and for the first time, I'm off to see Hans-Joachim Roedelius, the surviving member of Cluster, who will be performing at downtown Atlanta's Mammal Gallery tonight.
Regarding the title of the song, Eno wrote,
"I was walking through Washington Square Park, towards the 'Arc de Triomphe' style monument there. There was a little group of people under the arch, and the full moon stood low on the horizon, visible through the top of the arch. As I got closer I saw what it was that had attracted their attention. A very grubby man of indeterminate age was playing an out-of-tune upright piano on wheels: his touch was that of a plummy night club pianist, but the chords he used were completely strange. Over this sequence of soft discords he sang, again and again, in a trembling voice: "The belldog, where are you?" I have no idea what he meant by the belldog. For me it was (and is) an unidentified mythical character from some unfamiliar mythology...So the vague feeling I have about the belldog is that he is a herald; of what is not clear. Whatever it is, in the song he has either not yet appeared or has gone away..."