Pavlov's Dog

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1972)

- Siegfried Carver (aka Richard Nadler) (RIP 2009) -- violin, viola

- Mark Gahr -- lead guitar

- David Hamilton -- keyboards

- Douglas Rayburn -- synthesizers, keyboards, bass, percussion

- Mike Saffron -- drums, percussion

- Steve Scorfina -- lead guitar

- Richard Stockton -- bass

- David Surkamp -- vocals, rhythm guitar


  line up 2 (1972-74)

- Siegfried Carver (aka Richard Nadler) (RIP 2009) -- violin, viola

- David Hamilton -- keyboards

- Douglas Rayburn -- synthesizers, keyboards, bass, percussion

- Mike Saffron -- drums, percussion

NEW - Steve Scorfina -- lead guitar (replaced Mark Gahr)

- Richard Stockton -- bass

- David Surkamp -- vocals, rhythm guitar


  line up 3 (1976-78)

NEW - Thomas Nickeson -- keyboards guitar, backing  vocals

  (replaced David Hamilton)

- Douglas Rayburn -- synthesizers, keyboards, bass, percussion

- Mike Saffron -- drums, percussion

NEW  - Kirk Sarkisian -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Mike Saffron)

- Steve Scorfina -- lead guitar

- Richard Stockton -- bass

- David Surkamp -- vocals, rhythm guitar


  supporting musicians (1976)

- Mike Abene -- organ

- Michael Brecker -- sax

- William Bruford -- drums

- George Gerich -- rogan

- Andy Mackay -- sax

- Les Nichol -- guitar

- Paul Prestoping -- mandolin

- Elliott Randall - guitar

- Gavin Wright -- violin




- Gulliver (Steve Scorfina and Tom Nickeson)

- Hi Fi (David Surkamp)

- High On a Small Hill

- Pavlov's Dog 2000

- REO Speedwagon (Steve Scorfina)

- St. Louis Hounds

- Steve Scorfina (solo efforts)

- David Surkamp (solo efforts)

- Touch (David Surkamp)







Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Pampered Menial

Company: Columbia

Catalog: PC 33562

Country/State: St. Louis, Missouri

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6127

Price: $20.00


It's always struck me as kind of odd that most of my record collecting friends hate David Surkamp's high pitched and shrill voice, but have no problem listening to Rush and Geddy Lee. I brought the issue up at a 2010 Rush concert I went to where I was unanimously labeled out of my mind by friends.  Regardless of what others think, I'd make the argument that Pavlov' Dog's catalog is easily as good as anything in Rush's catalog - in fact Surkamp and company may well have written better songs than Lee and company, though their sales were never more than a fraction of Rush's international successes ...


Calling St, Louis home, Pavlov's Dog formed out of a series of local bands including High On a Small Hill and Touch.  Formed in 1972, the original lineup featured violin player Siegfried Carver, lead guitarist Mark Gahr (quickly replaced by former REO Speedwagon lead guitarist Steve Scorfina), keyboardist David Hamilton, synthesizer player Doug Rayburn, drummer Mike Safron, bassist Rick Stockton, and former Touch singer/rhythm guitarist David Surkamp. The band toured the mid-West extensively and in 1975 recorded several demos before signing a contract with ABC Dunhill.  Dunhill rushed them into the studio where they were teamed with producers Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman (then beginning to enjoy some success with Blue Oyster Cult).  


Released in 1974 "Pampered Menial" (ABC catalog number ABCD-866) never had a chance.  In one of rock's weirder business deals, Dunhill almost immediate walked away from the band (even though it had invested more than $600,000 signing them to a recording contract), leaving Columbia to quickly pick up their contract (reportedly forking over another $600,000) and reissue the album with the same track listing and slightly modified cover art.  No matter how you approached Pavlov's Dog, the make or break component was Surkamp.  As mentioned earlier, his shrill, high pitched voice sounded like The Chipmunks doing helium whippets.  Yeah, his vibrato was literally that high !!!   There's simply no denying it was definitely a deal breaker for lots of folks and I'll readily admit it took me awhile to warm up to his unique voice.   So if you could get your ears around Surkamp, the album was surprisingly impressive.  Responsible for most of the nine tracks, exemplified by material like sweet ballad 'Julia' and the rockers 'Late November' and 'Fast Gun' Surkamp had a gift for crafting catchy melodies that were wrapped in tasty hard rock and progressive moves.  Elsewhere the rest of the band were first-rate musicians with Scorfina standing out via a series of taunt, but tasteful solos.  Imagine a less rockin', more commercially oriented Rush and you'd be in the right aural ballpark (yeah, I can hear Rush fans groaning).


Even though it was a 'challenging' album, the set managed to hit the US Billboard  top-200 LP charts, eventually peaking at # 181.  It certainly didn't make them superstars, but did give them a chance to record another collection.  You're also left to wonder what would have happened to these guys had they chosen a somewhat more conventional singer.



"Pampered Menial" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Julia (David Surkamp) - 3:09 rating: **** stars

Opening up with some classically inspired keyboard from Hamilton and pretty acoustic guitar from Scorfina, 'Julia' was a nice way to be introduced to Surkamp's voice - perhaps the best description I've seen was the YouTube comment "one of the most unique and beautiful voices ..."  Yeah, the voice took a little getting used to, but the song was a gorgeous ballad with awesome backing vocals.  The song got better and better as it rolled along.  Rush would have been happy to have written something this commercial.  Easy to see why Columbia tapped this one as a single.  Had it been released a couple of years later it probably would have been a hit.   LIke the parent album the single was first released by ABC with Columbia quickly reissuing it.

- 1976's 'Julia' b/w 'Episode' (ABC catalog number ABC-12086)

- 1976's 'Julia' b/w 'Episode' (Columbia Catalog number 3-10152)

Recorded at a November 2017 appearance at St. Louis radio station KDHX, YouTube has a Surkamp performance of the song.  His voice has mellow a touch over the years, but is still recognizable: David Surkamp of Pavlov's Dog "Julia" Live at KDHX 11/04/17 - YouTube

2.) Late November   (Steve Sarfonia - David Surkamp) - 3:10 rating: **** stars

Showcasing some of Scorfina's prettiest work, 'Late November' sported one of the album's best melodies.  Similar to Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear the Reaper', this was one of those rock songs that had a weird, slightly ominous edge that simply wouldn't let go of your memory banks.  This is the track I would have tapped as a single.    

3.) Song Dance  (Michael Safron) - 4:58 rating: **** stars

Written by drummer Safron, 'Song Dance' opened up with some heavy orchestration before unexpectedly morphing into one of the album's toughest and most enjoyable rockers.  It's also one of the few rock songs I know of that has a violin solo that actually improves the track.  One word of warning - get acclimated to Surkamp's voice before checking this one out.   Killer hook that should have made major weaves of FM radio.  Folks in New Zealand apparently figured it out, tapping the song as a single:





- 1975's 'Song Dance' b/w 'Natchez Trance' (CBS catalog number BA 461658)






4.) Fast Gun (David Surkamp) - 3 :08  rating: **** stars

With a breezy, Western-inspired lyric, 'Fast Gun' featured one of the album's most commercial melodies and some great Safron drumming.    

5.) Natchez Trance (Steve Scorfina) - 3:40   rating: *** stars

'Natchez Trance' demonstrated these guys could pound out a conventional FM rocker, though the lyrics have always puzzled me ... 


(side 2)
1.) Theme from Subway Sue (David Surkamp) -
4:25  rating: **** stars

Opening up with a blazing Sarfonia solo and showcasing some great Hamilton keyboards, 'Theme from Subway Sue' was a fantastic rocker and perhaps my favorite performance on the LP.  If you got this far into the album then chances were Surkamp's voice was starting to grow on you.

2.) Episode (David Surkamp) - 4:02  rating: *** stars

The album's first mediocre performance, 'Episode' was another pretty but somewhat meandering ballad.  Carver's violin solo was particularly haunting - never thought I'd say something like that in relation to a rock song.  At least to my ears the track just never really seemed to gell.  That didn't stop Columbia from releasing it as a promo 45:





- 1976's 'Episode' b/w 'Episode' (Columbia catalog number 3-10152)







3.) Preludin' (Siegfried Carver) - 1:37 rating: *** stars

The sole contribution from violinist Carver, 'Preludin''' was a classically tinged instrumental.  Not something up my alley, but it had a pretty melody with some nice Richard Stockton bass lines and some tasteful synthesizers from Douglas Rayburn. 

4.) Of Once and Future Kings  (David Surkamp) - 5:23  rating: *** stars

'Of Once and Future Kings' was the album's most progressive oriented track with obvious nods to early-1970s English progressive bands like Genesis.  To my ears it lacked the focus of some of the other tracks, but if you could stomach Peter Gabriel and company, then this one wasn't too bad.  



For anyone interested, the band have an interesting website at:


That said, the best Pavlov's Dog website I've run across is run by German fan Klaus Reichert:







Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  At the Sound of the Bell

Company: Columbia

Catalog: PC-33964

Country/State: St. Louis, Missouri

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original lyric inner sleeve; timing strip on cover; white label promo copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6129

Price: $20.00



1976's  "At the Sound of the Bell" continued Pavlov's Dog's partnership with producers Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman.  Original drummer Mike Saffron gave notice before the album was recorded with sessions player Bill Bruford handled drums on the album. During the recording sessions keyboard player David Hamilton was replaced by Thomas Nickeson.  The band also seemingly opted for a change in musical direction though the change may have been lost on anyone unaccustomed to vocalist David Surkamp.  If his voice didn't irritate you like chalk on a chalkboard, then there was a good chance you'd find these nine songs were actually even more commercial than the debut.  On the other hand, if Surkamp's voice drove you crazy; well you probably want to stop reading right here.  


With Surkamp again responsible for most of the material (four tracks were co-written with synthesizer player Douglas Rayburn), there were some distinct changes in the band's sound this time around.  The debut's rock edges were almost entirely absent, replaced by a much more commercial sound (again I'm using the term in a broad sense), that was heavily geared to softer, ballad-oriented tunes like 'She Came Shining' and 'Standing Here with You (Megan's Song)'.  In fact, most of these nine tracks seemed to be focused on the theme of lost love.  I'm guessing the change in direction was meant to accommodate Columbia management's interest in breaking the band commercially, though for what it's worth, the decision to push lead guitarist Steve Scorfina into the background was a major disservice to the band.  Tracks like 'Golden Nugget' were certainly pretty, but propelled by Surkamp's unconventional voice they had little chance of gaining commercial acceptance and the change in direction stripped the band of some of their most endearing characteristics.


Curiously, judging by the liner notes credits, Columbia management doesn't seem to have had much faith the group's instrumental prowess, bringing in an all-star cast of sessions players including guitarist Elliot Randall and sax players Michael Brecker and Andy Mackay.  So how to rate it compared to the debut?  I'll be honest and admit I'm torn.  I've always enjoyed the debut and I truly miss the rawer, rock edges.  On the other hand, the occasionally subdued Surkamp vocals and pop song structures made the sophomore set worth hearing.   Guess the more adventuresome folks out there will have to figure it out for themselves.


"At the Sound of the Bell" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) She Came Shining (David Surkamp - Douglas Rayburn) - 4:24 rating: **** stars

Surrounded by Douglas Rayburn's shimmering synthesizers 'She Came Shining' started the album with one of the band's prettiest melodies.  The song started out as a gentle ballad with a Surkamp actually restraining his usual excesses, but gradually built up a distinct sense of anger and energy (Surkamp's vibrato also became more obvious as the track went on).  Great Steve Scorfina guitar solo.   

2.) Standing Here with You (Megan's Song) (David Surkamp) - 3:47  rating: ** stars

'Standing Here with You (Megan's Song)' started out as a sappy and insipid ballad.  I remember playing this one for a friend and they were dumbfounded to learn a guy was actually singing the lead.  Luckily, the track had a killer hook in the form of a chorus that featured the band's surprisingly enjoyable harmony vocals. 

3.) Mersey (David Surkamp - Steve Scorfina) - 3:03 rating: **** stars

For anyone doubting these guys could recorded a pop song there was ' Mersey'.  A top-40ish ballad with an instantly likeable melody, this one actually could have enjoyed radio success had it been released a couple of years later.  It did get released as a single in Australia:





- 1976's 'Mersey' b/w 'She Cam Shining' (CBS catalog number BA 222220)






4.) Valkerie (David Surkamp) - 6:22  rating: *** stars

'Valkerie' found the band finally breaking away from their top-40 orientation (yeah I'm using the term broadly), and returning to a more rock/progressive direction.  While the song took a while to get going, it was one of the few tracks that gave the band a chance to stretch out; Bruford and the Carver (or guest sax players Michael Brecker and Andy Mackay) certainly benefited from the extra creative room.  


(side 2)
1.) Try To Hang On (David Surkamp) - 2;08  rating: **** stars  

With a likeable, breezy melody, 'Try To Hang On' was the album's most pop-oriented track and one of the few tracks that gave guitarist Scorfina a chance to shine with a blazing solo.    

2.) Gold Nugget (David Surkamp) - 3:25  rating: **** stars  

'Gold Nugget' was another ballad, but benefited from three factors:  1.) a subdued Surkamp vocal, 2.) one of the band's most memorable melodies. and some of Scorfina's prettiest work.    

3.) She Breaks Like a Morning Sky (David Surkamp - Douglas Rayburn) - 2:22 rating: **** stars  

An atypical up-tempo rocker with a horn arrangement, 'She Breaks Like a Morning Sky'  probably gets my nod as best overall performance.  Great unaccredited sax solo ...    

4.) Early Morning On (David Surkamp - Douglas Rayburn) - 3:21 rating: **** stars  

Bill Bruford earns his sessions player fees ...  Great track to discover the band's eclectic charm.  Sweet melody that's always reminded me of Geddy Lee deciding he wanted a top-40 hit.

'5.) Did You See Him Cry (David Surkamp- Douglas Rayburn) - 5:36 rating: *** stars

Did You See Him Cry' opened up with some atmospheric piano, synthesizers, and lead guitar before shifting gears into a progressive-oriented structure that sounded like Surkamp and company had been listening to quite a few 1970s-era UK progressive bands.   Yeah, with the emphasis was clearly on Nickeson's keyboards and particularly Rayburn's synthesizers and the song bounced all over the musical spectrum, but it wasn't a bad way to end the album.   



Following a tour in support of 1976's "At the Sound of the Bell" the band (sans violin player Carver), regrouped to record a planned third album.  The recording sessions were completed and the album even given a tentative title - "Whatever Became of Siegfried?".  Unfortunately, given the band's lack of sales, Columbia management elected to shelve the set.   In the mid-1980s bootleg versions of the album appeared credited to The St. Louis Hounds.  In 1997 the German Rockville label acquired rights to the third album releasing it under the planned original title along with ten previously unreleased tracks from the 1970s (Rockville catalog number 21258).   An abbreviated version of the third set was then bootlegged by the German TRC label under the title "Third" (catalog number TRC-036).


And that was it for the band.  


  • Carver moved to Kansas City and largely dropped out of music focusing his attention on conservative politics and writing.  Only 60, he died in May 2009.


  • Nickeson and Scorfina moved to California where they joined the band Gulliver (not the Darryl Hall group).  Moving back to St. Louis they played in a couple of local bands, including The Memphis Underground, and Pave.  Scorfina's also recorded a couple of self-financed CDs.


  • Safron remained active in music, fronting Pavlov's Dog 2000 which released a 1995 CD "End of the World" ()


  • Surkamp's continued to be active in music, writing a music column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, recording solo material, as well as joining a number of bands including Hi-Fi (with former Fairport Convention singer/guitarist Ian Matthews), Madshadows and The Memphis Underground.


There are actually a couple of other Pavlov Dog studio albums.  In 1990 Rayburn and Surkamp resurrected the band name, releasing "Lost In America" on the small Telectro Records label (catalog number 21259).  A decade later Rockville released the studio set "The Adventures of Echo and Boo" (catalog number RV-PD-008).