Through the early 1970s, Three Dog Night was a fixture on the pop charts, a non-threatening alternative to the Stones and Zeppelin, yet hipper and harder-rocking than Bread or The Carpenters. The band filled this niche for nearly five years, racking up 21 consecutive Top 40 hits and selling over 80 million albums. They were unusual, not only in their three-lead-vocalist format, but also in the degree of control they had over choosing their material, using their own band in the studio, and acting as co-producers of many of their records. The group’s phenomenal success, and broad appeal, afforded them uncommon freedom from Dunhill, their record label through 1973.
By 1975, though, they were on their third label in three years and the hits had dried up. And by the time Elvis’ walking pharmacy, Dr. Nick, confided to the world the King’s prodigious appetite for prescription drugs, Three Dog Night’s Chuck Negron was selling his gold records to subsidize a $2,000 a day heroin habit.
In case the title isn’t sufficient, Negron sets the tone for his autobiography with the book’s first sentence — “I should be dead” — and an opening chapter that catalogs overdoses, car crashes, gun play, suicide attempts, and nearly becoming a victim in the notorious Wonderland murders. By the book’s end, it does seem miraculous that he survived the dissolute life he depicts in Three Dog Nightmare. Negron is merciless, even relentless, in portraying himself as a reckless, impulsive, and selfish junkie who thinks no further than his next score.
His focus throughout the book, an update of the 2000 edition, is his drug use, his repeated attempts at rehabilitation, and his eventual recovery; his musical career is almost incidental to his addiction story. In fact, it becomes obvious that Negron was already dealing with a propensity for substance abuse even before he became a rock star. A few musically-related Three Dog Night anecdotes — like Danny Hutton singing the lead vocal for “Liar” with “his head a few inches above the water line . . . of this scummy toilet” — tease the story of the band that remains largely untold (the only other autobiography out of the band to date, Jimmy Greenspoon’s One Is the Loneliest Number, offers a disturbingly similar, addiction-oriented approach to the Three Dog Night story, and is long out of print.)