Anyone that has listened to rock-n-roll music has heard “House Of The Rising Sun” and there probably isn’t a garage band that doesn’t have it as part o their repertoire. Then version known by most us today was performed and recorded by the group ‘The Animals’, however, they are not the originators of the song. That credit goes to a blues singer, Josh White. Still the song is associated more with ‘The Animals’ and the voice of Eric Burdon. That being their most famous claim to fame, let us look into history and see how, when and where this group came to exist ….
This British group was a spin off from the ‘Alan Price Combo’ and came on the beat music boom in the 1960’s taking England, and in short time, the United States, by storm. The authentic sound of Eric Burdon accompanied by Chas Chandler on bass, Alan Price on keyboards, John Steel on the skins and Hilton Valentine on the axe was a sound that was new and unique, yet fit perfectly into the scene of the 60s and the British Invasion. Because of the group’s stage acts were on the wild side, they were dubbed "Animals" a name that would stuck long after the group disbanded, more than once.
A homegrown U.K. blues group, ‘The Animals’ is definitely one of the most notable bands during that time. Formed in the port city and coal mining hub, Newcastle-on-Tyne, the group’s music was a reflection of their upbringing and adapted their native British sound with American blues and R&B inspiration. Eric Burdon has been named one of the 60s best white R&B singers with his gruff, soulful vocals. Along with Alan Price’s organ, the band had a defined sound that was all theirs.
In 1963, the band performed in Hamburg Germany for a month long residency, same as the Beatles did and then went to the U.K. And backed bluesmen such as John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. A year later, The Animals moved to London and with the peformance of what would quickly become their signature song, “House of the Rising Sun” they were on their way. The song quickly hit Number One in America, staying there 3 weeks, and became an early marker in the British Invasion hitting the number slot in Britian as well.
In a short period time, this 5 piece band from northeastern England had influence not only the fans of blues and rock-n-roll fans, but other artists as well, such as Bob Dylan. After listening to The Animals, Mr. Dylan started working with other electric instrument playing musicians. During the top of their reign,64-65, the group only released three albums, The Animals, The Animals On Tour and Animal Tracks. During that short time, top 40 bonafide classics hits, in addition to “The House Of The Rising Son” included “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, “It’s My Life” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” .
As many musical artist and rock groups did, the Animals made it to the Ed Sullivan show In November 1964. They made a grand entrance into the city with each band member in their own convertiblel with a model escorting them from JFK airport. The Animals performed "I’m Crying" and their big hit "The House of the Rising Sun" on Sullivan’s show, nothing less than an audience packed with hysterical girls that screamed through both performance. The group would stay for short temporary residency and peform all across the city, including in the MGM movie Get Yourself a College Girl in which they sant a Chuck Berry song, "Around and Around".
1966 would see The Animals disband after releasing ’The Best of the Animals’, acollection of hits making it one of the strongest albums of its time, reaching Number 6 and stayed charged for 2 years. Alan Price would leave the group in 1965, some say he had a fear of flying, other say he and Burdon were incompatibile. The following March, John Steel wouldl leave and by September 1966, the rest of the group went their own way as well. Some x-members claim The Animals suffered from poor business management, thus the disbanding.
Eric Burdon would recruit and reconfigure the band as Eric Burdon and the Animals. With several hits on the psychedelic vein with "Montery", “When I Was Young” and “San Franciscan Nights”. In 1968 Burdon would release a double album Love Is, which became a psychelia landmark of the 60s with Andy Somers on guitar., who would later become a memeber of the group the Police. Undaunted, Burdon, by 1969 the band name abandoned entirely, the hit “Spill The Wine", became a hit with Burdon’s new discovery, War, a Latin-funk band. The group went on to success without Burdon as he began a solo career.
In addition to writing 2 books about his rock and roll experiences, Burdon still records and tours today at the age of 72. While Burdon continues to perform today, the rest of the original band members have had different successes. Alan Price has enjoyed a solo career with success in Britain and in 1973 earned acclaim for the soundtrack to the film, O Lucky Man!. Meanwhile, Chas Chandler, the bassist for The Animals discovered an unknown in New York’s Greenwich Village. He would evenutally be the manager for that unknown talent that grew to a fame all their own, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Slade.
On occasion throughout the 21st century, the original band members have reformed, with uneven results. Such as in 1977 the group reunited to record the album Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted. Burdon and Price would reunite as a duo December 1982, and perform with a complete line-up. One-third of their ori the tour was material from their 1960s original and the rest was from Ark and other tunes. Songs included were "Heart Attack", "No More Elmore", "Oh Lucky Man", "It’s Too Late" and others. With a sold out crowd on September 9 for their first New York at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center and followed by a concert at Wembley Stadium.
Even with the success of these albums, there was still tension but their music still had an edge that offered a power unknown to other groups.After the releasing the live album cut of Rip It To Shreds in 1984, the Animals once again disbanded. February 2008 their Royal Oak Michigan concert from November 1983 was released as Last Live Show.The reunion tour was filmed but never released. With the death of Chas Chandler in 1996, any chance of the original band reunitigin was put to an end.
Throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, there have been several groups taking the band’s monikor and adding a twist such as Animals II with Hilton Valentine, John Steel and Dave Rowberry or Steel and Rowberry playing under Animals and Friends along with Peter Barton, Jim Rodford and John Wiliamson. Even Burdon would from another group using the original band’s name as Eric Burdon and the New Animals. An adjudicator rulled in 2008 that drummer John Steel owned the name "the Animals by trademark registration Burdon argued but lost.
The group has been honored with many awards and recognitions. In 1994 they would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 1999 induction into Grammy Hall of Fame. The Rolling Stone magaine would rank their hit The House of the Rising Sun as number 123 out of 500 greatest songs and We Gotta Get out of the Place as number 233.
Muscians of all genre would be influenced by this group and the testament that Bruce Springsteen gave in 2012 during a keynote speek at the South by Southwest music festival would only confirm that. Other musicans that have gave the Animals credit for influencing their musical careers would be Bo Didley, Chuck Berry, David Johansen, John Lee Hooker and even Ray Charles found influence by this troup with their blues and R&B sound.