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The Animals

+ {The Original Animals} + {The Animals II}

Remembered for their substantial contributions to the British Invasion of the mid-60s and the concurrent R&B revival, The ANIMALS were second only to The ROLLING STONES and The BEATLES in this field, their hall of fame status set in stone courtesy of all time classics, `The House Of The Rising Sun’ and `We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’. Numerous personnel changes duly blighted their careers, while confusion was rife when the inaugural incarnation of the Americanised ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS contained no original members. This to many died-in-the-wool fans was the end of The ANIMALS and the re-birth of BURDON.
Formed 1963 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, singer Eric Burdon and drummer John Steel had already tread the boards as The Pagan Jazzmen (from 1957-1958), The Pagans (from 1959) –
with self-taught pianist/singer Alan Price – and in turn, as the core part of the Kansas City Seven/Five (between 1960-62), bassist Bryan “Chas” Chandler (from The Kontours) would join the trio when they were in transitional mode from trad-jazz to R&B.
Returning to Geordie-land in the summer of ’63 from a spell down south as lead singer with BLUES INCORPORATED (alongside ALEXIS KORNER, CYRIL DAVIES, JACK BRUCE and CHARLIE WATTS), Burdon teamed up with his old muckers in the Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo, recruiting guitarist Hilton Valentine (from The Gamblers) when the group changed their name that December to The ANIMALS; mentor GRAHAM BOND had suggested the moniker to fit in with the current Brit Invasion climate. Burdon’s arrival from exile led to tension in the ranks, no doubt a major contributing factor to the band’s increasingly manic stage show. After supporting the likes of legendary bluesmen SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON and JOHN LEE HOOKER (shows that would be recorded for exploitative purposes later on), the quintet moved to London early in ‘64 and were promptly signed to EMI’s Columbia imprint by the then virtually unknown and independent producer Mickie Most.
Almost immediately, The ANIMALS hit pay-dirt when their debut platter, `Baby Let Me Take You Home’ (adapted from hearing JOSH WHITE’s version of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”), bubbled one place outside the UK Top 20 in spring ‘64. From the same blues-standard source, and not as suggested at time from BOB DYLAN’s eponymous LP of a few years back, `The House Of The Rising Sun’ (reputedly recorded by Mickie M in a ¼ hour for a few £s), duly became a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic. With Burdon’s ominous vocal phrasing and Price’s wailing organ, the record remains the band’s defining moment. Rarely, if ever, has Old Blighty produced a white guy who could sing the blues like Eric Burdon. The whisky-soaked menace of his larynx sounded at times like Old Nick incarnate and was a key component in The ANIMALS’ feisty challenge to The ROLLING STONES’ throne at the height of the 60s R&B boom. Much like The BYRDS (who’d soon take DYLAN’s `Mr Tambourine Man’ to the top), The ANIMALS had an uncanny knack of covering material which, on paper, seemed less than obvious, but worked a treat on vinyl.
The Price/Burdon-penned, angst-ridden `I’m Crying’, a re-vamp of NINA SIMONE’s `Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and their take of SAM COOKE’s `Bring It On Home To Me’ all went Top 10 in the UK (Americans also bought them by the bucket-load), ensuring respectable sales of concurrent LPs. Like so many of their British Invasion rivals, albums seemed to have a varied release schedule and track listing order, none more so than their eponymous debut, THE ANIMALS (1964) {*7}. With only the odd Alan Price arrangement on both the UK and the US versions, all the songs were indeed blues covers, the standouts sourced from JOHN LEE HOOKER (`Dimples’, `Boom Boom’ and `I’m Mad Again’), FATS DOMINO (`I’ve Been Around’ and `I’m In Love Again’), CHUCK BERRY (`Memphis’ and `Around And Around’), RAY CHARLES (`The Right Time’), BO BIDDLEY (`The Story Of Bo Diddley’) and LITTLE RICHARD (`The Girl Can’t Help It’); the US version contained `…The Rising Sun’, its B-side of RAY CHARLES’ `Talkin’ ‘Bout You’ and their debut 45s flip, `Gonna JOHN PAUL HAMMOND-penned cue, `Gonna Send You Back To Walker’. If anything the American version, which also cracked the Top 10, edged it.
Bypassing the rather unnecessary US-only, THE ANIMALS ON TOUR (1965) {*5}, the almost formulaic and expeditious ANIMAL TRACKS (1965) {*6} was again worthy of a Top 10 place. And while an American equivalent was a complete contradiction to its overseas counterpart and only managed a lowly No.57 peak (although it featured many of their smash hits), the UK version settled with a covers-style record, comprising tracks from RAY CHARLES (`Hallelujah I Love Her So’ and `I Believe To My Soul’), CHUCK BERRY (`How You’ve Changed’), JIMMY REED (`Bright Lights Big City’), BO DIDDLEY (`Roadrunner’), BILLY BOY ARNOLD (`I Ain’t Got You’), SHIRLEY & LEE (`Let The Good Times Roll’), HUEY “PIANO” SMITH (`Roberta’), Big Maceo Merriweather (`Worried Life Blues’) and Ahmet Ertegun (`Mess Around’); Eric Burdon’s `For Miss Caulker’ graced both versions.
Apparently suffering from a fear of flying, ALAN PRICE, er… bailed out in June 1965, beginning a dispute – incredibly still ongoing after more than 30 years – with Burdon over the publishing rights to “…The Rising Sun”. With Dave Rowberry as AP’s replacement (his resemblance uncanny), The ANIMALS nailed another couple of Brill Building-sourced Top 10 hits via Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill’s `We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ and Roger Atkins & Carl D’Errico’s `It’s My Life’.
Switching UK labels to Decca Records (M-G-M had retained the group in the US), `Inside-Looking Out’ didn’t quite make it into the Top 10, while further personnel shuffles came when Steel left and was replaced by former NASHVILLE TEENS sticksman Barry Jenkins. A third Top 10 UK-only set, ANIMALISMS (1966) {*7} – with their concurrent hit `Don’t Bring Me Down’ (penned by Goffin & King) nowhere to be seen – found Rowberry working with Burdon on a handful of tracks. But once again, they littered the grooves with a raft of covers, namely JOE TEX’s `One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’, JOHN LEE HOOKER’s `Maudie’, Eddie & Ernie’s `Outcast’, CHUCK BERRY’s `Sweet Little Sixteen’, the NINA SIMONE nugget `Gin House Blues’, JACKIE WILSON’s `Squeeze Her – Tease Her’, Harris & Jay’s `What Am I Living For’, SCREAMING JAY HAWKINS’ `I Put A Spell On You’ and OTIS BLACKWELL’s `That’s All I Am To You’. The American version (released a few months on), ANIMALIZATION {*7} kicked off with the aforementioned outtake 45, while there was room for re-treads of JOHN LEE HOOKER’s `Maudie’, MA RAINEY’s `See See Rider’ and a few other variations; check out the expanded UK CD re-issue featuring BO DIDDLEY’s `Pretty Thing’.
To confuse matters further, the management at M-G-M thought it sterling and worthy enough to deliver the ANIMALISM (1966) {*6} set (nothing to do with Britain’s “Animalisms”), showcasing an almost completely fresh set of tracks, oblivious to the fact that The Animals had now become ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS. The album itself, their fifth in the US, was the usual predominantly covers affair boasting tracks by, and here goes:- SAM COOKE (`Shake’), B.B. KING (`Rock Me Baby’), LITTLE RICHARD (`Lucille’), HOWLIN’ WOLF (`Smokestack Lightning’), RAY CHARLES (`Hit The Road Jack’), James Burke Oden (`Going Down Slow’), FRED NEIL (`The Other Side Of Life’) and DONOVAN (`Hey Gyp’).
In 1977, “The Original Animals” line-up re-united for what was supposed to be a one-off studio album project, BEFORE WE WERE SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED {*6}. Recalling the formulaic blues covers template they’d set in the previous decade, Burdon, Price, Valentine, Chandler and Steel were in freewheeling mode in several recitations, the best stemming from JIMMY CLIFF’s `Many Rivers To Cross’, DYLAN’s `It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and TONY JOE WHITE’s `As The Crow Flies’.
Without Price, but with Zoot Money to compensate, The ANIMALS went on the road to promote their follow-up “reunion” set, ARK (1983) {*4}. Coming across as a poor man’s ROLLING STONES, the album emulated its predecessor’s US Top 75 placing, but to recapture their solid, 60s sound was almost impossible. Spawned 45 `The Night’ was the group’s last Top 50 entry in America, although this new material was met with a lukewarm response in Old Blighty; documented their “comeback” tour, GREATEST HITS LIVE (1984) {*5} rounded off Eric’s last sojourn into his “animalistic” past life.
Original ANIMALS – well, at least a couple (in Hilton Valentine and John Steel) – graced an earlier post-millennium CD, INTERESTING LIFE: NEW RECORDINGS OF THEIR CLASSIC HITS (2002) {*5}.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/BG-GRD // rev-up MCS Sep2012-Mar2013

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