The Animals were a rhythm and blues band from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. One of the more prominent British Invasion bands, the Animals were formed in 1962, and by 1964, had moved to London to capitalize on the growing popularity of British beat music. Their second single, a rousing version of the folk song “House Of The Rising Sun”, was a #1 hit in Britain and the United States. Though they stayed popular home and abroad, with several hit songs, the original group disbanded in 1966. Lead vocalist Eric Burdon moved to Los Angeles, and formed a new group which experienced a second brief period of success during the “psychedelic renaissance” of the late sixties.
The Original Lineup
Eric Burdon & The Animals (1966-1968)
A Brief Career
When I was in elementary school, before my parents divorced, the popular music played in our home was limited mostly to The Beatles and the San Francisco music scene, which my mother in particular embraced. A few dozen records in a roll-around cart, with no Rolling Stones, no Beach Boys, and lots of instrumental pop like Herb Alpert. All the Beatles records and the few 7” singles were played until scratchy and worn.
I vaguely recollect a hierarchy of bands suggested by a couple of the “cool” kids at school: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and then the Animals. Back then they belonged in the upper echelon of British rock bands. They regularly appeared on major American variety shows like The Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones continued to grow and develop into two of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. What happened to The Animals?
According to the All Music Guide, founding keyboardist Alan Price left the band under dubious circumstances. The record label needed to designate one member of the band as arranger, and the band named Price as an afterthought. When the band started reaping the benefits of popularity, Price’s earnings as arranger were considerable. Shortly after, he left the band, citing a fear of flying as the reason. The band also ended their relationship with producer Mickie Most in 1965 after recording “It’s My Life”. They disliked the song, and no longer wished to record his suggestions. Though it was popular, “It’s My Life” portrayed an image the band objected to.
Animals and Yardbirds
Eric Burdon appropriated the Animals name, moved to California and started a new band. The second iteration of the Animals was less successful, but they were prominent in California, where songs like “Monterey” and “San Franciscan Nights” tugged at hippie heartstrings. The new band featured a violin, and more diverse sounds and instrumentation. The few hit songs of the second band were more personal and ambitious, but overall were less compelling than the stripped down R&B sound of the original band.
Rewriting this summary in 2015, six years after a sloppy first effort, the Animals and the Yardbirds have a very similar distribution of songs and stars awarded. The Animals were considerably more popular in America, with ten top 20 songs in the Billboard pop charts, compared to five for the Yardbirds. But the Yardbirds are perceived with far greater respect in hindsight, with the three great guitarists (Page, Clapton and Beck) among their alumni who enjoyed long and successful careers. The Animals arrived on the music scene with a strong singer, a compelling sound made unique by Alan Price’s organ, and a brilliant rendition of an old folk song which powered their success for years.
The Animals Song Notes:
1. In the 2014 documentary Lambert and Stamp, guitarist Peter Townshend manages to put down the United States and Eric Burdon in the same sentence, suggesting that The Who had no interest in appealing to a country that liked Eric Burdon’s music. Apparently, this a longstanding feud.
2. The three minute “Sky Pilot (Part 1)” comes from a Rhino compilation (The British Invasion, Volume 9), and is not currently available on iTunes.
3. All live versions of songs are BBC recordings not commercially available in the United States. I first heard these on a Sunday afternoon BBC broadcast on KFOG in the mid-eighties, but it took me a long time to acquire the song files, as it appears no Animals At The BBC disk set is available. These files can be found by searching Animals – Deluxe BBC Files.
The Animals Songs:
House Of The Rising Sun, The Animals ✭✭✭✭
I’m Crying, The Animals ✭✭✭
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, The Animals ✭✭✭
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, The Animals ✭✭✭
Don’t Bring Me Down, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭✭
San Franciscan Nights, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭✭
San Franciscan Nights (Live), Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭✭
Gonna Send You Back To Georgia (Live), The Animals ✭✭
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Live), The Animals ✭✭
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (Live), The Animals ✭✭
Bring It On Home To Me (Live), The Animals ✭✭
Bring It On Home To Me, The Animals ✭✭
Boom Boom, The Animals ✭✭
Gonna Send You Back To Walker, The Animals ✭✭
Hey Gyp, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭
See See Rider, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭
Sky Pilot (Part 1), Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭
When I Was Young, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭
Monterey (Live), Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭✭
It’s My Life, The Animals ✭
Dimples, The Animals ✭
White Houses, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭
Sky Pilot, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭
Monterey, Eric Burdon & The Animals ✭
Spill The Wine, Eric Burdon & War ✭✭
Dimples, John Lee Hooker ✭✭
Boom Boom, John Lee Hooker ✭✭✭
Boom Boom, The Yardbirds ✭
C.C. Rider, Chuck Willis ✭
See See Rider, LaVern Baker ✭✭
Bring It On Home To Me, Sam Cooke ✭✭✭✭✭
Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness), Donovan ✭✭