The Animals

  • British psychedelic/blues rock band formed in 1962 from Newcastle on Tyne, England. There have been many lineups over the years. The original classic lineup consisted of Eric Burdon (vocals), Chas Chandler (bass guitar), Alan Price (keyboards), John Steel (drums) and Hilton Valentine (guitars). Burdon and Price were songwriters, and they also covered many songs written by other blues artists.
  • The genesis of the band was a group formed in 1958 called The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, consisting of Price, Chandler, Steel and Valentine. Meanwhile, Burdon was singing in a group called The Pagans. In 1962, Burdon joined Price’s group, and the name of the band was changed to The Animals. There are conflicting explanations for the name – some say that they were dubbed “animals” for their wild stage presence, but Burdon later claimed that it was a tribute name to a friend that was nicknamed Animal, and Steel claimed that the name was suggested to them by another musician friend of the band.
  • Their success in their home town led to a move to London in 1964, just as Beatlemania was exploding. They performed fiery covers of R&B hits, and soon they were signed to a recording contract. Their debut album, the self-titled The Animals, was released in 1964. The first single from the album was Baby Let Me Take You Home. Their second single from the album made them rock stars – a cover of a traditional folk song called The House of the Rising Sun. The song traces to the 1920s, and was first recorded in 1933. The Animals made it a rock-R&B masterpiece – it topped the Hot 100 in the US as well as the UK chart, and it was ranked on Rolling Stones’ Greatest Songs of All Time at #122. In 1999, their version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the Animals were an integral part of the British invasion of American pop music.
  • After a performance on Ed Sullivan Show (with the usual screaming teenage girls) in late 1964, two albums were released the following year in the U.S. – The Animals On Tour and Animal Tracks. They were the last albums that included the original lineup, and the latter included two songs that featured a new keyboardist (Dave Rowberry), as Price left the band during the recording of the album. Price left due to musical and personal differences with the band, as well as a fear of flying. Top 20 hits from these albums were I’m Crying, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and We Gotta Get Out of This Place. 
  • Steel left the group during the recording of their 1966 album Animalization, replaced by Barry Jenkins on three of the songs on the album. See See Rider peaked at #10 on the Hot 100, and Don’t Bring Me Down reached #12. A Greatest Hits album released that year included a single It’s My Life that reached #23 in the U.S. and #7 in the UK. Late that year, they released an album titled Animalism. It contained mostly R&B covers, including classics Shake (Sam Cooke), Lucille (Little Richard), Smokestack Lightning (Howlin’ Wolf) and Hit the Road, Jack (Ray Charles).
  • By September 1966, the business side of the band was in shambles, and the group disbanded. Three months later, Burdon and Jenkins reformed with Vic Briggs (keyboards, guitar), Danny McCulloch (bass, vocals) and John Weider (guitar, violin, bass), calling themselves Eric Burdon and the Animals. This version moved their blues sound into psychedelia. Five albums were released in 1967 and 1968, as well as a second Greatest Hits compilation. Top 15 hits from this period were When I Was Young, San Franciscan Nights, Monterey and Sky Pilot. 
  • Things were falling apart for the group by late 1968. A tour of Japan was scheduled for September that year, but was delayed by two months due to problems obtaining visas. After performing a few shows, the promoters kidnapped the manager of the band and demanded payment of $25,000 to make up for losses due to the delay. The manager wrote an IOU for the amount and was released. The next day, the band and manager fled the country, fearing that they would be killed, leaving behind all of their equipment. Upon arrival home, the group disbanded.
  • The original lineup reformed briefly in 1975 as well as in 1983 for concerts and two new albums. Several other versions of the group performed from 1992 to 2015 without Eric Burdon. In 2001, John Steel began to tour with other artists, billing themselves Animals and Friends. In 2016, Burdon began to tour as Eric Burdon and the Animals with six other supporting musicians.
  • The original lineup of the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Any lover of classic rock remembers their version of The House of the Rising Son. Bob Dylan stated that this song was one of the reasons he moved from acoustic to electric guitar. Here are The Animals performing the classic. Burdon’s vocal, Price’s organ performance and Valentine’s guitar intro are iconic.

1 thought on “The Animals”

  1. Love Eric Burdon’s voice and their version of House of the Rising Sun is one of my all time favorite songs.

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