The Animals

The Animals

Eric Burdon – circa 1964

“When I think of all the good time that’s been wasted / Having good times” – ‘Good Times’ (Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch)

A band is on stage in England’s Newcastle, a predominantly industrial city in the north of England.  It is 1962 and the musicians, like their audience, are from blue collar, working class backgrounds.  A heady brew of alcohol and aggression is in the air.  The band is called The Animals, and their lead vocalist is Eric Burdon.  Are they called ‘The Animals’ because they love all the Earth’s cute and fuzzy critters?  Well, no.  “The name,” Burdon later explains, “was probably an association with the kind of music we play, earthy and gutty.  It’s sort of an animal sound, and on stage we can be pretty wild.”

Eric Victor Burdon is born on 11 May 1941 in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  His mother’s side of the family trace their origins from Newcastle back to Scotland and then Ireland.  Burdon’s paternal heritage is firmly in Tyne Bank.  Eric’s father does electrical work in clubs where his son will later perform.  Eric Burdon does not remember his childhood fondly.  “[My] early school years were a dark nightmare…A combination of the river pollution and humidity lead to a series of asthma attacks.”  Such breathing problems are pushed to the back of the youngster’s mind when he discovers music.  When he is 12 years old, Eric Burdon is first exposed to the music he will come to perform.  A merchant seaman who lives in the same building in Newcastle upon Tyne lets young Eric listen to records brought back from the U.S.A.  Since this is 1953, rock ‘n’ roll does not yet exist, Burdon listens to jazz and blues and when rock arrives in the mid-1950s, that is added to Burdon’s passions.  “I used to hang out in a lot of jazz clubs,” he says.  “Then I started to hang out in rock clubs.”  An aunt in Canada sends Eric records too, so his interest grows.  Eric Burdon listens to blues artists such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, rhythm and blues performers including Ray Charles and Sam Cooke and early rock ‘n’ roll stars like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Fats Domino.

Eric Burdon attends the Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design.  At that school, he meets John Steel.  The two young men bond over a mutual love of jazz and rock.

John Steel is born on 4 February 1941 in Gateshead, County Durham, England.  He is the youngest of four children.  John Steel goes to Gateshead Grammar School.  He has musical ambitions and starts out playing trumpet, hoping to emulate the great jazz trumpeters.  John Steel later switches to playing drums.

Eric Burdon is a bit less focussed on performing music.  He probably loves it as much as John Steel does, but thinks a career as a set designer is more likely for him.  Eric doesn’t think he has the skills to play an instrument so he concentrates on developing his voice instead so he can perform music…at least on a part-time basis.

Eric Burdon and John Steel begin gigging around Newcastle in an act called The Kansas City Five.  Alan Price is one of the other lads in the group.

Alan Price is born on 19 April 1942 in Fatfield, Washington, County Durham, England.  He is educated at Jarrow Grammar School in South Tyneside.  A piano player, Price is a self-taught musician.  Alan Price gets a job with Great Britain’s Inland Revenue Service and continues to work there while gigging around the clubs.

During the years 1959 to 1963 The Animals’ story seems to go something like this:

Eric Burdon turns away from performing music for a while.  At the Newcastle College of Art he studies graphics and photography.  “As soon as I finished my art studies, I was offered the job of designing the interior of a club project,” says Burdon.  “It became the Club a Go-Go.  It was my first and only job as a designer in the commercial world.  The Club a Go-Go was a shining star of the northern British club world, which meant it also had to be a den of iniquity.”  The Club a Go-Go is opened in 1962 by Mike Jeffery – who goes on to become the manager of The Animals.  “I was in college, and very disappointed,” notes Burdon.  “I majored in commercial art and design for three or four years,” yet he finds he is unable to gain employment as a set designer or art director.  Burdon goes off to London – presumably looking for work – but returns to Newcastle early in 1963.  Because he can’t find any other job, Eric Burdon pursues a full-time career as a singer, fronting a band called The Pagans.

Alan Price forms a group called The Kontours in 1962.  The band includes Chas Chandler.

Bryan James ‘Chas’ Chandler (18 December 1938 – 17 July 1996) is born and raised at 35 Second Avenue, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne.  Although he is best known as a bass player, Chas starts out playing guitar.  After he leaves school, Chas Chandler works as a turner in the Tyneside shipyards.  He is a big man, standing six feet, four inches.

In 1962 The Kontours evolves into The Alan Price Trio, with Chas Chandler and the returning John Steel.  This becomes The Alan Price R & B Combo [R & B for rhythm and blues] and then, simply, The Alan Price Combo.  “The Animals were originally my band, of a sort,” says Alan Price.  “We were known as The Alan Price Combo.”

In 1963 The Alan Price Combo is the regular band at Newcastle’s Club a Go-Go.  Eric Burdon is persuaded to join the group.  It seems that the last member to be recruited for the band is guitarist Hilton Valentine.

Hilton Stewart Paterson Valentine is born on 24 May 1943 in North Shields, Northumberland, England.  His mother buys him his first guitar when Hilton is 15.  Skiffle music is popular at the time.  Skiffle is a British variant on folk music that tends to favour a rather rickety, home-made rocking groove.  Hilton Valentine forms a skiffle group called The Heppers.  By 1959 he has moved on to The Wildcats, a rock group.  “I first heard Hilton playing in a bar at Whitley Bay with a rock band called The Wildcats,” recalls Eric Burdon.  In 1963 Hilton Valentine joins The Alan Price Combo.

How did The Alan Price Combo become The Animals?  The band’s own publicity says, ‘It is their Newcastle fans who dub them The Animals,’ a tag bestowed ‘in tribute to their scruffy clothes and primal music.’  This is supported by Eric Burdon’s acknowledgement of their ‘animal sound’ and ‘pretty wild’ stage shows.  On another occasion, Burdon contradicts this and claims the band is named in tribute to a friend named ‘Animal’ Hogg.  Another version has it that ‘influential London musician Graham Bond comes up with the name.’  In any case, Bond is certainly an early champion of the group.  By Christmas 1963 The Alan Price Combo has become The Animals.  The founding and finest line-up of The Animals is: Eric Burdon (vocals), Alan Price (keyboards), Hilton Valentine (guitar), Chas Chandler (bass) and John Steel (drums).

Club a Go-Go manager Mike Jeffery signs The Animals to a management contract.  The Animals make a demo recording that sells five hundred copies in the Newcastle area.  Jeffery takes the disc to London.  Thanks to supporters like Graham Bond, The Animals’ reputation has already spread to the nation’s capital.  London artist manager Don Arden is intrigued.  Mike Jeffery gives a copy of The Animals’ demo to Mickie Most, who is both Arden’s assistant and a record producer.  Most visits Newcastle to see The Animals.  At his suggestion, The Animals move to London in 1964.  Mickie Most signs them to a recording contract with Columbia, a subsidiary of EMI.

The music of The Animals is a mix of pop, rock and rhythm and blues.  It is the last genre that is most unusual.  Rhythm and blues is almost exclusively the province of African-American recording artists.  Rock ‘n’ roll itself is a mix of black rhythm and blues and white country and western music.  The idea of white English boys performing rhythm and blues is outlandish.  To be fair, The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds – two other white English bands – are also playing rhythm and blues.  There is a certain level of authenticity about The Animals though.  Eric Burdon is sometimes referred to as a ‘black singer trapped inside a white skin.’  Burdon is ‘famous for his deep, raw, agonised singing.’  He is short – only five feet, seven inches – and possesses a ‘workingman’s scowl.’  “I used to drink a lot of beer when I was a kid and I sounded like a drunk in a choir,” growls Burdon.  He nods to The Animals’ working class roots: “Blues was made for the recessed…The basis of everything that I plugged into when I was younger was blues, and it always stayed with me…I never believed I would live past 20.”

Although Eric Burdon supplies a gritty focus for The Animals, their sound is ‘as much attributable to Alan Price’s organ work as to Burdon’s voice.’  Price explains that, “I tend to think of the organ as part of the rhythm section, rather than a frontline voice.”  Despite that muscular approach, Price’s playing tends to the ornate.  The contrast between guts and technique is part of The Animals’ mystique.  Other British rhythm and blues influenced acts like The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds do not have a dedicated keyboardist in their line-ups, so this is also another point of differentiation for The Animals.

The Animals do not write very many of the songs they record.  Drummer John Steel says, “We were always talked about in the same breath as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones…We got left behind because [the others] wrote original material.  The Animals unfortunately never got that act together.”  The bulk of The Animals’ output consists of cover versions of rhythm and blues, folk and rock songs supplemented by some professional commercial pop songs.  Guitarist Hilton Valentine says, “The agreement [with producer Mickie Most] was that we would pick the album tracks and Mickie would choose the singles.  And most of the album material was what we were doing in live gigs.”

The Animals’ first single is ‘Baby Let Me Take You Home’ (UK no. 21, US no. 102) which charts in April 1964.  This is a traditional folk song that began life as ‘Baby Don’t You Tear My Clothes’ and mutated into ‘Baby Let Me Follow You Down’.  Folk rock icon Bob Dylan recorded a version of it on his debut album, ‘Bob Dylan’ (1961).  The Animals ‘deliver a commercial melodic treatment, highlighted by [Eric] Burdon’s lecherous vocal.’

For their next single, The Animals record another traditional number that also appeared on Bob Dylan’s first album.  “Bob Dylan’s version was the one I first heard,” says guitarist Hilton Valentine.  “But Eric [Burdon] had heard the Josh White version.”  The song to which he refers is ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 1), The Animals’ all-time best single.  It tops the British singles chart on 25 July 1964 and does even better in the U.S.A. where it retains the no. 1 spot for three weeks from 5 September 1964 to 19 September 1964.  In the process, it becomes the first single from the ‘British Invasion’ – aside from The Beatles’ hits – to reach the top of the U.S. chart.  Eric Burdon describes ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ as “the one song that allowed me as well as the band to enjoy the red carpet treatment to the land of the blues [i.e. the U.S.A.].”  ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ is a lament about a young man who goes astray after visiting the brothel of the title (“Oh mother / Tell your children / Not to do what I have done…Spend your life in sin and misery / At the House of the Rising Sun”).  Burdon makes the most of the drama, howling and hollering to the conclusion (“I’m going back to New Orleans / To wear that ball and chain”).  Impressive as the vocal may be, what really distinguishes the song is Alan Price’s keyboard work.  A repetitive, baroque, huffing organ explodes into a freaked-out solo that sounds like the Phantom of the Opera being wheeled through the inferno.  Officially, the arrangement is credited to Alan Price.  This becomes a sore point later with the rest of the band who feel they should have shared the credit (“Basically, we all chipped in to arrange it,” says Hilton Valentine) and resent Price’s royalties.  The record company is a bit uneasy about the generous running time of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ (four minutes and twenty-four seconds), but the song proves its worth and defines The Animals in the public consciousness.

In the U.S., the B side to ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, ‘Gonna Send You Back To Walker’ (US no. 57), charts in its own right.  The Walker of the title is undoubtedly Eric Burdon’s birthplace since the song is a lively tale of a girl in the big city down south [i.e. London].  Alan Price’s piping organ is, again, a highlight.

The 1964 single ‘I’m Crying’ (UK no. 8, US no. 19, AUS no. 40) is co-written by Eric Burdon and Alan Price.  “Since you been gone I’m a-hurtin’ inside / Yeah, I want you, baby, by my side,” mourns Burdon in the lyrics.  This is set against a backdrop of choral “aaahs” alternating with Price’s busy organ work.

The Animals release two EPs in 1964, ‘The Animals Is Here’ and ‘The Animals’.  Their debut album, ‘The Animals’ (1964) (UK no. 6), is issued in October on the Columbia label in the U.K.  It is produced by Mickie Most.  The disc is made up of cover versions of songs originally recorded by some of the acts that most influenced The Animals.  There is a Bo Diddley song, and two-a-piece from Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, but it is bluesman John Lee Hooker who is best represented with three songs.  One of these Hooker compositions becomes The Animals’ next single.

John Lee Hooker’s 1961 song ‘Boom Boom’ (US no. 43, AUS no. 39) becomes The Animals’ first single for 1965.  It is given a kinetic and powerful treatment.  The Animals release more singles in 1965.  ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ (UK no. 3, US no. 15, AUS no. 29) is a cover of a song released by Nina Simone in 1964.  It plays to The Animals’ strengths.  Eric Burdon’s brooding vocal delivery (“Sometimes I feel a little mad”) constantly threatens to erupt into violence (“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh Lord!  Please don’t let me be misunderstood”).  Again, Alan Price offers an unusual keyboard line in counterpoint, almost sounding like a prancing Spanish flamenco.  Sam Cooke’s 1962 rhythm and blues song ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ (UK no. 7, US no. 32, AUS no. 42) is reworked for The Animals’ next single.  It has a gospel feel with a solemn piano, reedy organ and call-and-response vocals.  “If you ever change your mind / About leavin’, leavin’ me behind,” pleads Burdon, “Oh, oh, bring it on home to me / Bring your sweet lovin’ / Bring it on home to me, oh yeah.”  ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ (UK no. 2, US no. 13, AUS no. 49), composed for The Animals by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil of the U.S. Brill Building songwriting factory, becomes The Animals’ second biggest U.K. hit.  It successfully captures the band’s Newcastle grittiness (“In this dirty old part of the city / Where the sun refused to shine / People tell me there are ain’t no use in tryin’”), but surges into the desperation of the chorus and its lingering sentiment (“Girl, there’s a better life for me and you”).  It’s a case of personal sentiment with universal application and, as such, justifiably connects with a wide audience.

The Animals’ third EP is confusingly titled ‘Animals No. 2’ and is issued in 1965.  Their second album, ‘Animal Tracks’ (1965) (UK no. 6), is released in May in the U.K.  Mickie Most returns as producer.  The disc is still made up largely of cover versions, including songs first recorded by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.  It does include an Eric Burdon original, ‘For Miss Caulker’.  Burdon, in particular, feels that The Animals’ reliance on cover versions and outside compositions is ‘too creatively restrictive.’

In May 1965 keyboardist Alan Price leaves The Animals ‘due to personal and musical differences as well as a fear of flying on tour.’  There is a bit more to the decision as Price explains: ”We all had a religious fervour, a messianic zeal about the blues and almost all the [early] songs…we had learned before we had ever thought about going professional.  When we left home we were frightened young lads, we didn’t know what was going to happen.  We found that groups at that time were really used like workhorses.  It was that terrible forty-eight cities in forty-eight days syndrome; you were made to feel as if you would be ruined if a single you put out didn’t make the charts.  There was never an attempt to look to the future and there was never a chance to rehearse.  We never rehearsed, we just played.  So after fifteen months of this…I thought it was time to leave.”  Price also muses, “There was an anarchic spirit [to The Animals] which was being flattened by commercial design, attitudes and needs…The Animals were a very separate and dissonant group at the time.  We came from different backgrounds, different areas – we didn’t even come from the same town, basically…We all disliked each other.  It was a marriage made in hell.”

Mickey Gallagher (born Michael William Gallagher on 29 August 1945) fills in briefly on keyboards with The Animals after the departure of Alan Price.  (Mickey Gallagher later becomes a member of Ian Dury And The Blockheads in the 1970s.)  Dave Rowberry (born David Eric Rowberry, 4 July 1940 – 6 June 2003) then assumes the role of keyboards player with The Animals.

The Animals release another EP, ‘Animal Tracks’, in September 1965.  (And yes, that is the same name given to the group’s most recent album.)

The Animals’ last single for 1965 is ‘It’s My Life’ (UK no. 7, US no. 23, AUS no. 10), written by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico.  Introduced by Chas Chandler’s ominous bass, Hilton Valentine’s sharp guitar notes intrude with the main melody.  Eric Burdon’s harsh voice declares, “It’s a hard world to get a break in / All the good things have been taken.”  This is The Animals’ final single for Columbia/EMI.  At the end of 1965 the band ends their association with producer Mickie Most.  The Animals remain with their U.S. record company MGM for that country and Canada, but move on to the Decca label for the rest of the world.

In February 1966 drummer John Steel leaves The Animals.  He is replaced by Barry Jenkins (born Colin Ernest Jenkins on 22 December 1944).

‘In The Beginning There Was The Animals’, released in 1966, is The Animals final EP.  Ironically, it is made up of material recorded back in 1963; so their first recorded work becomes their last EP.

The Animals’ 1966 singles begin with ‘Inside, Looking Out’ (UK no. 12, US no. 34, AUS no. 20).  The songwriting credit for this prison drama is shared by John Lomax, Alan Lomax, Eric Burdon and Chas Chandler.  The Animals’ song is very loosely based on a prison work chant called ‘Rosie’, a piece collected by the musicologist Alan Lomax so the writing credit is shared with him and his father, John Lomax.  This is followed by ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ (UK no. 6, US no. 12, AUS no. 20), another Brill Building contract job like ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, but this time written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  This is a song of relationship tension in which the narrator pouts, “When you complain and criticise / I feel I’m nothing in your eyes,” but in a show of equanimity offers, “I’m ready to give as well as take.”  Hilton Valentine’s corrosive guitar is pitted against Dave Rowberry’s keyboards almost as though they represent the quarrelling couple.  Rowberry arranges The Animals’ version of Ma Rainey’s 1924 blues song ‘See See Rider’ (US no. 10, AUS no. 9) so it is served up with a swirling fairground organ: “Oh oh see see rider, see what you have done / You’ve gone away and left me and now the blues they come, oh yes they do.”

The Animals’ only album on Decca, ‘Animalisms’ (1966) (UK no. 4), is released in June.  It is produced by Tom Wilson.  As usual, there are cover versions of blues and rock ‘n’ roll songs by the likes of John Lee Hooker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Chuck Berry.  However the disc also contains a pair of originals co-written by Eric Burdon and Dave Rowberry: ‘You’re On My Mind’ and ‘She’ll Return It’.

By September 1966 The Animals are virtually defunct.  This is said to be ‘largely due to rows over [Eric] Burdon’s hard drinking and heavy flirtation with [the mind-expanding drug] LSD.’  “As far as The Animals breaking up – it was my fault,” confesses Burdon.  “We took it to the max, as far as we could take it.”  Burdon is not the only member of the group getting involved with drugs.  Guitarist Hilton ‘Valentine by this point has discovered the delights of LSD and is rarely a resident of planet Earth.’  Valentine points out another factor in The Animals’ disintegration: “[We were] the most mismanaged, f***ed up band that just got totally taken by their management.”  Bassist Chas Chandler agrees that The Animals’ business affairs “were in total shambles.”  There are allegations of ‘mismanagement and theft [committed] by manager Mike Jeffery.’  Hilton Valentine, Chas Chandler and keyboardist Dave Rowberry all exit.

The final Decca single, ‘Help Me Girl’ (UK no. 14, US no. 29, AUS no. 18), is co-written by Scott English and Donna Weiss.  This is virtually an Eric Burdon solo single.  It comes from the album ‘Eric Is Here’ (1967) (US no. 121), released in March, a disc recorded by vocalist Eric Burdon, drummer Barry Jenkins and various session musicians.

Up to this point, The Animals’ U.S. record label has been taking the British band’s albums, EPs and singles and shuffling the contents about into new configurations for the U.S. market.  The MGM albums by The Animals are: ‘The Animals’ (1964) (US no. 7); ‘The Animals On Tour’ (1965) (US no. 99) in March [which, despite its title, is not a live album of a concert]; ‘Animal Tracks’ (1965) (US no. 57) in September; the compilation set ‘The Best Of The Animals’ (1966) in February; ‘Animalization’ (1966)(US no. 20) in July; and ‘Animalism’ (1966) (US no. 33) in November.

Once The Animals contract with Decca is over, Eric Burdon signs a new deal with the U.S. record company MGM for worldwide release.  This involves putting together a new version of the band in December 1966 as Eric Burdon And The Animals (sometimes referred to as The New Animals).  The line-up is: Eric Burdon (vocals), Vic Briggs (guitar) (born Victor Harvey Briggs III on 14 February 1945), John Weider (guitar, violin) (born on 21 April 1947), Danny McCulloch (bass) (born Daniel Joseph McCulloch, 18 July 1945 – 29 January 2015) and Barry Jenkins (drums).  Although The Animals are English lads, they base themselves in California, U.S.A.  “Britain, and my hometown will always be with me,” says Burdon, “but I prefer to live in California.”  Short, dark and angry Eric Burdon seems an unlikely prophet for the long-haired, sun-tanned hippie flower children, but he claims that, “Each and every member of that band was in love with the California ideal.”  Eric Burdon And The Animals has a somewhat different musical focus than the original Animals.  “[Back then] the music was hard,” says Burdon.  “Then LSD came along and everything was trippy and dreamy.”  Most of the output of the Mark Two Animals is jointly composed by all the members of the band with a few cover versions thrown in.  This inverts the model used by the earlier version of The Animals.

The 1967 single ‘When I Was Young’ (UK no. 45, UK no. 15, AUS no. 2) is the first release by the new version of Eric Burdon And The Animals.  It has a dramatic violin riff from John Weider where previously a keyboard figure would exist.  Yet for all that, lyrically it is a reflective, rueful look back at Burdon’s youth.  ‘When I Was Young’ is included on the compilation album ‘The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals Vol. II’ (1967), issued in June.

‘Winds Of Change’ (1967) (US no. 42), released in September, is probably The Animals’ best album.  Lending some continuity is producer Tom Wilson, retained from ‘Animalisms’, the last album by the previous version of the band.  In keeping with most pop groups of the era, The Animals were more singles oriented.  Their earlier albums were little more than collections of cover versions of songs first recorded by their favourite rhythm and blues acts.  ‘Winds Of Change’ is more original and finds Eric Burdon And The Animals striving to create their own identity.  ‘San Franciscan Nights’ (UK no. 7, US no. 9, AUS no. 9) is a meandering paean to the home of the hippie movement and is the band’s second biggest U.S. hit.  Burdon urges European residents to fly “Trans World Airlines” to San Francisco in the song’s introduction, assuring them, “It will be worth it.”  ‘Good Times’ (UK no. 20) displays a brand of bruised nostalgia: “All of my fighting / I should have done the right thing…Instead of just drinking / I should have been thinking.”  This disc is also home to ‘Anything’ (US no. 80, AUS no. 65), a tender love song (“For you, my friend, I’d do anything”) with gentle guitar notes – though the focus changes from a girl to a hero in the next verse.  The Animals haven’t completely abandoned cover versions; they knock out an interesting version of The Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit ‘Paint It Black’ here.

In 1967 Eric Burdon marries Angela King.

Eric Burdon And The Animals release one more single in 1967.  ‘Monterey’ (US no. 15, AUS no. 9) is basically a review of one of the first major musical tribal gatherings.  The Monterey Pop Festival was held on 16-18 June 1967.  Its slogan was ‘Music, Love and Flowers’.  “In the beginning,” whispers Eric Burdon in portentous fashion as the song opens, before going on to sketch out the performers and the sound: “Ten thousand electric guitars were grooving real loud, yeah.”

‘Monterey’ becomes the opening track on the next album by Eric Burdon And The Animals, April’s ‘The Twain Shall Meet’ (1968) (US no. 79).  This is the third and final Animals album produced by Tom Wilson.  This disc includes ‘Sky Pilot’ (UK no. 40, US no. 14, AUS no. 7), the story of “a good holy man” tending to the spiritual needs of the troops in Vietnam.  It manages a difficult balancing act of praising peace and decrying war within a single confused individual in what has become a wildly unpopular war and the bane of the ‘peace and love’ kids in kaftans and beads.  It is a sign of how much the times have changed in just four years that, where ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ raised eyebrows with its length (four minutes, twenty-four seconds), no one blinks at ‘Sky Pilot’ (seven minutes, twenty seconds) – though, admittedly, when it is released as a single, it is split into two parts, one per side.  The song spends six months at no. 1 in Vietnam.

From April to July 1968 Eric Burdon And The Animals expand to a six-piece band, adding Zoot Money (keyboards, bass) (born George Bruno Money on 17 July 1942).  During this time, the group cuts the album ‘Every One Of Us’ (1968) (US no. 152) which is released in the U.S.A. in August.  For some time, the popularity of Eric Burdon And The Animals has been waning in their country of origin, but this disc is not even released in the U.K.  On ‘Every One Of Us’ Zoot Money is credited as George Bruno.  This album’s best track may be the Eric Burdon composition ‘White Houses’ (US no. 67, AUS no. 66).  “You better get straight,” he avers on this tale of suburbia versus the city slums.  This disc is also home to the ‘bluesy’ ‘St James Infirmary’.

In July 1968 bassist Danny McCulloch leaves Eric Burdon And The Animals.  (Danny McCulloch dies on 29 January 2015 as a result of heart failure.  He was 69 years old.)  The group takes on Andy Summers (guitar) (born Andrew James Summers on 31 December 1942).  Left without a full-time bassist, The Animals get around this by having Zoot Money play bass in the recording studio while guitarist Andy Summers and John Weider divide bass duties live.

‘Love Is’ (1968) (US no. 123) is a double album released by Eric Burdon And The Animals in December.  The disc is produced by The Animals.  (Guitarist Vic Briggs is absent from this recording.)  The only original song on the whole set is Eric Burdon’s ‘I’m Dying (Or Am I?)’.  Among the more interesting takes are versions of Traffic’s 1967 song ‘Coloured Rain’ and Johnny Cash’s 1963 hit ‘Ring Of Fire’ (UK no. 35, AUS no. 8).  The latter is released as a single by The Animals in 1969.

On 7 December 1968 Eric Burdon announces that the Animals are disbanding.  “The second Animals didn’t decide to break up,” Burdon later says.  “We just fell apart.”  Their final concert is scheduled for 22 December at Newcastle City Hall in the town where the band started.  This show turns out to be a one-off reunion of the original Animals: Eric Burdon, Alan Price, Hilton Valentine, Chas Chandler and John Steel.  MGM issues ‘The Greatest Hits Of Eric Burdon And The Animals’ (1969) in March.

Eric Burdon’s ‘relations with wife Angie quickly broke down due to the band’s touring.’  Their marriage comes to an end in 1969.  Burdon declares that ‘Love Is’ will be ‘his last record.’  He claims he is ‘leaving rock for films and, true to his word, disappears’ – but the film world does not appear to use his talents.

Eric Burdon resurfaces in the company of a (mostly) African-American band called War.  Eric Burdon And War release ‘Eric Burdon Declares War’ (1970) (UK no. 50, US no. 18, AUS no. 7) which spawns the glorious ‘Spill The Wine’ (US no. 3).  They quickly issue a double album follow-up, ‘The Black Man’s Burdon’ (1970) (US no. 80, AUS no. 17).  This set includes ‘They Can’t Take Away Our Music’ (US no. 50) and ‘Home Cookin’’ (US no. 108).  Eric Burdon And War tour in 1971 but Eric becomes ‘exhausted’ and has to drop out.  War completes the tour by themselves and go on to a quite successful career of their own, minus Burdon.  MGM released both the albums by Eric Burdon And War, but ABC Records acquires the rights to some unreleased material by the combination which is later issued as ‘Love Is All Around’ (1976) (US no. 140).

‘Guilty’ (1971) is credited to Eric Burdon and Jimmy Witherspoon.  It is a joint effort by Eric and one of his blues music heroes.

In 1971 Eric Burdon meets Rose Marks in Los Angeles.  She becomes his second wife and the mother of his only child, a daughter named Alex.  The marriage of Eric Burdon and Rose Marks lasts from 1972 to 1978.

‘Sun Secrets’ (1974) (US no. 51) and ‘Stop’ (1975) (US no. 171) are credited to The Eric Burdon Band.  This is a ‘three-piece hard rock outfit’ backing up the singer.  The members are: Eric Burdon (vocals), Aaron Butler (guitar), Randy Rice (bass) and Alvin Taylor (drums).

The next move for Eric Burdon is a reunion with the original Animals.  But, aside from their one-night only get together with Eric Burdon in December 1968, what have the other Animals been doing?

After leaving The Animals in 1965, keyboardist Alan Price forms a band called The Alan Price Set.  This group records the album ‘The Price To Play’ (1966) which includes a cover version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins 1956 song ‘I Put A Spell On You’ (UK no. 9, US no. 80, AUS no. 36) and ‘Hi-Lilli, HI-Lo’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 73).  The Alan Price Set releases the album ‘A Price On His Head’ (1967), a disc best known for including the Randy Newman composition ‘Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear’ (UK no. 4, AUS no. 49).  Other 1967 singles are ‘The House That Jack Built’ (UK no. 4, AUS no. 45) and ‘Shame’ (UK no. 13).  The album ‘The Price Is Right’ (1968), the 1968 single ‘Don’t Stop The Carnival’ (UK no. 13) and the album ‘The World Of Alan Price’ (1970) follow.  Georgie Fame, another piano playing Brit from a rhythm and blues background, forms a partnership with Alan Price for television and cabaret performances.  The duo also release an album, ‘Fame And Price, Price And Fame Together’ (1971) and the single ‘Rosetta’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 91) before splitting up.  ‘O Lucky Man’ (1973) (US no. 117) is Alan Price’s score for the film of the same name directed by Lindsay Anderson.  ‘Between Today And Yesterday’ (1974) (US no. 9) is ‘a semi-autobiographical history of a boy from the working class north-east who makes good in London.’  The single from this album, ‘Jarrow Song’ (UK no. 6), is ‘about the hunger marches in 1926’ and is ‘probably one of the most unusual pop hits ever…a complicated, elaborately produced saga.’  Alan Price goes on to release the albums ‘Metropolitan Man’ (1975), ‘Performing Price Live’ (1975), ‘Shouts Across The Street’ (1976) and ‘Alan Price’ (1977) (US no. 187).  In his personal life, Alan Price marries Maureen Donneky and they have a daughter, Elizabeth.  Alan and Maureen subsequently divorce.

Guitarist Hilton Valentine records one album, ‘All In Your Head’ (1969).  He also works as a roadie for Eric Burdon And War, helping set up their equipment on stage.

Bassist Chas Chandler gives up performing.  “I was never that good on bass guitar,” he says modestly.  Chas Chandler moves on to artist management, becoming the manager of expatriate American guitarist Jimi Hendrix.  Curiously, his co-manager is Mike Jeffery, The Animals’ manager about whose business practices they complain so bitterly.  Chas Chandler produces the first two albums by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  Chandler accompanies Hendrix back to the guitarist’s U.S. homeland as Hendrix becomes more famous.  Hendrix divests himself of Chandler’s services – but retains Jeffery – in 1969.  (Hendrix dies on 8 September 1970 as a result of inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication.  Mike Jeffery dies in a plane crash on 5 March 1973.)  By this time, Chas Chandler is married to a Swedish-born woman named Lotta.  Chas Chandler returns to London in 1969 with his expectant wife and Lotta gives birth to their only child, Steffan (born 1969).  In 1969 Chandler becomes manager and producer for British group Slade and guides them to success.  In 1974-1975 Chas Chandler has a romantic relationship with British singer Lynsey de Paul.  This appears to be a contributing factor to Chas splitting from his wife Lotta in 1977.

Former Animals drummer John Steel works as an assistant to Chas Chandler in his management business.

The original Animals reunite for the album ‘Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted’ (1977) (US no. 70).  The album is produced by bassist Chas Chandler and is recorded at his country home.  The disc is released on the Jet label, home of Alan Price’s most recent albums.  The contents of The Animals’ album include songs by Bob Dylan, Jimmy Reed and Curtis Mayfield.  It is characterised as ‘a solid, enjoyable and unpretentious album.’  After completing the album, The Animals part ways once again.

Eric Burdon releases the albums ‘Survivor’ (1977), ‘Black And White Blues’ (1979) and ‘Darkness, Darkness’ (1980)‘The Last Drive’ (1981) is credited to Eric Burdon’s Fire Department, a group of German musicians with whom the singer works.  ‘Comeback’ (1982) is a once-only reunion with The Eric Burdon Band.  It is followed by ‘Power Company’ (1983).

Alan Price issues the following albums: ‘Two Of A Kind’ (1977) with Rob Hoeke; ‘Rainbow’s End’ (1977); ‘England, My England’ (1978); ‘Lucky Day’ (1979); ‘Rising Sun’ (1980); ‘A Rock ‘N’ Roll Night At The Royal Court’ (1981); ‘Andy Capp’ (1982); and ‘Geordie Roots & Branches’ (1983).  During the same period Price’s singles include ‘Just For You’ (UK no. 43) in 1978 and ‘Baby Of Mine’ (UK no. 35) in 1979.

In 1979 Chas Chandler marries Madeleine Stringer, who won the Miss U.K. 1977 beauty contest.  The couple wed after ‘a whirlwind romance.’  Chas and Madeleine have three children: a son named Alex (born 1979) and two daughters, Katherine (born 1983) and Elizabeth (born 1989).

The original Animals reunite once more for the album ‘Ark’ (1983) (US no. 66) on IRS Records.  Alan Price, Eric Burdon and John Steel share production credit.  The album includes the single ‘The Night’ (US no. 48), a song about getting through the evening without a lost love.  The track is adorned with synthesisers.  The band undertakes a six week tour of the United States in summer 1983.  On 28 October 1983 The Animals open a show in Miami, Florida, for three-piece band The Police, whose guitarist – Andy Summers – was a member of The Animals for a few months in 1968.  On tour, the original Animals are augmented by Steve Gregory (saxophone) (born 1945), Steve Grant (guitar), Zoot Money (keyboards) and Nippy Noya (percussion) (born on 27 February 1946 in Indonesia).  “Our reunion tour in 1983 went pretty good until we left America.  Then we pushed it too hard and it fell apart,” says Eric Burdon.  On another occasion, Burdon grumbles, “I’m still recovering from the Eighties reunion, which was one of the worst years of my life.  It was the last thing that I wanted to do but I was emotionally blackmailed into it.”  The reunion tour is captured on ‘Greatest Hits Live (Rip It To Shreds)’ (1984) (US no. 195).

The only album released by any of The Animals for the rest of the 1980s is Eric Burdon’s ‘I Used To Be An Animal’ (1988).  ‘Changes’ (UK no. 56), a track from Alan Price’s ‘O Lucky Man’ (1973) album, is released as a single in 1989 after it is used in an advertisement for Volkswagen.

In 1990 Alan Price marries Alison Thomas.  They have a daughter.

In 1992 Hilton Valentine, The Animals original guitarist, begins touring with a group called Valentine’s Animals.  This consists of: Robert Robinson (vocals), Hilton Valentine (guitar), George Fearson (guitar), Joss Elliott (bass) and an individual known only as ‘The Dod’ (drums).  Later in the year, this group metamorphoses into The Animals II: Robert Robinson (vocals), Hilton Valentine (guitar), George Fearson (guitar), Steve Hutchinson (keyboards), Joss Elliott (bass) and – from the original Animals – John Steel (drums).  In 1994 this group becomes, simply, The Animals, after another line-up shuffle: Robert Kane (vocals), Hilton Valentine (guitar), Steve Dawson (guitar), Steve Hutchinson (keyboards), Martin Bland (bass) and John Steel (drums).

Eric Burdon releases ‘Lost Within The Halls Of Fame’ (1995) and Alan Price puts out ‘A Gigster’s Life For Me’ (1996).

Original Animals bassist Chas Chandler dies on 17 July 1996 as a result of an aortic aneurysm.  He was 55 years old.

In 1998 Eric Burdon marries his third wife, Marianna Proestou, a Greek lawyer.  She also becomes the manager of his music career.

Although they are not recording, the band using the name of The Animals continues to tour.  The 1999 line-up of The Animals is: Tony Liddle (vocals), Hilton Valentine (guitar), returning former Animal Dave Rowberry (keyboards), Jim Rodford (bass) (born James Walter Rodford on 7 July 1941) and John Steel (drums).  Jim Rodford is a former member of British rock band The Kinks.  In 2001 The Animals change lead vocalists taking on Earwon Cronin.  Later in 2001 Cronin and Hilton Valentine both exit and the group changes its name to The Animals And Friends with the following personnel: Pete Barton (vocals, guitar), John E. Williamson (guitar, vocals), Dave Rowberry (keyboards), Jim Rodford (bass) and John Steel (drums).

Alan Price issues the albums ‘Willow Weep For Me’ (2001), ‘Based On A True Story’ (2002) and ‘Geordie Boy: The Anthology’ (2002).

On 6 June 2003 keyboardist Dave Rowberry dies from an ulcer haemorrhage.  He was 62 years old.  Mickey Gallagher, who served with The Animals for a short time in 1965, is brought back on keyboards by The Animals And Friends in 2003 – though Jim Rodford departs, leaving the act without a full-time bassist.

Somewhere around this time, Hilton Valentine marries a woman named Germaine.  Valentine returns to the styles of music that first got him interested and, under the pseudonym of Skiffledog, releases the album ‘It’s Folk ‘N’ Skiffle, Mate!’ (2004).

Eric Burdon issues the albums ‘My Secret Life’ (2004) and ‘Soul Of A Man’ (2005).  Burdon tours together with Hilton Valentine from February 2007 to December 2008.  Burdon also releases the solo album ‘Mirage’ (2008).  In 2008 Eric Burdon takes drummer John Steel to court over the ownership of the name of The Animals.  Burdon loses the case.  “In Britain it’s been ruled by a High Court judge that I cannot enter Britain as an Animal anymore…I’m not supposed to call myself Eric Burdon And The Animals anymore in Britain…so that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

Hilton Valentine continues his career with ‘Skiffledog On Coburg Street’ (2011) and ‘With Big Boy Pete (Pete Miller)’ (2011).

Having won his court case, John Steel continues with The Animals And Friends from 2011 to 2014 with a line-up of: Danny Handley (vocals, guitar), Mickey Gallagher (keyboards), Scott Whitley (vocals, bass) and John Steel (drums).

Eric Burdon goes his own way with ‘Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes’ (2012) and ‘’Til Your River Runs Dry’ (2013).

Although there is some question about whether The Animals really gained their name from fans’ descriptions of their onstage antics, it nonetheless seemed fitting.  “Our stage behaviour…I admit, was pretty wild,” said vocalist Eric Burdon.  The Animals’ earlier period (1964-1966) probably survives the test of time a bit better than their later work (1967-1969).  The Animals were ‘among the most gifted and beloved of British Invasion bands’ and were ‘one of the most important bands originating from England’s rhythm and blues scene during the early 1960s.’

Sources:

  1. ‘The Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 20, 90, 91, 92, 151, 212, 359
  2. wikipedia.org as at 7 October 2012
  3. ne4me.co.uk – North East England – The Inside Track. ‘Newcastle Blues Legend Eric Burdon Talks About His Early Days and The Animals’ by Michael Hamilton (1 July 2010)
  4. everything2.com by Segnbora-t (1 October 2010)
  5. musicianguide.com – Eric Burdon biography – no author credited – as at 11 October 2015
  6. brainyquote.com as at 11 October 2015
  7. ‘The Most Of The Animals’ – Sleeve notes by Glenn A. Baker (Raven Records, 1989) p. 2, 3, 4, 7
  8. Internet movie database – imdb.com – as at 12 October 2015
  9. allmusic.com, ‘The Animals’ by Bruce Eder as at 11 October 2015
  10. ‘The Independent’ (U.K. newspaper) ‘How We Met: 46, Georgie Fame and Alan Price’ by Carinthia West (9 August 1992) (reproduced on independent.co.uk)
  11. readysteadygone.co.uk – ‘Gigging in the North East 1965-1972’ by Roger Smith as at 11 October 2015
  12. ‘Record Collector’ magazine – ‘Chas Chandler, 1938-1996’ by Chris Charlesworth (1996) (reproduced on justbackdated.blogspot.com.au)
  13. mambosons.com – ‘Hilton Valentine From Animal to Skiffledog’ by Tom Guerra (2004)
  14. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p 60
  15. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 12, 34, 70
  16. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock And Roll’, ‘The British Invasion’ by Lester Bangs, ‘Rock Festivals’ by John Morthland (Plexus Publishing Limited, 1992) p 207, 474
  17. ‘South Wales Argus’ (U.K. newspaper) – ’50 Years at the Top – Animals And Friends Drummer John Steel Talks to the Guide’ (no author credited) (18 January 2014) (reproduced on southwalesargus.co.uk)
  18. ‘The History Of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p 67
  19. lyricsfreak.com as at 8 September 2014 and 12 October 2015
  20. ‘The Most Of The Animals’ – Eric Burdon audio interview at the end of the CD (Raven Records, 1989)
  21. You Tube – Eric Burdon interview (1970?)
  22. metrolyrics.com as at 12 October 2015
  23. ‘Daily Express’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Return of the Animal – Eric Burdon’ by Nick Dalton (15 February 2013) (reproduced on express.co.uk
  24. famousfix.com as at 10 October 2015
  25. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 12, 13, 46, 79, 187, 239
  26. google.com.au as at 10 October 2015
  27. ‘The Independent’ (U.K. newspaper) ‘Obituaries: Chas Chandler’ by Chris Welch (18 July 1996) (reproduced on independent.co.uk)
  28. sladestory.blogspot.com.au by Michael Parker as at 10 October 2015
  29. hiltonvalentine.com as at 11 October 2015
  30. discogs.com as at 11 October 2015

 

Song lyrics copyright Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. with the exceptions of: ‘Good Times’ (Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing); ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and ‘I’m Crying’ (both EMI Music Publishing); ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ (BMG Rights Management U.S., LLC, ABKCO Music, Inc.). ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ (Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing); ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ (both Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC); ‘See See Rider’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group)

 

Last revised 25 October 2015

 

 

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