A big-built man who liked to drink and smoke and had, said Keith Altham:
"enormous drive and self-belief. It was that enthusiasm that helped both Jimi Hendrix and Slade become stars. He'd just tell everyone: 'They are the best in the world!'"
He learnt to play guitar and was playing bass for the Alan Price Trio in 1962 when vocalist Eric Burdon joined the band. They renamed the group The Animals. Their first hit song was House Of The Rising Sun in 1964. Other hits include Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, Bring It On Home to Me and It's My Life. Chandler was the most prominent of the group's backing vocalists and did some occasional song writing with Burdon.
The Animals: 1964 Alan Price, John Steel, Chas Chandler, Hilton Valentine and Eric Burdon in the middle.
"We toured non-stop for three years, 300 gigs a year and we hardly got a penny..."
Chas Chandler, The Independent 1994
The Animals had other line ups but none that could compare. Chandler's talents as bass player are rarely discussed, but his energetic and imaginative style were an important part of the band's sound; that's his famous riff opening We've Gotta Get Out of This Place, and more obscure tracks like I'm In Love Again and Bury My Body testify to his skill on the instrument.
During his final tour with the band in the US, he saw a then-unknown guitarist named Jimi James play at a New York club. James was doing an imaginative arrangement of a song, Hey Joe. In September 1966, Chandler convinced James to come with him to England, where he would make him a star.
Chandler's belief in Hendrix was such that he sold all his guitars to finance the project. After changing his name to Jimi Hendrix, Chandler recruited Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He was instrumental in introducing Hendrix to Eric Clapton and it was through this introduction that Hendrix got a chance to play with Clapton and Cream on stage.
Chandler formed a partnership with Mike Jeffery, who was manager of The Animals, and together they co-managed the Experience but he produced the first two Hendrix albums, 'Are You Experienced?' and 'Axis: Bold as Love' along with studio engineers, Eddie Kramer, George Chkiantz, and Gary Kellgren.
He wasn't just a studio presence either, he was involved in the selection and refinement of the material and invaluable because he understood both sides of the glass. He quit halfway through the 'Electric Ladyland' sessions in 1968 when he became frustrated with the abundance of hangers-on in the studio. It was shortly after Chandler quit that Hendrix died in London in 1970.
"My only obvious regret is I wonder if I didn't walk out maybe he would still be alive. He is a loss; he was a good friend..."He fell out with Jeffery over the way Hendrix's career was handled, and returned to London in 1969 with his Swedish wife Lotta, who was expecting their first child. Despite the falling out both Chas & 'Lottie' were present at the Royal Albert Hall performance in February 1969.
Chas Chandler: 1991 Associated Press
It is telling that, in the case of The Animals, history records claims of mismanagement and theft on the part of their manager Michael Jeffery and Chandler seems to have made the mistake of partnering up with him over Hendrix. Is anybody aware of evidence to set the story straight?
He then went on to manage and produce the rock band Slade for the next twelve years. It is infuriating that this accomplishment is trivialised simply because the group failed to crack the American market during their golden years. Chandler's guidance created one of the UK's most successful Rock bands ever. Outselling and outperforming almost every other band of that era. The group dominated the British charts during the early 1970s. They achieved 12 top five hits from 1971 to 1974, six of which topped the charts. In total, they had 17 top 20 hits between 1971 and 1976 including six #1s, three #2s and two #3s. No other UK act of the period enjoyed such consistency in the UK top 40 and Slade actually came the closest to matching The Beatles' 22 top ten records in a single decade. Three of their singles entered the charts at #1 and they sold more singles in the UK than any other group of the 1970s. Their mistake was to allow fashion to dictate their appearance.
In the late 1970s, Chandler bought the IBC Studios and renamed them Portland Recording Studios. The International Broadcasting Company studios at 35 Portland Place, London was once the leading independent studio in the British Isles. It was also home to George 'Porky Prime Cut' Peckham and the Radiotracks Studios. Chandler ran the studios for four years and also launched Barn Records.
In 1977 Chandler split up with his wife Lotta and married Madeleine Stringer, Miss UK 1977, after a whirlwind romance. On first appearance this would appear somewhat foolish. He proposed within a week of meeting and yet...
"Being with Chas was exactly what I wanted. I would have liked a bit less stress, but it was a home and safe. He was a rock, an anchor. He grounded me."Chandler, although physically imposing and mentally astute, was never financially 'well off'. The couple sold their Surrey farmhouse, along with the Rolls, soon after their wedding in 1977. The royalties from his most famous hit, The House of the Rising Sun all went to Alan Price, according to Madeleine. She gave up her own Miss World earnings to help clear debts.
"Chas and myself never had money. I wasn't allowed to tell anybody, though. I never thought we would have any money problems but we did, all our lives."Chandler kept an interest in the music business over the last two decades of his life through production interests in the recording studio and part-owning interest in the Newcastle Arena. He also recorded with the Animals on their reunion albums.
In 1975 the original Animals reunited and recorded an album called Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted which did not get a release until 1977. Punk Rock then ensured that it got buried. It also all but destroyed the career of Slade. In 1979 they parted company with Chandler, although they remained friends.
In May 1983 The Animals reunited again and the album, Ark was released on 16 June 1983. It spawned the singles The Night and Love Is For All Time and a world tour followed for which Chandler had to relearn bass guitar. It was not a happy experience as the group spent most of the time arguing and at one point Chandler was seen grabbing Eric Burdon by the scruff of the neck. The final concert at Wembley Arena, London was recorded in 1984 and released as an album aptly entitled Rip It To Shreds. The original Animals broke up for the last time at the end of 1984.
In the very late 80's Chandler spent three months in hospital for heart surgery. In that time his kidney's collapsed and he suffered strokes. It did not stop him from helping local bands in the North East to record their own music during the early 90's.
He also set himself up in business with architect Nigel Stanger, one-time saxophonist with The Animals. They established Park Arena Ltd, which developed the Newcastle 'Metro Radio' Arena, a 10,500-seat sports and entertainment venue that opened in 1995 after nine years of work. It has featured artists such as Neil Diamond, David Bowie and Pulp. Building the arena meant a lot to Chandler and he told his wife Madeleine that watching Ray Charles play there was "like watching him play in my own front room".
Unfortunately, Park Arena Ltd. were left in financial difficulty over the project.