THE STORY OF THE ANIMALS
The Animals, featured on some great new Repertoire releases, have a long
and honourable history. The band started life in the early 60s and
enjoyed tremendous success with their debut hit ‘House Of The Rising
Sun.’ However, after a traumatic split, it seemed like the old group
was doomed. Then the original members including Eric Burdon and Alan
Price, got back together for their 1977 reunion album ‘Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted’. ‘The Ark’ followed this a few years later and both these and their ‘Greatest Hits’ albums are now available on Repertoire CDs.
Eric Burdon’s roaring vocals and the keyboard magic of Alan Price were crucial to the unique sound of The Animals. It was a great shock
when the group split at the height of their fame and fans around the
world mourned their passing. Yet the split seemed inevitable, given the
strain of endless touring. The Animals had been the toast of the
Swinging England R&B scene. By 1966 the party was over.
Ten years passed before the founder members decided they should give the old band another try. The result was the reformation of The
Original Animals in 1976 that led to ‘Before We Were So Rudely
Interrupted.’ The title comes from a phrase used by the Daily Mirror
journalist Cassandra. His regular column had been suspended during the
Second World War and resumed on the first day of peace with the ringing
phrase ‘Before I was so rudely interrupted…’
Despite their fierce image The Animals were sociable and friendly Geordie lads from Newcastle who loved the music of Ray Charles, Chuck
Berry and John Lee Hooker. The group was born out of The Alan Price
Combo in 1963 and took their new name when Eric Burdon joined. The
revamped group comprised Eric Burdon (vocals), Alan Price (keyboards),
Hilton Valentine (guitar), Bryan ‘Chas’ Chandler (bass) and John Steel
(drums). Their name ‘The Animals’ was suggested by organist Graham
Bond, who saw them playing at the Club A Go Go in Newcastle and
recommended them to his manager Ronan O’Rahilly.
The Animals backed visiting American blues man Sonny Boy Williamson before heading to London where they played at the Scene Club in Soho.
They signed to Mickie Most who produced their debut single ‘Baby Let Me
Take You Home’ released in March 1964.
It was a hit, but the next single, a four and a half minute rendition of Josh White’s ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ caused a
sensation and became a worldwide hit. It went straight to Number One in
America where it topped the charts for three weeks in August 1964 and
was Number One back home. Burdon’s towering vocal performance, Hilton’s
guitar introduction and Alan’s atmospheric organ created a pop
masterpiece and the group were rushed to America to join the British
Over the next few years the group would produce a string of quality hits putting them on an equal footing with The Stones, Beatles and Who.
During 1965 alone they scored with ‘’Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’
‘Bring It On Home To Me,’ ‘We’ve Got To Get Out Of This Place,’ and
‘It’s My Life.’
But tension grew between Burdon and Price and reached the point where Alan felt he had to leave. The official reason for his departure
in 1966 was ‘fear of flying’. Alan went off to join Bob Dylan’s
entourage on a UK tour before putting together, the Alan Price Set. The
Animals carried on with Dave Rowberry on organ, and Barry Jenkins from
the Nashville Teens replaced John Steel on drums. The band underwent a
further change when Chas Chandler gave up playing bass to become a
manager. His first signing was Jimi Hendrix and he later managed Chas
pop group Slade.
Eric Burdon formed The New Animals and relocated to the West Coast of America, embracing hippie culture with songs such as ‘San Franciscan
Nights,’ ‘Monterey’ and ‘Sky Pilot.’ The group broke up in 1968 and
Eric joined US band War.
Alan Price meanwhile had considerable success as a solo artist with a succession of hit records. As the years rolled on The Animals became
a distant memory. By 1976 it seemed a good time to have a crack at
reforming the old group. Chandler provided his Barn Productions studio
for the band to make their first album since ‘Animalisms’ (1966). They
had parted on bad terms, after rows about missing money but there was a
warm feeling once they got back in the studio.
They played some new pieces like ‘Riverside Country’ but mainly they put their own spin on their favourites like Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over
Now, Baby Blue,’ ‘As The Crow Flies’ by Jimmy Reed, ‘Too Many Rivers To
Cross’ by Jimmy Cliff and ‘The Fool’ by Sanford Clark.
The reunion was a musical success and they planned some tour dates. However the Sex Pistols were creating
a furore and were busy dismissing all old groups as ‘dinosaurs.’ It was
not the best time for a Sixties’ revival. The Animals tried again with
a second reunion album called ‘The Ark’ released in 1983. Guitarist
Steve Grant augmented the band with an up beat style and wrote them a
lively new song ‘Loose Change’ that showed a strong punk influence.
The Animals toured in 1983 but sadly Chas Chandler died in 1996 so no
further full reunions were possible. A highlight of the last tour was a
concert recorded at London’s Wembley Arena on December 31, 1983. This
resulted in the album ‘Greatest Hits Live!’ released on Miles
Copeland’s I.R.S. label and now reissued on Repertoire CD. The Animals
were in great form that night and augmented by old mate Zoot Money of
Big Roll Band fame on keyboards together with Steve Grant on guitar.
Burdon’s powerhouse vocals were well to the fore although Alan Price
was featured on his own 1973 hit ‘O Lucky Man!’
The Animals name has continued to hold its magic and several groups adopting the name have toured over the past 20 years. These included
Animals 11 led by Hilton Valentine with John Steel and Dave Rowberry.
They toured until Hilton left in 2001. Steel and Rowberry continued as
Animals & Friends until Rowberry died in 2003. In 1998 Burdon
formed Eric Burdon and the New Animals with Aynsley Dunbar on drums.
From 2003 until the present Eric Burdon and his latest version of The
Animals has toured with Hilton Valentine on lead guitar. In April 2008
Eric Burdon roared again when he was reunited with his funk group War
for a special concert at London’s Royal Hall.