(Read all about The Animals after the video)
The Animals were an English rock band of the 1960s, formed in Newcastle upon Tyne, during the early part of the decade. The band moved to London upon finding fame in 1964. The Animals were known for their gritty, bluesy sound and deep-voiced frontman Eric Burdon, as exemplified by their signature song and transatlantic No. 1 hit single, "The House of the Rising Sun", as well as by hits such as "We Gotta Get out of This Place", "It's My Life", "I'm Crying" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". The band balanced tough, rock-edged pop singles against rhythm and blues-oriented album material. They were known in the US as part of the British Invasion.
The Animals underwent numerous personnel changes in the mid-1960s and suffered from poor business management. Under the name Eric Burdon and the Animals, the much-changed act moved to California and achieved commercial success as a psychedelic and hard rock band with hits like "San Franciscan Nights", "When I Was Young" and "Sky Pilot", before disbanding at the end of the decade. Altogether, the group had ten Top Twenty hits in both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100.
The original lineup of Burdon, Alan Price, Chas Chandler, Hilton Valentine and John Steel reunited for a one off benefit concert in their home city of Newcastle in 1968. They later had brief comebacks in 1975 and 1983. There have been several partial regroupings of the original era members since then under various names. The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Formed in Newcastle upon Tyne during 1962 and 1963, when Burdon joined the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, the original line-up was Eric Burdon (vocals), Alan Price (organ and keyboards), Hilton Valentine (guitar), John Steel (drums), and Bryan "Chas" Chandler (bass).
It has often been said they were dubbed "animals" because of their wild stage act, and the name stuck. In a 2013 interview, Eric Burdon denied this, stating it came from a gang of friends they used to hang out with, one of whom was "Animal" Hogg and the name was intended as a kind of tribute to him. The Animals' success in their hometown and a connection with Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky motivated them to move to London in 1964 in the immediate wake of Beatlemania and the beat boom take-over of the popular music scene, just in time to play an important role in the so-called British Invasion of the US music charts.
The Animals performed fiery versions of the staple rhythm and blues repertoire, covering songs by Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, and others. Signed to EMI's Columbia label, a rocking version of the standard "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" (retitled "Baby Let Me Take You Home") was their first single.
It was followed in June 1964 by the transatlantic number one hit "House of the Rising Sun". Burdon's howling vocals and the dramatic arrangement, featuring Alan Price's haunting organ riffs, created arguably the first folk rock hit. There is ongoing debate regarding the Animals' inspiration for their arrangement of the song, which has variously been ascribed to prior versions by Bob Dylan, folk singer Dave Van Ronk, blues singer Josh White (who recorded it twice in 1944 and 1949), and singer/pianist Nina Simone (who recorded it in 1962 on Nina at the Village Gate)
It has been said that the intense arrangement of the song owes much to their desire to be the most memorable band on the multi-act tours of the U.K. they were booked on in the early days. The repeating guitar riff and Burdon's screaming vocals did seem to insure that of all the bands a crowd might see, the Animals were the group that people couldn't stop talking about and the song the one they couldn't get out of their heads.
The Animals' two-year chart career, produced by Mickie Most, featured intense, gritty pop music covers such as Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" and the Nina Simone-popularised number "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". In contrast, their album tracks stayed with rhythm and blues, with John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul" as notable examples.
In November 1964, the group was poised to make their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and begin a short residency performing regularly in theatres across New York City. The group arrived in New York City direct from John F. Kennedy International Airport in a motorcade formed of Sunbeam Alpine Series IV convertibles, with each car featuring a band member riding with a fashion model in the back seat and the rooftop down. The group drove to their hotel accompanied by the occasional shrieks of girls who had chased them down once they discovered who they were. The Animals sang "I'm Crying" and "The House of the Rising Sun" to a packed audience of hysterical girls screaming throughout both performances on Sullivan's show. In December, the MGM movie Get Yourself a College Girl was released with the Animals headlining with the Dave Clark Five. The Animals sang a Chuck Berry song, "Around and Around", in the movie.
By May 1965, the group was starting to feel internal pressures. Price left due to personal and musical differences as well as fear of flying on tour. He went on to a successful career as a solo artist and with The Alan Price Set. Mick Gallagher filled in for him on keyboards for a short time until Dave Rowberry replaced him and was on hand for the hit songs "We Gotta Get out of This Place" and "It's My Life".
Around that time, the Animals put together a big band to play at the 5th Annual British Jazz & Blues Festival in Richmond. The Animals Big Band made their one public appearance on 5 August 1965. As well as Burdon, Rowberry, Valentine, Chandler, and Steel, they featured a brass/horn section of Ian Carr, Kenny Wheeler, and Greg Brown on trumpets, and Stan Robinson, Al Gay, Dick Morrissey, and Paul Carroll on saxophones.
Many of the Animals' hits had come from Brill Building songwriters recruited by Mickie Most; the group, and Burdon in particular, felt this too creatively restrictive. As 1965 ended, the group ended its association with Most, signed a new deal with their American label MGM Records for the US and Canada, and switched to Decca Records for the rest of the world and MGM Records producer Tom Wilson, who gave them more artistic freedom. In early 1966 MGM collected their hits on The Best of the Animals; it became their best-selling album in the US. In February 1966, Steel left and was replaced by Barry Jenkins. A leftover rendition of Goffin–King's "Don't Bring Me Down" was the last hit as the Animals. For the single "See See Rider" the band changed its name to Eric Burdon & the Animals. By September 1966, this lineup of the group had dissipated.
Burdon began work on a solo album, called Eric Is Here, which also featured Burdon's UK number 14 solo hit single, "Help Me, Girl", which he heavily promoted on TV shows such as Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops in late 1966. Eric Is Here was Burdon's final release for Decca Records.
By this time their business affairs "were in a total shambles" according to Chandler (who went on to manage Jimi Hendrix & produce Slade) and the group disbanded. Even by the standards of the day, when artists tended to be financially naïve, the Animals made very little money, eventually claiming mismanagement and theft on the part of their manager Michael Jeffery.
A group with Burdon, Jenkins, and new sidemen John Weider (guitar/violin/bass), Vic Briggs (guitar/piano), and Danny McCulloch (bass) were formed under the name Eric Burdon and Animals (or sometimes Eric Burdon and the New Animals) in December 1966 and changed direction. The hard driving blues was transformed into Burdon's version of psychedelia as the former heavy drinking Geordie (who later said he could never get used to Newcastle "where the rain comes at you sideways") relocated to California and became a spokesman for the Love Generation.
Some of this group's hits included "San Franciscan Nights", "Monterey" (a tribute to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival), and "Sky Pilot". Their sound was much heavier than the original group. Burdon screamed more and louder on live versions of "Paint It Black" and "Hey Gyp". In 1968, they had a more experimental sound on songs like "We Love You Lil" and the 19-minute record "New York 1963 - America 1968". The songs had a style of being silent at the beginning and then becoming psychedelic and raw straight to the end with screaming, strange lyrics and "scrubbing" instruments.
There were further changes to this lineup: Zoot Money was added in April 1968, initially as organist/pianist only, but upon McCulloch's departure he also took on bass and occasional lead vocals. In July 1968, Andy Summers replaced Briggs. Both Money and Summers were formerly of British psychedelic outfit Dantalian's Chariot, and much of this new lineup's set was composed of Dantalian's Chariot songs which caught Burdon's interest. Due to Money's multi-instrumental load, in live settings bass was played alternately by Weider and Summers. Summers was to eventually go on to great success as the the guitarist for The Police.
By December 1968, these Animals had dissolved, and both their double album Love Is and the singles "Ring of Fire" and "River Deep – Mountain High" were internationally released. Numerous reasons have been cited for the breakup, the most famous being an aborted Japanese tour. The tour had been scheduled for September 1968 but was delayed until November, due to difficulty obtaining visas. Only a few dates into the tour, the promoters – who, unbeknownst to the band, were yakuza – kidnapped the band's manager and threatened him at gunpoint to write an IOU for $25,000 to cover losses incurred by the tour's delay. The manager wrote out the IOU but, correctly surmising that none of his captors could read English, added a note that it was written under duress. The yakuza released him but warned that he and the band would have to leave Japan the next day or be killed. The Animals promptly fled the country, leaving all their tour equipment behind. Money and Summers both subsequently pursued solo careers (though this pursuit was swiftly aborted in Summers' case), Weider signed up with Family, and Burdon joined forces with a Latin group from Long Beach, California, called War.
Reunions of first incarnation
The original Animals line-up of Burdon, Price, Valentine, Chandler and Steel reunited for a benefit concert in Newcastle in December 1968 and reformed in late 1975 to record again. Burdon later said nobody understood why they did this short reunion. They did a mini-tour in 1976 and shot a few videos of their new songs like "Lonely Avenue" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love". They released the album in 1977 aptly called Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted. The album received critical praise. Burdon and Valentine also recorded some demos at that time, which were never released. On 12 December 1982, Burdon performed together with Alan Price and a complete line-up, foreshadowing later events.
All five original band members reunited again in 1983 for the album Ark and a world concert tour, supplemented by Zoot Money on keyboards, Nippy Noya on percussion, Steve Gregory on saxophone and Steve Grant on guitar. The first single "The Night" reached #48 at the US Pop Singles and #34 at the Mainstream Rock Charts, also gaining success in Greece. They released a second single called "Love Is For All Time".
The Ark tour consisted of about one-third material from the original 1960s and two-thirds material from Ark or other songs. The latter included the songs "Heart Attack", "No More Elmore" (both released a year earlier by Burdon), "Oh Lucky Man" (from the 1973 soundtrack album to O Lucky Man! by Price), "It's Too Late", "Tango", and "Young Girls" (later released on Burdon's compilation, The Night). On 9 September, they had their first show in New York at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the tickets for which sold out. A Wembley Stadium concert followed on 31 December which was released on the Rip it To Shreds live album in 1984 after they had disbanded again. Their concert at the Royal Oak Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan on 29 November 1983 was released on 27 February 2008, as Last Live Show. A film about the reunion tour was shot but never released.
Chas Chandler died from an aneurysm in 1996, putting an end to any possibility of another reunion of the full original line-up.
During the 1990s and 2000s there have been several groups calling themselves Animals in part:
- In 1993 Hilton Valentine formed the Animals II and was joined by John Steel in 1994 and Dave Rowberry in 1999. Other members of this version of the band include Steve Hutchinson, Steve Dawson and Martin Bland. From 1999 until Valentine's departure in 2001 the band toured as the Animals. This version featured Tony Liddle on lead vocal, Valentine, Steel, Rowberry, and Jim Rodford on bass. Regular dep[clarification needed] for Rodford on bass was Chris Allen, now frontman with the Troggs.
- After Valentine left these Animals in 2001, Steel and Rowberry continued on as Animals and Friends with Peter Barton, Jim Rodford and John E. Williamson. When Rowberry died in 2003, he was replaced by Mick Gallagher (who had briefly replaced Alan Price in 1965). Danny Handley joined the band in 2009 initially as lead guitarist but replaced Peter Barton on lead vocals when Barton retired in 2012. It was at this time that Scott Whitley took over the bass guitar role. This line up continues to tour the world. Undertaking extensive tours with special guests such as Steve Cropper and Spencer Davis among others.
- In the 1990s Danny McCulloch, from the later-1960s Animals, released several albums as the Animals, with a great deal of acceptance[clarification needed]. The albums contained covers of some original Animals songs as well as new ones written by McCulloch.
- Eric Burdon formed a new backing band in 1998 and went out as Eric Burdon and the New Animals. This was actually just a rename of an existing band he had been touring with in various forms since 1990. Members of this new group included Dean Restum, Dave Meros, Neal Morse and Aynsley Dunbar. Martin Gerschwitz replaced Morse in 1999, after Ryo Okumoto had a brief stint for 3 weeks and Dunbar was replaced by Bernie Pershey in 2001. In 2003 the band started touring as Eric Burdon and the Animals. After the line-up changed in 2006 original guitarist Hilton Valentine joined with the group for its 2007 & 2008 tours. The group also included Red Young, Paula O'Rourke and Tony Braunagle. After Burdon lost the rights to the name, he formed a new band with completely different musicians.
- In 2016, Burdon formed the current lineup of the Animals, including Johnzo West (guitar/vocals), Davey Allen (keys/vocals), Dustin Koester (drums/vocals), Justin Andres (bass guitar/vocals), Ruben Salinas (sax/flute), and Evan Mackey (trombone).
Dispute over ownership of band name
In 2008, an adjudicator determined that original Animals drummer John Steel owned "the Animals" name in England, by virtue of a trademark registration Steel had made in relation to the name. Eric Burdon had objected to the trademark registration, arguing that Burdon personally embodied any goodwill associated with "the Animals" name. Burdon's argument was rejected, in part based on the fact that he had billed himself as "Eric Burdon and the Animals" as early as 1967, thus separating the goodwill associated with his own name from that of the band. On 9 September 2013 Burdon's appeal was allowed; he is now entitled to use the name "the Animals".
The original Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, although Eric Burdon did not attend and the band did not perform. In 2003, the band's version of "The House of the Rising Sun" ranked No. 123 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Their 1965 hit single "We Gotta Get out of This Place" was ranked No. 233 on the same list. Both songs are included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
On 15 March 2012, in a keynote speech to an audience at the South by Southwest music festival, Bruce Springsteen discussed the Animals' influence on his music at length, stating, "To me, the Animals were a revelation. They were the first records with full-blown class consciousness that I'd ever heard." He said of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (written by two New York songwriters, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil): "That's every song I've ever written ... That's 'Born to Run,' 'Born in the U.S.A.,' everything I've done for the past 40 years including all the new ones. That struck me so deep. It was the first time I felt I heard something come across the radio that mirrored my home life, my childhood." Saying that his album Darkness on the Edge of Town was "filled with Animals," Springsteen played the opening riffs to "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and his own "Badlands" back to back, then said, "Listen up, youngsters! This is how successful theft is accomplished!"