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Music / The Animals

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The classic line-up of The Animals. From left to right: John Steel, Chas Chandler, Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine and Alan Price.

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood"

The Animals were a British Invasion band from Newcastle-upon-Tyne with heavy blues influences. One of several bands managed by producer Mickie Most (Herman's Hermits was another), their peak period was the mid-1960s. Their most famous hit was a cover of the traditional folk song "The House of the Rising Sun," which became one of the first non-Beatles British songs to top the charts in America after the Fab Four had made their debut. It was also a major influence on the emerging Folk Rock sound (particularly since it single-handedly inspired Bob Dylan to begin experimenting with a rock sound).

Lead vocalist Eric Burdon was a Blues fan who later joined the group War and became a major exponent of Funk, Hard Rock and Psychedelic Rock in the early 1970s. The group was notable for its prominent use of a Vox Continental organ played by Alan Price; they are among the first rock groups to use an electric keyboard instrument in their songs (and yes, they did probably beat the Beatles to it).

The band had a setback in 1965 when Alan Price left due to either fear of flying or a desire to be paid more money (accounts vary). He was replaced by Mick Gallagher for a short time, then by Dave Rowberry. By 1966, Burdon had embraced the hippie movement and started using LSD, becoming distant from the rest of the group. John Steel was the next to leave, replaced by Barry Jenkins for the last few singles and albums.

The Animals split near the end of 1966 and went their separate ways. Burdon formed a new version of the group, Eric Burdon and the Animals (with Barry Jenkins joining him), which became the outlet for his hippie-era material. When that version of the group ended, Burdon started the aforementioned War, which he left soon afterwards; they went on to have a successful career in their own right. Burdon later performed under his own name and as leader of The Eric Burdon Band. Alan Price became a folk singer-songwriter and bassist Chas Chandler became famous for discovering and managing Jimi Hendrix and Slade in the early 1970s. The band had two short-lived revivals, one in The '70s and one during The '80s, both of which led to new albums.

Three of the Animals have died so far: Chandler (of an aortic aneurysm in 1996), Rowberry (of an ulcer haemorrhage in 2003) and Valentine (no cause of death given, 2021).

Other hits of theirs include "Baby Let Me Take You Home", "I'm Crying", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Bring It On Home to Me", "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "It's My Life", "Inside-Looking Out" and "Don't Bring Me Down". Hits and fan favourites by Eric Burdon and the Animals include "Help Me Girl", "When I Was Young", "San Franciscan Nights", "Monterey" and "Sky Pilot".

Not to be confused with Animal, the Electric Mayhem's drummer.

Principal Members (The Animals) (Founding members in bold):

  • Eric Burdon - lead vocals (1963-1966, 1968, 1975-1977, 1982-1983)
  • Chas Chandler - bass, vocals (1963-1966, 1968, 1975-1977, 1982-1983, died 1996)
  • Mick Gallagher - keyboard (1965)
  • Barry Jenkins - drums (1966)
  • Alan Price - keyboard, vocals (1963-1965, 1968, 1975-1977, 1982-1983)
  • Dave Rowberry - keyboard, vocals (1965-1966, died 2003)
  • John Steel - drums (1963-1966, 1968, 1975-1977, 1982-1983)
  • Hilton Valentine - guitar, vocals (1963-1966, 1968, 1975-1977, 1982-1983. died 2021)

Principal Members (Eric Burdon And The Animals) (Founding members in bold):

  • Vic Briggs - guitar, piano (1966-1968)
  • Eric Burdon - lead vocals (1966-1968)
  • Barry Jenkins - drums, percussion, vocals (1966-1968)
  • Danny McCulloch - bass, guitar, vocals (1966-1968, died 2015)
  • Zoot Money - keyboard, bass, vocals, piano, organ (1968)
  • Andy Summers - guitar, bass, vocals (1968)
  • John Weider - bass, guitar, violin, celeste (1966-1968)

Studio and Live Discography

The Animals, original version

  • The Animals (1964) note 
  • The Animals On Tour (1965) note 
  • Animal Tracks (1965) note 
  • Animalisms (1966) note 
  • Animalization (1966) note 

Eric Burdon and the Animals

  • Eric is Here (1967)note 
  • Winds of Change (1967)
  • The Twain Shall Meet (1968)
  • Every One of Us (1968) note 
  • Love Is (1968)

The Animals, revival version

  • Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted (1977)
  • Ark (1983)
  • Greatest Hits Live (Rip It To Shreds) (1984)

Non-album singles (The Animals):

  • "It's My Life"/"I'm Going To Change The World" (1965)

Non-album singles (Eric Burdon And The Animals):

  • "When I Was Young"/"A Girl Named Sandoz" (1967)
  • San Franciscan Nights" note /"Gratefully Dead" (1967)
  • "Monterey" note /"Ain't That So" (1967)

"It's my life, and I'll trope what I want":

  • Animal Motifs: Their band name.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Zig-zagged and inverted. For Eric Burdon and the Animals, Burdon retained Barry Jenkins and got rid of everybody else. Later, Burdon was the original leader of War; when he left, they became a major act without him.
  • Blues Rock: The band's original genre.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Skinny 5'7 Eric Burdon versus chubby 6'4 Chas Chandler.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: "House Of The Rising Sun" probably, though the song itself is old enough that it's hard to determine whether the original singer was meant to be male or female.
  • Cover Version: They had more covers of blues songs than original tunes, including "The Girl Can't Help It", "Mess Around" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood".
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Eric Burdon has spoken openly about his harsh upbringing, involving poverty and severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his schoolteachers. Fair to say, a lot of the pain in his voice is real.
  • Free Handed Performer: Eric Burdon still performs solely as a singer on stage.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: They were called The Animals because of their wild performances, and eventually kept the name.
  • Gambling Ruins Lives: In "The House of the Rising Sun," the exact nature of the titular House of the Rising Sun is not made exactly clear, but it's heavily implied that it's a place where some sort of vices take place that ruin people's lives. The narrator explicitly says that his father was a "gambling man," although it's unclear if that was his only life-ruining vice.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The Most Of The Animals was an early one. The name of the record was a pun based on the name of producer Mickie Most, which had previously been used for another band he'd produced (The Most of Herman's Hermits).
  • I Am the Band: Again, Eric Burdon, so much so that they changed their name to Eric Burdon & the Animals at the end of 1966.
  • Location Song: "San Franciscan Nights" is a bittersweet song about the city, written as a Protest Song against US society at the time, addressing the fact that Native Americans have been neglected by The American Dream and Police Brutality is rampant.
  • Psychedelic Rock: The dominant genre for the Eric Burdon and the Animals era.
  • Rap Rock: Surprisingly, they provided the Ur-Example: "Year of the Guru".
  • Rearrange the Song: Their cover of Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is faster than the original.
  • Revolving Door Band: The Animals had many personnel changes throughout their history, with Burdon as the only consistent member.
  • Self-Deprecation: They named themselves The Animals partially because they considered themselves to be ugly.
  • Villain Song: "It's My Life" is about how the protagonist plans to go from Rags to Riches through less than honorable means — but at least he promises to share his ill-gotten gains with his girlfriend.
    There'll be women and their fortunes
    Who just want to mother orphans
    Are you gonna cry when I'm squeezin' them dry?
    Takin' all I can get, no regrets
    When I openly lie (ha!) and live on that money
    Believe me honey, that money
    Can you believe I ain't no saint, no complaints
    So girl, throw out any doubt
  • Vocal Dissonance: Eric Burdon, a small babyfaced kid from England with the surprisingly deep pipes of a man who'd lived through hell and back.