Eric Burdon’s primitive, gut-wrenching vocals were a revelation to American youth when his band The Animals followed The Beatles as pioneers of The British Invasion of American music in 1964. With his great Blues growl, Eric took his shot at world music stardom with the band; enjoyed an association with some original Blues legends; then he took up some revolutionary funk with ‘War’ and was resurrected lately as an underground icon. Eric still has a voice that can still move the soul, and if anyone had any doubts about whether white boys could sing the Blues, which was a topic of genuine debate back in the 60s, Eric killed that argument stone dead.
Newcastle, in the cold North-east of England, was Eric’s birthplace during the dark days of 1941, and the teenager’s early interest in the Blues took him to London to check out the growing club scene associated with the British Blues Boom
of the early 60s. Returning to his home town, he convinced a local band, The Alan Price Combo, to become The Animals to play the music of John Lee Hooker
and Jimmy Reed.
Their first record for EMI was a re-worked cover of ‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’ which made number 15 in the singles chart, and for their follow-up they chose another song from Josh White
‘s repertoire, ‘House of the Rising Sun’. This topped the charts in Britain, America and around the world, and opened a lot of young people’s ears to the intensity of Blues music. The Animals, like The Rolling Stones
, would have nothing to do with the cute image of British music offered by The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, and Eric in particular was keen to maintain the band’s roots in the Blues. Songs like ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Bring It On Home to Me’ and ‘See See Rider’ took genuine Blues music to singles charts all over the world. During this period, The Animals often played with visiting American Blues artists in England, and Rice ‘Sonny Boy II’ Miller
, who came to live in London, was a particular favourite and he always referred to the band as “Dem Maminals”. ‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’, was originally written for the Righteous Brothers, but Eric’s hard, dark vocals placed it firmly in the coal-black streets of Newcastle, and the song became an anthem for disaffected youth around the world, not least with troops in Vietnam. Another of The Animals hits was a cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ as Eric again spoke to the heart of his generation.
Live version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ for television;
The band began to crumble under the weight of fame by 1966; keyboard player Alan Price went solo; Chas Chandler became Jimi Hendrix‘s manager and Eric re-vamped the band with London club legend Zoot Money on keyboards and guitarist Andy Summers, later of The Police. They continued to enjoy success with songs like ‘Sky Pilot’ and ‘Monterrey’ as music began its flirtation with psychedelia. A tour of Japan in late 1968, which saw the band’s manager kidnapped by yazuka gangsters and the band members fleeing for their lives, marked the end of The New Animals. Eric joined LA funk outfit War, in tune with the politics of the day, and his strong, committed vocals let people know he meant every word. The original line-up of The Animals re-formed in 1977 to record the critically acclaimed album, ‘Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted’, with a return to Jimmy Reed songs and the Blues sensibility they had left behind a decade earlier. Sadly, the time was wrong and this lost classic is all that remains of that valiant effort. A similar project, ‘Ark’ in 1983, led to a world tour but nothing more permanent.
‘Riverside County’ from the ‘Rudely Interupted’ album;
Eric Burdon Discography
These tracks broke new ground as British fans found out about Blues Music from kids their own age. Superb, gritty versions of classic songs, most of which made the singles charts.
BEST OF THE ANIMALS
Eric has recorded with his own big-band, with the smaller Eric Burdon Band and The Blues Knights, as well as making countless guest appearances on stage and on record. In recent years his albums ‘My Secret Life’ and ‘Soul of A Man’ show his voice has lost none of its bite and vigour as he explored the Blues/Rock/Gospel
borderlines. A more recent burst of activity has resulted an album of 12 self-penned songs called ‘Til Your River Runs Dry’, and Eric also published his autobiography ‘Breathless’ in 2013.