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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Animals: The British Invasion That Wasn't

The Animals.

In 2012, Bruce Springsteen gave the keynote speech at SXSW, where he surprised a lot of listeners by declaring that — although he grew up admiring The Beatles andThe Rolling Stones — the group that really made him want to form a band was The Animals. The rough-and-tumble quintet from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne is largely ignored today, although it did pretty well during the British Invasion. A box of the band's four classic albums has just been released, titled The Mickie Most Years & More.

The Animals came into being when Eric Burdon, born during an air raid in 1941, joined the Alan Price Combo — a group which, like so many others in Britain in 1962, was playing American rock 'n' roll and blues. The band quickly got a regular slot at the Downbeat club in Newcastle, where the local teenagers loved its wild stage show and began calling its members "the animals." The name stuck, their reputation grew, and by May 1963, they were following in The Beatles' footsteps by playing the Star Club in Hamburg. By the end of the year, they'd recorded a four-song EP for their fans and pressed 500 copies, a few of which found their way to London. By Christmas, the band had been invited to move there so record companies could bid for its services.

Mickie Most, a British singer who'd been a star in South Africa and had just moved back to Britain, had caught the band at a hometown show. Once it relocated, Most got the group a record deal. The Animals' first single, "Baby Let Me Take You Home," almost made the British Top 20.

The vocalist, Eric Burdon, had plenty of charisma, but keyboard player Alan Price was the musical center of the band. He proved it with the next single, "House of the Rising Sun," where he took a song everyone had heard a million times and changed it utterly. Hilton Valentine created the guitar part, but Price got writer and arranger credit for the international smash-hit record which led to The Animals' first U.S. tour, starting in York, Penn., in September 1964.


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