An early publicity shot of the Animals taken in early 1964. Left to right: Eric Burdon (Vocals) Alan Price (Keyboards) Chas Chandler (Bass) Hilton Valentine (Guitar) John Steel (Drums)
Britain's venerable blues-rock legend Eric Victor Burdon was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1941, and was lucky to make it out of the crib; as an important British seaport on the North Sea coast, Newcastle was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II, but the embattled citizens of that city endured and triumphed. The tough Northern working-class stoicism of postwar Newcastle provided the ambition and drive that has seen Burdon remain a vital musical force around the world for over five decades.
Burdon's musical career began at the tender age of 16, playing trombone in the Pagan Jazzmen (which, after the addition of keyboardist Alan Price in 1959, swiftly evolved into the Pagans — focusing on electric blues). The UK's burgeoning blues-revival scene (spearheaded by Cyril Davies and Alexis Koerner) enthralled Burdon, who was quickly respected around the Newcastle scene as a powerful vocalist and an energetic stage performer. He spent the turn of the 1960s as a journeyman singer, briefly sharing bands with other future UK luminaries such as (Rolling Stones drummer) Charlie Watts and (Cream bassist) Jack Bruce before reuniting with Price to form the nucleus of what became one of the most popular UK bands of the 1960s: the Animals.
The Animals exploded internationally in 1964 with their searing interpretation of the traditional folk-blues classic "The House of the Rising Sun," which went to Number One in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and Finland. It remains the band's most recognizable song, although the Animals cannot be casually mistaken as one-hit-wonders; as one of the first-wave bands in the so-called "British Invasion" pop phenomenon of the early/mid-1960s, the Animals were outranked in transatlantic chart action only by the Big Four (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks), and were the first of the new UK stars to emerge elsewhere than Liverpool or London (future Newcastle-based musicians such as Lindisfarne highly credit Burdon & Co. for opening industry doors to Northern bands).
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