Saturday, 18 May 2013

LINK: "I was inspired by the local coal merchant": Pete Mitchell on Eric Burdon

The Absolute Radio DJ talks blues, soul — and coal — with the former Animals frontman

"I was inspired by the local coal merchant": Pete Mitchell on Eric Burdon
Written By
David Crawford
British bluesman Eric Burdon has just released his first album since 2005. Let the River Run Dry is a gritty blues affair from the mercurial former frontman of the Animals, who is now in his early 70s. He has now reached the same age as some of those early bluesmen that changed the life of this working-class lad from the North East in the early 50s.
Burdon certainly cuts a profile and exudes a slight air of intimidation. I would not like to tackle him on a bad day. Once he thaws out, he's a gentle, thoughtful and engaging man who is accompanied by his young attractive wife and PA. He's got it all going on and he knows it. Talking the blues with Eric is immensely enjoyable. He has met and played with just about everybody. We get on because we are both lovers of American blues and soul.
The Motown, Stax and Atlantic records that my teenage aunties and uncles played on my grandad's stereogram when I was a scruffy, snotty-nosed kid, were just plain old pop records to me. Not blues or soul, just pop. They were very different from the blues and gospel records that Eric was raised on, but they are no less important.
The songs of black America inspired a generation of British kids to copy and reproduce musicthat had, by and large, been ignored by the American record-buying public.  It's a misnomer that we can't actually produce some authentic rhythm and blues here in the UK. The sheer brilliance of Amy Winehouse and Adele can quite happily sit alongside Aretha and Etta, for instance. Jamiroquai and Georgie Fame could match Stevie and Marvin. You will not spot the join.
If we forensically work our way back through "British soul" we encounter Annie Lennox and Tom Jones, and our greatest exponent of American R&B Dusty Springfield. Now she was the real deal. For the purists among us, we can name check another Welshman, Gene Latter. His recording of Sign on the Dotted Line was huge on the underground soul scene. DJs like Roger Eagle first played rare American soul and R&B at the birthplace of northern soul, the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, as early as 1963.  
The newly formed Mod scene was at the heart of this appreciation of music coming out of Detroit, Chicago and Memphis. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones would cover early blues and soul records and import them back to the United States where teenagers screamed and danced to them, thinking that they were at the epicentre  of this new social and musicrevolution. Some of those early bluesman would have been entirely forgotten if not for John, Paul, Mick and Keith.

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