Sun rises on The Animals

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Jan 2014 Sun rises on The Animals

JOHN STEEL of ANIMALS & FRIENDS, says the group had to change the original lyrics of ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ as there were suggestions that the song was about a brothel in New Orleans.


“We loved the song when we first heard it, but it was 1964 and we knew there was no way any radio station would play a number about a house of prostitutes!” John, the group’s original drummer, said in an interview with The Beat.


He has no hesitation in choosing ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ as his favourite of The Animals’ many hits.


“Why? Well, it started it all off for us and it was also our only No.1 – a No.1 in the States too and a lot of other countries our association with that number has probably played a big part in audiences still identifying with The Animals today and wanting to see and hear us.


“It is amazing how much air play it still gets. It’s a number that seems to cross from one generation to the next. Everybody knows it on top of that we did very well with a number of other hits, especially ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”.


Animals & Friends star with The Zombies, The Yardbirds, Spencer Davis and Maggie Bell on the Ultimate Rhythm and Blues 50th Anniversary Tour starting in January. No official announcement has been made about Spencer Davis, who, as John said in the last issue of The Beat, has had health problems. John was in the original hit-making line-up of The Animals with Eric Burdon (lead vocals), Alan Price (organ and keyboards), Hilton Valentine (lead guitar) and Chas Chandler (bass). The Animals started featuring their version of “The House of the Rising Sun” during a tour that included Chuck Berry. They used it as a closing number to try to set themselves apart from the other acts on the bill who always closed with rockers. It went down a storm with audiences.


“We told our producer Mickie Most that we would love to record it. But Mickie, who picked most of our hits at that time, was not convinced. It wasn’t until we got into the studio that he realised it was a hit. The tour was in Liverpool and we zoomed down to London to go into a little single- track studio on Kingsway.


We just set up for sound balance and went through a take. “After that one take Mickie said: ‘You had better come in here and listen to this’. We went into the control room and listened to it and Mickie said, ‘That’s a hit’.”


The record started with a clever riff by lead guitarist Hilton Valentine and then built up with the soulful, almost howling lead vocals of Eric Burdon and the pulsating organ parts played by Alan Price.


“But then the engineer said: “We’ve got a big problem because records and its limitations of nomore than three minutes. It had become a kind of mindset in the industry that two-and-a-half minutes to three minutes was a single.


Radio stations wouldn’t play anything longer.


To his credit Mickie said: ‘To hell with that, we’re in the vinyl age now – just go with it!’. It did give us problems at first because of the length but that all changed when we went on ‘Ready Steady Go’. The next thing it was getting played all over the place. It went to No.1 here, across the Atlantic and all over the world.”


Today’s Animals & Friends feature John, Mickey Gallagher on keyboards, Pete Barton on lead vocals and bass, and Danny Handley on lead guitar. Mickey was a temporary replacement for Alan Price when Alan left the group during their hit-making days.