Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



British R&B band, formed in Newcastle in 1960 as the Alan Price Combo: Price (b 19 April 1942, Co. Durham), vocals, keyboards; Hilton Valentine (b 2 May 1943, North Shields), guitar; John Steel (b 4 Februarty 1941, Gateshead), drums; Bryan 'Chas' Chandler (b 18 December 1938, Newcastle; d there 17 July 1996), bass; Eric Burdon (b 11 May 1941, Newcastle) was recruited as lead singer and suggested the new name, which may have come from a local gang. They worked in the Northeast backing visiting U.S. blues artists (gig with Sonny Boy Williamson issued '70s); to London early '64 as British R&B (with the success of the Rolling Stones) became an alternative to the 'Mersey' sound (e.g. the Beatles). Produced by Mickie Most, the Animals raided Bob Dylan's first LP for 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down' (retitled 'Baby Let Me Take You Home') and the traditional 'House Of The Rising Sun'; on the latter, crisp pop production of Price's rolling organ and Burdon's gritty vocal (which seemed more 'authentic' at the time than Jagger) made a transatlantic no. 1, issued in UK despite its length (more than four minutes for a single was unheard of then), shortened by MGM in the USA. Albums Animals '64 and Animal Tracks '65 were limited to blues workouts, but singles were winners, Most's shrewd choice of material making a total of six top tens in UK in about 18 months, all hits in USA too: e.g. 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' (Nina Simone), 'Bring It On Home To Me' (Sam Cooke), 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place' (Mann/Weil).

Price left in 1965, fed up with Most; the band left Most and pursued a bluesier approach on records, Price replaced by Dave Rowberry (b 4 July 1940, Newcastle, ex-Mike Cotton Sound). After two more hit singles, a change of labels and third LP Animalisms '66 they split up, Burdon taking recently acquired drummer Barry Jenkins (ex-Nashville Teens) to start a new group under the same name, went to USA and became a hippy, notorious for quotes like 'the drug experience has taught us that to be deranged is not necessarily to be useless'. His new Animals included guitarist/ violinist John Weider, guitarist Vic Briggs (ex-Steampacket), Danny McCulloch on bass, the last two replaced '68 by Andy Summers (later Police) and Zoot Money; albums were Winds Of Change, The Twain Shall Meet, Every One Of Us, double Love Is '67-9, and four or five hit singles were mostly about peace and love. Burdon became front man for the black band War on two albums; they went on to be funk superstars and he made Guilty '71 with Jimmy Witherspoon, which may be his best work; further albums were heavy rock Sun Secrets and Stop '74-5 on Capitol, then back to Polydor labels for others including Darkness Darkness '80. He formed Fire Dept with German musicians (album Last Drive '80 on Ariola), soundtrack for film Comeback '82 about a faded rock star, published book I Used To Be An Animal But I'm All Right Now '86.

Meanwhile, Valentine made solo LP All In Your Head '69, found religion and left the scene, as did Briggs; Chandler entered management with Jimi Hendrix, later with Slade; Steel was his assistant. Price became a much-loved British stalwart, working with Georgie Fame and others over the years; in '95 his band the Electric Blues Company included keyboardist Money and guitarist Bobby Tench on vocals, Martin Wild and Peter Grant on drums and bass. Reunions of the original Animals included a 1968 Xmas concert at Newcastle, lacklustre LP Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted '76 on Chandler's Barn label; Police manager Miles Copeland inspired a world tour, albums Ark and live Rip It To Shreds on his IRS label '83-4; by that time only Burdon still had the stage presence that gave them their name. The original schizoid mélange of pop and R&B mirrored a mixture of personalities, but the singles remained '60s pop classics. The Black Man's Burdon was a two-CD compilation on Rhino. Sean Egan's book Animal Tracks 2001, a biography of Burdon and the band, was updated and expanded for a new edition a decade later.