Animals in a box and in a book

The Animals
“The Mickie Most Years And More”
Abkco/Real Gone Music

Finally a box detailing an era (1963 to 1966) when The Animals were as good as the Stones, and singer Eric Burdon the equal of Mick Jagger and Steve Marriott as the howlingest wildman digesting American blues and spitting it back out as rock’n’roll. It only took a half-century to compile.

Eric Burdon and The Animals vintage publicity photo

While some might think the The Animals’ band name was negative, it holds a different meaning for Eric Burdon. “Animals don’t kill for the fun of it. They only kill when they’re hungry. Only human beings kill for fun. Animals are quite honest.”

Mickie Most was the producer with an ear. Organist Alan Price was the musical backbone—a Brit equivalent to Ray Manzarek of The Doors—as his liquid fills spill all over the mix to help create their originality. Chas Chandler might not have been the best bassist in town (or even close) but drummer John Steel and guitarist Hilton Valentine were, at least, functional.

     It’s a shame that Price and Burdon, the two stars of this band, hated each other enough to not be able to write together (with one notable exception: the classic “I’m Cryin’). Their greatest songs were written by others:  “It’s My Life,” “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” all came out of the Brill Building songwriting factory in New York City. Otherwise, it was American blues and soul like “Boom Boom” (John Lee Hooker), “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” (Joe Tex), “See See Rider” (Ma Rainey from 1924!), “Sweet Little 16” (Chuck Berry), “I Put A Spell On You” (Screaming Jay Hawkins), “House Of The Rising Sun” (a traditional American folk song in the public domain) and others from Jimmy Reed, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino and Ray Charles.
White artists have always covered the aforementioned legends but in the hands of a young, brash singer like Burdon, he totally transcended the material into an individualized stab of pain that was, both on record and on stage, mesmerizing, transfixing and felt deeeeeeeep in one’s soul.
Now we have it all in one box:  61 tracks on five CDs complete with a t-shirt in the packaging!
The Animals soon devolved into a rotating cast of wanna-be’s around Burdon’s hippie-dippie attempts at songwriting, most of which were awful. This is the only Animals era to concern yourself with…and it’s a stone cold doozy.

Animal Tracks: The Story Of The Animals, Newcastle’s Rising Sons
Sean Egan
Askill Publishing

Animals book cover

This revised and updated edition of Sean Egan’s Animals bio brings up the fact that Jimi Hendrix might have been murdered. According to the author, police were “very keen” to talk to Animals lead singer Eric Burdon about Jimi’s death at the age of 27, which occurred in London on September 18, 1970. Twenty-four years after the death, according to the author, British police apparently reopened the investigation (unlike all other crimes, there is no statute of limitations for murder), but they couldn’t find Burdon. He would have been easy to find as The Animals were being inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame during the 1994 investigation. But Burdon didn’t show up, opting to hide out in Germany.
What we do know is that Animals bassist Chas Chandler [1938-1996] was a lot better in management skills than he was as a bass player, having guided Hendrix to super-stardom. We also know Mike Jeffery [1933-1973] was The Animals’ manager. In the bibliography, there’s an out-of-print book called Rock Roadie: Backstage And Confidential With Hendrix, Elvis, The Animals, Tina Turner And An All-Star Cast by Tappy Wright and Rod Weinberg where Tappy claims, “Jeffery made a drunken confession to him of murdering Jimi Hendrix, whom he feared was going to propel him toward bankruptcy and the mercies of loan sharks by not renewing his management contract.” (This after taking out a life insurance policy on his client.)
Original Animals organist Alan Price is the villain of the book. He refused to be interviewed and stands today as the man who made all the money from their biggest hit “House Of The Rising Sun.” The band had decided it would be easier to have the check made out to only one of them. Since Price was friends with manager Jeffery, he was the one who received the funds, yet upon delivery, instead of sharing it, disappeared with it. “May Alan Price burn in fucking hell,” says Burdon.
Inter-band warring factions start almost immediately upon success. Jeffery wasn’t the greatest of managers. Unlike the rival Rolling Stones—who had the brilliant Andrew Loog Oldham—they had no vision other than the blues. Plus, none of them were strong songwriters. Once they did start writing, they turned into the dippiest of hippie bands, all notions of former glory totally diluted in a round-robin of rotating members, which included the pre-Police Andy Summers. Author Egan’s disdain for the blues is annoyingly apparent, as he constantly reiterates how boring and one-dimensional the blues is. What he fails to realize is that if you can’t feel it, of course it’s repetitive. Egan obviously can’t feel it…and he doesn’t even know that the great Johnny Otis [1921-2012] was white.
The constant break-ups and reunions are all accounted for, including the 1983 tour and album (Ark) of which I served as publicist. I remember how these Animals couldn’t stand each other. That hatred might have fueled their early rock’n’roll, but in ’83 they were like petulant whiny teenagers in instead of has-been rock-stars. Be that as it may, in the mid-‘60s, the Animals were as exciting, valid, vital, pioneering and as sizzling hot as any of the original “British Invasion” bands…until they were left in the dust.

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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