In the 1960s, the Animals became a part of what became known as the British invasion. Contemporaries of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the band was an influence and inspiration for decades after their peak. After the band began to disintegrate, singer Eric Burdon took over the name and continued the group as Eric Burdon & the Animals. The band’s songs were later covered by such artists as Grand Funk Railroad, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Bruce Springsteen.
Despite the group’s initial success, the Animals never reached the same level as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. They gleaned the inspiration for their sound from the rawness and toughness of American blues and rhythm and blues (R&B). One reviewer wrote in Rolling Stone, “If the Beatles were the British Invasion’s models of youthful optimism, the Animals were its pissed off proles, working-class rebels without a cause.. perpetually on the outside looking in.”
The Animals grew from keyboardist Alan Price’s band, the Alan Price Trio, which also included bassist Chas
Members include Alan Price (born April 19, 1941, Fairfield, Durham, England), organ, piano; Eric Burdon (born May 11, 1941, Walker, Northumberland, England), vocals; Chas Chandler (born Byran Chandler, December 18, 1938, Heaton, Northumberland, England; died July 17, 1996, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), bass; John Steel (born February 4, 1941, Gateshead, Northumberland, England), drums; Hilton Valentine (born May 21, 1943, North Shields, Northumberland, England), guitar
Other members include: Vic Briggs (born February 14, 1945, Twickenham, Surrey, England), guitar; Barry Jenkins (born December 22, 1944, Leicester, England), drums; Danny McCullough (born July 18, 1945, London, England), bass; Tom Parker , organ, piano; Dave Rowberry (born December 27, 1943, Newcastle, England), organ, piano; John Weider (born April 21, 1947, London, England), guitar.
Band formed as the Alan Price Combo, 1962; changed name to the Animals, 1962; released self-titled debut album, 1964; Price left the band, 1965; Steel left the band, 1966; the Animals disbanded, 1966; Eric Burdon & the Animals formed and released Animalization, 1966; band relocated to California, 1967; Burdon dissolved band, 1968; reunited for Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, 1976; reunited for Ark and Rip It ToShreds: The Animals Greatest Hits Live, 1983–-84.
Chandler and drummer John Steel in 1960. In 1962, Burdon joined the group to form the Alan Price Combo. They soon renamed themselves the Animals. According to the members, the moniker originally started as a nickname from their fans in Newcastle, England. “The name was probably an association with the kind of music we play—earthy and gutty,” Burdon told Frank Ruppio in Billboard. “It’s sort of an animal sound, and on stage we can be pretty wild.”
In 1963, the Animals recorded a demo EP and pressed 500 copies to sell to their fans. The EP made its way to London and into the hands of manager/producer Mickie Most. Most began working with the band within the year, and the Animals moved to London. They signed a recording contract with EMI Records and released their first single, “Baby Let Me Take You Home.” The band toured the U.K. and Japan with Chuck Berry, the Swinging Blue Jeans, and others.
In July of 1964, the Animals released one of the most popular singles of their career, “House of the Rising Sun.” The record company almost refused to release it because of its length, over four minutes, which at the time was extraordinarily long for a single. Two months later, the Animals had signed a recording contract with MGM Records in the U.S., and released “House of the Rising Sun” in America, followed by their first U.S. tour. In November of the same year, they released their self-titled debut album, followed by the single “I’m Crying.” They wrapped up the year with a nine-day tour of the former Union Soviet Union.
The Animals released a string of hit singles in 1965 as well, including a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “See See Rider,” and “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place.” By the end of the year, the band had had six Top Ten singles and two albums, The Animals on Tour and Animal Tracks.
In the middle of this streak of success, Price left the band to form another configuration of his solo band called the Alan Price Set, which recorded some of Randy Newman’s first songs. Price left the band for several reasons. First and foremost, he and Burdon had begun to have a growing number of disagreements. Price also did not like flying in airplanes, which led to touring problems. The group replaced him with Dave Rowberry, formerly of Mike Cotton Sound.
Price’s departure was followed by a constant series of lineup changes and difficulties for the Animals. In February of 1966, Steel was replaced by ex-Nashville Teens drummer Barry Jenkins. The group released The Best of the Animals, followed by Animalisms. Burdon and the other members of the group began to have an increasing number of disagreements. Burdon had become heavily involved in drugs, while the rest of the members had not. At the end of the Animals’ U.S. tour, they completely disbanded.
Like several of their contemporaries, the members of the Animals didn’t see very much of the money they earned from their success. When they broke up, Steel sold his publishing rights for 4, 000 pounds, and was the only member to leave the band with any money. “We all came out of the Animals relatively sane, because, although we were manipulated, we were never sheltered and protected like the Beatles,” Burdon told Bob Hart in Rolling Stone.
Drummer Jenkins and singer Burdon decided to form a new version of the Animals within a few months. They quickly recruited bassist Danny McCullough and organist Tom Parker. In October of 1966, they released Animalization on MGM Records. The following year, they all moved to California and added guitarist Vic Briggs. But before their next album was recorded, Parker left the group.
Burdon recorded a solo album called Eric Is Here that same year. In addition, the latest version of Eric Burdon & the Animals released Help Me Girl, Winds of Change and The Best of Eric Burdon & the Animals, Volume 2. As their material progressed, the band left their original R&B style behind and moved toward a psychedelic hard rock sound.
After the release of The Twain Shall Meet in May of 1968, Briggs and McCullough left the band. They were replaced by keyboardist Zoot Money and guitarist Andy Summers (who later joined the Police). Burdon changed the name of the band to Eric Burdon & the New Animals. In September, they released Every One of Us and embarked on a high-tech tour, which included an extravagant light show and four films. “I can’t get it out of my head every time I make a record that I’m making a documentary movie, and records you can only listen to,” Burdon told Jerry Hopkins in Rolling Stone. “You can’t see them. What we really are, right now, is a stage act.”
Burdon’s interest in film didn’t end there, however. After they played a Christmas concert in his hometown of Newcastle, he announced that he was ending the group in order to pursue a career in film. “There are so many good groups now,” Burdon told Rolling Stone, “that I just feel old and frustrated. I can’t get much satisfaction out of me [sic] music anymore.” MGM released two compilation albums the following year, Love Is and The Greatest Hits of Eric Burdon & the Animals.
Burdon returned to his music career in 1970 with the band War. His term was short-lived since he had to quit in the middle of the group’s European tour because of exhaustion. Former bassist Chandler became Jimi Hendrix’s first manager and later managed the English rock band Slade. Price spent the next two decades as a performer and composer of film, television, and stage musicals.
In 1976, Chandler and Price were both dealing with disintegrating marriages, while Burdon faced major financial problems. Along with Steel, they ended up in London at the same time, and decided to reunite to record an album together called Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted on Chandler’s Barn Records. “When we play together, there’s no sense of struggle,” Burdon told Hart. “I might be able to fool my old lady, but I could never fool these guys.” Due to Burdon’s contractual obligations, the band could not release the album until the following year.
Following the brief reunion, the members of the Animals went their separate ways once again. But they got together one last time in July of 1983. This time, they recorded Ark and embarked on an extensive and lucrative world tour. On the road, tensions ran high, with the potential for another conclusion at any time. “It’s the strangest thing,” Steel told Steve Pond in Rolling Stone. “You’re never really sure that the next gig is going to come off, never absolutely sure someone isn’t going to run out. But that’s good for the music.” In 1984, the Animals released a live album from the tour called Rip It To Shreds: The Animals Greatest Hits Live.
Other collection albums followed over the next 10 years, including Best of Eric Burdon & the Animals (1966–-1968) and Animal Tracks: Heavy Hits. Burdon published his autobiography, entitled I Used to Be an Animal, But l’m Alright Now, in 1986. He pursued a solo career apart from any Animals configuration, and toured with ex-Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger in 1990 and keyboardist Brian Auger in 1992.
The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 by Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner. The original members joined together once again as the music industry recognized them for their musical contributions. Two years later, on July 17, 1996, Chandler died in Newcastle, England. However, the influence of all of the incarnations of the Animals continued to live on. Throughout its history, rock and roll has relied on the inspiration of its working-class roots. As many groups recorded cover versions of the Animals’ material, their ever-struggling, American-inspired sounds endured.
The Animals, MGM Records, 1964.
The Animals on Tour, MGM Records, 1965.
Animal Tracks, MGM Records, 1965.
The Best of the Animals, MGM Records, 1966.
Animalisms, MGM Records, 1966.
Animalization, MGM Records, 1966.
Help Me Girl, MGM Records, 1967.
The Best of Eric Burdon & the Animals, Vol. 2, MGM Records, 1967.
Winds of Change, MGM Records, 1967.
The Twain Shall Meet, MGM Records, 1968.
Every One of Us, MGM Records, 1968.
Love Is, MGM Records, 1969.
The Greatest Hits of Eric Burdon & the Animals, MGM Records, 1969.
Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, Barn Records, 1976.
Ark, I.R.S. Records, 1983.
Rip It To Shreds: The Animals Greatest Hits Live, I.R.S.
The Best of Eric Burdon & the Animals (1966–-1968), Polydor Records, 1986.
Animal Tracks: Heavy Hits, Special Music, 1994.
Helander, Brock, editor, The Rock Who’s Who, Schirmer Books, New York, 1996.
Rees, Dafydd and Luke Crampton, editors, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, DK Publishing, New York, 1996.
Billboard, August 8, 1964; December 28, 1968.
People, December 26, 1983.
Rolling Stone, September 14, 1968; December 21, 1968;
May 20, 1976; October 27, 1983; February 24, 1994.
Stereo Review, November 1983.
Time, July 29, 1996.