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The Animals Biography

Last updated: 07/04/2012 11:00:00 AM

The Animals-photo

It was pretty big news in music when, in 1983, IRS announced it had signed the original (and reformed) classic rock band The Animals.

The Animals were part of the U.K. blues scene of the early 60s and one of the most noteworthy bands of the British Invasion. Originally known as the Alan Price Combo, they formed in early 1962 in Newcastle-upon- Tyne, England, the group changed its name to The Animals when Burdon joined later in 1962. The group's inspiration and much of its early repertoire came from American blues and R&B. Eric Burdon's gruff voice made him a natural blues singer. And while other "blues-based" bands of the British Invasion went "pop" (most notably The Rolling Stones), The Animals "stayed the course" and continued playing the blues, yet managing to blend a folk feel to their music. In fact, their breakthrough hit, was a scorching blues rendition the traditional folk song "House of the Rising Sun." With the release of that song in mid-1964, The Animals became the first British group after the Beatles to chart a Number One single in America. Other hits followed like "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and " Don't Let Me Down."

A big influence that made The Animals' sound unique at the time was Alan Price's organ playing, which provided dramatic accents and a blues-jazz atmosphere. Other founding members were guitarist Hilton Valentine, bassist Chas Chandler and drummer John Steel. This line-up lasted only until 1966, when Alan Price departed due to the conflicts between his fear of flying and the touring demands their "hit status" required. After that other members trickled out and new ones trickled in. With the name modified to Eric Burdon & the Animals the band transitioned to the West Coast psychedelia scene, having been to the Monterey Pop Festival (and writing a hit song about it -- "Monterey"). As members left, they made their marks elsewhere in rock: Chandler was Jimi Hendrix' first manager; Price scored the soundtrack to O LUCKY MAN! and pursued a successful solo career; A later guitarist known as Andrew Somers became Andy Summers, joined The Police and now enjoys a career as a "new age" player.

After breaking up the Animals at the end of the decade, Burdon entered the Seventies as frontman with a black funk group from the streets of Los Angeles known as War. As Eric Burdon and War, they recorded the hit single "Spill the Wine" and two albums. After Burdon left, War continued successfully into the pre-rap funk era with such hits as "Lowrider"...

The Animals have subsequently reunited on two occasions, first in 1977 and again (for IRS, the reason they're on this website) in 1983, to record and tour. These reunions have never endured, for whatever reasons, but their performances have shown that The Animals could still deliver the ferocious attack of their 60s sound at any time!

Musicians who've been "Animals" and when:

Eric Burdon, vocals
Alan Price, keyboards (1962-65, 1977, 1983-4)
Bryan "Chas" Chandler, bass (1962-66, 1977, 1983-4) {died July 17, 1996}
John Steel, drums (1962-66, 1977, 1983-4)
Hilton Valentine, guitar (1962-66, 1977, 1983-4)
Dave Rowberry, keyboards (1965-66)
Barry Jenkins, drums (1966-69)
John Weider, guitar (1966-68)
Danny McCullough, bass (1966-68)
Tom Parker, organ (1966-67)
Vic Briggs, guitar (1967-68)
Zoot Money, keyboards (1968-69, 1983-4)
Andrew Somers, guitar (1968-69)

Steele and Valentine continue to perform together today as The Animals II. The Animals, both collectively and as individual bandmembers, have had an undeniable impact on the world of music.


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