Eric Burdon, along with The Animals, was a British rock band who got their start in Newcastle upon Tyne, Great Britain in 1962. They actually had two distinct periods, along with different band members, first having their home base in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then after some success they moved to London. Their most recognisable song was released in 1964 and was a number one hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, House of the Rising Sun. Eric Burdon was a deep voiced very recognisable vocalist through the 1960’s, and under the name Eric Burdon and the Animals, the grouped traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States, settling in San Francisco around the time that the psychedelic era got its start.
The Best of Eric Burdon and the Animals 1966-1969 is a compilation record of their most popular songs after they came to the United States in the mid sixties. It is a record filled with songs about the psychedelic era and some of its most defining moments, and tries to explain some of the situations in Burdon’s youth, that he is conveying to his listeners through his lyrics. It is a very entertaining record, and on of my favorites of the era.
The first song on the compilation is Don’t Bring Me Down, a soulful song that stresses that a man does not always live up to a woman’s expectations, and Burdon extolls a women to “please don’t bring me down.” It was a top ten record in the U.K. and just barely missed the top ten in the States in 1966.
Hey Gyp is a popular Donovan song, that The Animals covered on the compilation. There is a great rendition of the song being sung by Eric Burdon on the documentary, Rock City 1964-1973, that really brings the song to life. Just watching the brief video is a ride through how a sixties outdoor concert was performed, both featuring the band performing, as well as the reaction of the crowd that was attending. A great documentary well worth getting ahold of.
When I Was Young was a song written by Eric Burdon and his bandmates and was released in 1967. It is considered a song about the psychedelic era, but was also a song about Burdon’s life as a youngster, revealing certain milestones in his life, such as smoking his first cigarette, his first shot at love with a girl, and also mentions his father, who was a soldier. It also features the use of a sitar and a violin. The sitar was a much used instrument in the psychedelic era, and The Animals used it on a few of their songs.
The next song was called A Girl Named Sandoz, and interestingly, it is actually a song about the company who first invented LSD, a large part of the psychedelic movement, and the main drug of choice at the time.
San Franciscan Nights was a song that was written, in part, to honor the people of San Francisco, especially in the Dragnet snippet at the beginning of the tune, but it was also an anti Vietnam War song. It contrived images of being in San Francisco high on LSD, and questions the validity of the war. At one point, Eric Burdon hints that the song was about a night with Janis Joplin in San Francisco. Funny how many artists and musicians were somehow interrelated in the psychedelic sixties scene!
The next song, Good Times is about a man who looks back on his life and regrets the time he has wasted, and has chosen the path that ultimately leads him to not being what he could have been. The song, as a whole, has a relatively depressed feel to it.
Anything is a slow, psychedelic piece that is a celebration of life, friends and all good things, and it was one of Eric Burdon’s favorite songs that he wrote. It is a purely positive song, among other more negative and pessimistic one’s, and brings to the compilation a lighthearted and whimsical feel as we progress through it’s many messages.
Eric Burdon and the Animals played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which was the first outdoor concert of the psychedelic movement, during the time known as the Summer of Love. The song, Monterey, is a celebration of the concert, and an explanation of some of the events that they encountered there. There were many famous, and would be famous musicians and bands there, and the Animals listed some of the acts that they were most impressed with in the lyrics of the song. Mentioned were, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and others, and it is nice recognition for some great bands that performed at Monterey Pop. This song also features Indian musical influences.
Sky Pilot is one of the Animals most popular songs, and is broken into two distinct parts due to it’s length. To me, it seems to be an anti war tune, with the beginning of the song alluding to a Sky Pilot, who is a military chaplain, lamenting his soldiers as they go off to war, and waiting around for their return. Some of the soldiers, upon returning, question the reasons that they were fighting for. The song features bagpipes, and has a long interlude in the middle. It is one of the Animals great songs.
The last song on the compilation, River Deep, Mountain High, is a song that the Animals covered originally performed by Tina Turner. It was one of Turner’s biggest hits, and was considered the best song produced by the legendary Phil Spector.
Eric Burdon and the Animals remain a very important piece of the psychedelic music scene. Their early career did not produce the same type of music, but they were popular in their own right then, while still in the United Kingdom. But it would be their move to San Francisco, when their careers really took off to produce some great psychedelic music. It is interesting to note, that perhaps their best identified song was House of the Rising Sun, which was more at the beginning of their career. Great band!