METRO PLUS

Born to be wild

The Alan Price Combo became The Animals shortly after induction of lead singer Eric Burdon in 1962. Other members included Alan Price on keyboards, Bryan `Chas' Chandler on bass, John Steel on drums and Hilton Valentine on guitar.

Influenced more by black American rhythm and blues and under the tutelage of their producer Mickie Most, they scored a No. 1 hit with their second single House of the rising sun, that peaked on both sides of the Atlantic. Their first offering, Baby let me take you home had done reasonably well too.

Their animated act on stage attracted attention and audiences. Incidentally, Columbia Records had reservations about House of the Rising Sun, a four-and-a-half minute track about a New Orleans brothel, as being too long for airing on radio. On release, the song scaled charts all over the world, selling several million copies.

Burdon's brooding vocals, Valentine's legendary guitar work and Price's keyboard play lent a magical air to it that the outfit would hard find to replicate in the years to come. Hits followed no doubt, such as Don't let me be misunderstood in 1965, We gotta get out of this place and It's my life, all released in the same year.

At the end of that largely successful year, Price left the band, supposedly owing to a fear of flying but more because of tension between him and Burdon. Dave Rowberry replaced him but then Steel left, making way for Barry Jenkins on drums. Don't bring me down and See See Rider reached No. 12 and 10 respectively in 1966, but Valentine left for a solo career.

Chandler credited with spotting the genius of Jimi Hendrix, went on to become his manager on the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Steel as his deputy. Burdon now fronted The New Animals and finding greater acceptance across the Atlantic, than their native England, forayed into psychedelia. San Franciscan Nights touched No. 9, Monterey that applauded the epic festival there in 1967 was 15 on the charts and Sky Pilot reached No. 14.

The group disbanded in 1968 but reassembled in 1977 and 1983 but to an indifferent following. Future Police guitarist Andy Summer gigged with the group for a while. In 1992, what was left of the Animals performed in Moscow's Red Square and two years later they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having at one time posed a threat to the popularity of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Chandler died of a heart attack in 1996.

A. GEORGE ANTONY

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