Alan Price started out as a northern British bluesman, playing with a combo of Hilton Valentine, Bryan ‘Chas’ Chandler and John Steel on the Newcastle club circuit.
Price played a mean set of keyboards and had a soul-tinged voice that was sexy but lacked the ferocity to cover the grubbier end of rock.
However, in 1962 they recruited a suitably mean lead singer to fill out the sound and beef up the image.
Eric Burdon had one of the grimiest voices in the business and would throw himself into the songs, whip the band into overdrive and slaughter the audience.
The original name of the group, The Alan Price Combo, had to go and The Animals came into being.
Supporting older, black musical legends like John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson as they toured the UK, the band grew into a professional unit, with Eric perfecting his skills as a rabble-rouser. The only dark cloud on the horizon was the rivalry between Alan and new frontman Eric, and the first signs of resentment soon began to show.
After being the main attraction at Newcastle’s Downbeat Club, The Animals changed their residency to the Club A Go-Go in 1963.
In 1964 they moved to London, where they teamed up with then-unknown producer Mickie Most and signed to Columbia. They blasted their way through Price’s arrangement of the traditional House Of The Rising Sun, which went to #1 in the UK, the USA and around the world.
For the rest of the 60s, The Animals hit the charts regularly, most famously with Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.
However, it wasn’t long before ego problems resurfaced, and only two LPs, The Animals (1964) and Animal Tracks (1965), were recorded before Price left to pursue a more mainstream solo career.
He was quickly replaced by Newcastle’s Dave Rowberry. Steel had also left the band by the release of its third album, Animalism (1966), the new drummer being Barry Jenkins (ex-Nashville Teens).
In the limbo of these personnel changes, Burdon recorded a solo single and an LP (Eric Is Here) and moved his base to California. See See Rider was the last single from the original Animals, and – as if to prove how vital that line-up was – it became their best-selling American single, shooting to Number Ten. It wasn’t released in Britain.
Burdon formed a second incarnation of the band in the US, called Eric Burdon & The Animals and comprising Burdon, Jenkins, guitarist Vic Briggs (ex-Steampacket), John Wieder (guitar/violin) and Danny McCulloch (bass).
Their first single, When I Was Young, was released in May 1967 and this line-up produced two LPs with a different style from the R&B stompers they’d kicked around in the clubs of London and the north of England.
1967’s Wind Of Change featured tracks with titles such as Poem By The Sea, It’s All Meat, and Yes, I Am Experienced, Burdon’s reply to the title of Jimi Hendrix‘s just-released debut album.
The new, ‘psychedelic’ Animals did fairly well, with chart successes at home and in the USA (including Monterey and San Franciscan Nights), but not well enough to avoid McCulloch and Briggs being replaced by bassist Zoot Money and guitarist Andy Summers.
This final line-up was packed full of skilled musicians, each of whom had his own musical statement to make. Expecting them to function as a unit was demanding too much and after two minor LP releases, The Animals folded.
Eric Burdon kept on rocking, digging back down into the dirt for his next venture, War.
War’s urban, Latin-tinged funk had to be put briefly on hold while the original Animals re-formed in early 1976 , releasing an album, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, which generated some interest on the nostalgia circuit.
However, Price left almost immediately to continue his solo career and nothing more was heard from The Animals until they briefly re-formed again in 1983, recording a studio LP, Ark and issuing Rip It To Shreds, a live hits compilation.
They then, once again, returned to solo projects.
Chas Chandler died on 17 July 1996 at North Tyneside General Hospital, Newcastle, after suffering a heart attack. He was 57.
Bryan ‘Chas’ Chandler