Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two on THE ANIMALS (1984)

Text by Mary Anne Cassata, Robert Barry Francos, with Michael McDowell
Images from the Internet

This may get a little confusing, but here we go:

The first article/interview with British scene-makers Eric Burdon and the Animals, is from
FFanzeen number 12, from 1984. It was written by Mary Anne Cassata. It sets up the following Q&A interview which was done by Robert Barry Francos and Mary Anne Cassata, and was originally published in Blitz magazine, issue #49, dated May-June 1984. The second half is reprinted with the kind permission of the Blitz publisher, Michael McDowell.

To give you the bigger picture: Rock writer - and my friend - Mary Anne Cassata had managed to get us into the Animals show at the Beacon Theater in New York City in late 1983. I had already seen the show in Buffalo with Bernie Kugel and Mad Louie (“the vinyl junkie”), so I knew we were in for nearly three hours of non-stop excitement. They didn’t disappoint.

After the grueling show, the two of us went backstage. Alan Price was already long gone, having had a limo waiting outside the back door; as soon as the show was over, he just split, leaving his stuff for the roadies to handle.

The Animals’ dressing room backstage was not large, being “L” shaped and about the size of an average living room, but it was packed. The first person I saw was Chas Chandler (d. 1996). I said hello, and he tiredly said hi back. Then I asked him, “Why do you think Slade never made it here in the States? I saw them a couple of times in the early ‘70s, and they were great.” He became very enthused, talking about what it was like managing them, and how they deserved better. We talked for a short while, and then he had other people to greet. I certainly appreciated the attention.

After saying goodbye, I turned the corner and saw Eric in the corner of the densely smoke-filled room (many substances were being inhaled there), surrounded by some hangers-on. I knew I would get one question in, so I turned on the tape recorder and asked him about the blues. His eyes focused, and as he was so happy to talk about his favorite topic, we chatted for a long time, until someone announced that the band had to get to the after-party for
Saturday Night Live. With that we shook hands, and we left to get some relatively fresh air.

The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
The first piece below is Mary Anne’s, as it tells of the Animals’ history, and sets up the interview, from
Blitz, which follows. As we both used the same interview material, there is some redundancy, but the Q&A is more complete, so there is a bit more info for the starved fan. – RBF, 2010

THE ANIMALS: It’s Their Lives!

Text by Mary Anne Cassata
© FFanzeen, 1984

The ‘60s music is returning and the Animals are a vital part of it. As with most reunions, hopeful rock bands often fall short, somewhere between a disappointment and disaster. Either the spirit force isn’t present or yesterday’s music doesn’t quite mesh with today’s modern rock sounds.

This, however, is not true for the brawling British blues rock band from Newcastle, England. There’s no denying the Animals had its share of personality conflicts. This inevitably let to the band’s demise in the mid-‘60s, but the music never suffered as a result. The original Animals, co-founded by Eric Burdon and Alan Price, formed in 1962, and continued to perform till 1965.

For the first time in over 18 years, all of the original Animals are back together, performing for sold-out houses across the country and Europe. To band members Hilton Valentine (guitar), John Steel (drums), Bryan (Chas) Chandler (bass), Alan Price (keyboards) and the incomparable Eric Burdon (vocals), the reunion tour seemed like they never left the road almost three decades ago. “People everywhere just seem to love us. They go away happy,” beams John Steel. “It has been great for us. Couldn’t be better.”

In the early ‘60s, clean-cut ambitious young rock bands like the Dave Clark 5 were singing songs about being glad all over, and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits professed his affections for Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter. Meanwhile, the Animals directed their harsh lyrical statements to working class people and adopted the bad boy image, like fellow Britishers the Rolling Stones and Them.

The Animal’s musical, stance was an expression of individualism and personal liberation. The intent of classic songs, “It’s My Life,” “House of the Rising Sun,” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” remain as affluent today as it did to the ’60’s generation. These hits were successive, and within a brief two years, the Animals completed three sold out tours. Being successful had allowed them to live out some very real rock’n’roll fantasies, but what actually turned out resulted in more than what they had bargained for.

In a business that’s for profit, sometimes artists unknowingly get caught up in dishonest management direction. Needless to say, the Animals were a prime target and never saw any royalties from the early recordings. “Managers are supposed to look after the money and make sure things go properly,” says Valentine with a disgruntled sigh. “Our manager was pretty terrible. We were making all these records and going on tour, and all the while he was supposed to take care of things. But after the tour you find out it didn’t work out that way; he didn’t take care of business at all.

“We all searched, trying to get our money, and found out possession is nine-tenths of the law. We were told, ‘This is not attainable now.’ All you get are doors slammed in your face. All kinds of things happened. One manager we had to fire, and the other one was a pretty terrible manager.”

There doesn’t seem to be much concern at this time, since the Animals are a lot more careful with their business affairs. For devoted fans, it is really exciting to have the group back together and it would be disheartening to think the band could be the victims of a ruthless manager again. Earlier in the tour, it was reported they had to fire their road manager because he wasn’t getting the job done sufficiently.

The Animals’ new studio album, Ark, is an intense offering which, on its own, has received enthusiastic response. Burdon’s powerful, scorchy vocals are his best ever. It comes as no surprise that the Animals’ influence on American rock’n’roll has been plentiful. Popular rock artists Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and many others have included Animals classics in their live performances. New York’s own David Johansen remains the most prevalent, as last year he scored a national hit with the melody of popular Animal songs, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place / Don’t Bring Me Down / It’s My Life.” When first issued as a singe, it proved to be Johansen’s largest selling record in years. Recently, he released another Animal’s classic, “House of the Rising Sun,” which is only available as an import from England.

Much of the material on the new album was written by Burdon and several of his songwriting friends from the West Coast, where he presently resides. Alan Price, who originally left the band in ’65 after a rift with Burdon, contributes a song to the long awaited effort. Since the original demise of the group, Price has been the most successful of the five band members with this own group, the Alan Price Set. He scored big with solo albums and British television appearances. In 1973, he acted in, wrote and performed the score for Lindsay Anderson’s film, O! Lucky Man! In 1974, he reached the British top-ten with “Jarrow Song.” More recently, Price performed in a musical production of Andy Capp on the British stage.

Chas Chandler was credited for the discovery of Jimi Hendrix, and managed the artist’s career from 1966 until his death in 1969. Later, Chandler managed the English rock band Slade for nearly a dozen years. He also ran IBC Studios and started Barn Records until 1982, when he sold his music business interests. He was also working on a book about his life as a member of the Animals, but put the project aside to fill in some more chapters in real life with their reunion. [Unless someone can tell me otherwise, as far as I know this book was never published – RBF, 2010]

Hilton Valentine remained perhaps less interested in a music career after the breakup. He lived in Los Angeles for a brief spell before returning to Newcastle for the first reunion of the band, in 1977. [I happily met Hilton when he made a guest appearance in June 2002, playing with garage rocker Michael Lynch at Under Acme in New York City – RBF, 2010] John Steel also dropped out of sight for a while and worked in a factory making parts for refrigerators. On weekends, he doubled as a guitarist playing with local British bands in tiny smoke-filled pubs. “I was quite happy actually,” he states. “I wasn’t starstruck.” Steel, for a shot while, also joined forces with Chandler in the management of Slade.

Eric Burdon, meanwhile, proved to be no slouch either. He continued to lead new versions of the Animals, one of which included ace Police guitarist Andy Summers. A couple of hits ensued, such as “San Franciscan Nights” and “Sky Pilot,” before the line-up disbanded. He traveled around the U.S. studying the blues from such artists as Johnny Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williams. Then the funk r&b group War formed, and gave Burdon his last popular song, “Spill the Wine” in 1971. Later, in the mid-‘70s, he tried his hand as an aspiring actor in the film The Eleventh Victim (1979), and the play Comeback, in Hollywood and Berlin in 1982, but that too proved short-lived. []

When news of the reunion of the Animals began to surface, John Steel was at first skeptical. “I got this call last January from a guy named Ron Weinberg, who said he wanted to the get the Animals back together. He wanted us to make a record, too. I said, ‘You got to be kidding!’ He said he spoke to Eric, Chas and Alan, and they all gave their approval,” he continued with a slight smile. “I figured, if he could get those three together, it was a lot, so I said, ‘Keep talking…’”

That’s what Weinberg did, and the more John pondered the idea, the more convinced he became that the reunion could have its possibilities. At first sight of one another, all were wary of the outcome. “Since everyone else wanted to do it,” Steel continued, “I thought maybe it would be fun. The first thing we did was get into a studio and work on the new songs to see if it could be realistic. I think, without a spoken word, we all really wanted to try it out,” he related. “We went back to the old hits and all: I think that is what a foundation is all about.”

Steel was also quick to point out that the reunion “isn’t another nostalgia trip,” and that he hopes the new material will reach a wider audience. “We wanted to give something we could be proud of,” he said with enthusiasm. “We know we have to do our old material, because that’s what people want to hear. I think that is one of the things that really worked out well. Our oldies have been on the radio for over 18 years now; we’re surprised a portion of our audience is younger kids.”

Life on the road is better than expected, despite the fact some of the animosity, which lead to their original break-up 18 years ago, still lingers. “Our personalities are quite strong,” confirms Valentine. “When this happens, there are bound to be clashes. It’s very difficult to put together different personalities that are strong. We all see different ways to doing things. One person sees it this way best and the other one doesn’t.”

At this point, the Animals are secure that the tour will be completed, but have no plans for a permanent situation. “Somehow we seem to be in sections. We started with a world tour that was supposed to bring us up to November. It’s past that now,” explains Steel. “We are now doing another section of shows in Europe and plan to record a live album soon [due out in April 1984 – Ed., 1984] [Recorded live in Wembley Arena, London, England on December 31, 1983; released in 1984 – RBF, 2010] . I think when we finish this tour we have to all sit down and think, ‘Can we go on and do another tour?’”

Although the band wants to record another studio album soon, they really don’t want to be pressured into promoting it. “It’s hard to say. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We might end up going for each other’s throats and it could suddenly end bloody,” laughs John in mock seriousness. “We all seem to have this friction; we always have and probably will, too.” This tension of personality conflict certainly gives their music its rough and gritty edge.

In 1976, the original line-up reunited the first time in their hometown of Newcastle, to record the album Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted. Although the effort received remarkable praise from music critics, it ended up as a commercial disappointment.

Since the success of the reunion has been so overwhelming, Hilton Valentine is more than somewhat surprised that people have been so supportive. “People always come up to me and say, ‘Can I have your autograph?’,” he beamed. “They say it’s for their mother or something. Then there are the mothers who come up and say it’s for their daughters. It’s really nice.”

At first mention of the group getting back together, Hilton seemed anxious and yet very cautious. “I got very excited, but wanted to be consulted more before I made my decision,” he recalled. “Johnny (Steel) and I were in Newcastle when Weinberg came up to have a chat with us. My first question was, ‘How does everybody feel about it?’ He said everyone wanted to do it, so I said, ‘Okay, I guess it could be done’.”

FFanzeen asked Hilton why extra musicians were added to the original line-up, and why doesn’t he play lead guitar on the songs. “First of all, when the Animals broke up in ’66, we were headed toward augmenting the band anyways,” he replies. “It’s pretty much like where we left off. We are experimenting on a much larger scale. We have a brass section and did some new things over in London with this sort of line-up.” Additional musicians are included in the live show to expand the music arrangements and to add a more full sound.

“This time around we have four extra musicians (Nippy Noya, percussion; Steve Grant, lead guitar; George “Zoot” Money, keyboards; Pat Crumly, saxophone and flute), so actually it’s a nine piece outfit,” explained Steel. “It gives us more variety and color with the whole thing, don’t you think? I think it’s good to have extra musicians to work with. It adds something more to the songs.”

Hilton paused momentarily before replying to the second part of the question. With a shy laugh, he added, “The other guitar player is much better than I am. I like playing chords on the early Animals songs, and on the new material I basically just play rhythm.”

Some of the back-up musicians on the tour were also featured on Ark. The album, recorded rather hurriedly in time for the concert tour, was produced in London by Steve Lipson and the Animals. Much of the new songs dominate their live set, which seemed to be equally accepted by audiences, as well as the older favorites.

During the first quarter of the tour, the Animals brought their live show to the Midwest, but almost didn’t make it out of there alive. Reports of a hurricane were brewing in Dallas, Texas, at the time of the group’s arrival at the Southern state. Though the storm was imminent, the scheduled show was sold out that night. All the band could do was hope for the best. Luckily, no one was hurt, just pretty shook up. Hilton recalls that fateful night:

“The gig was still on, as far as we knew, so we flew into Texas. We didn’t know whether to stay or move on to Austin. By that time, the police had boarded off the town and we had to stay there.” It was nearly 3 a.m. when the monstrous typhoon hit and the hotel guests were told to leave their rooms and take refuge in the lobby. “Windows were popping out all over. I don’t remember much after that. I went to the bar to get drunk. I figured if I was going to go, I wanted to go drunk silly.”

The Animals recently performed in New York City at the renowned Beacon Theater, to a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Eric Burdon, still in fine form after all these years, delighted all for two-and-a-half hours. His riveting blues vocal is a distinct Animals musical trait. Modestly dressed in a two-piece black suit and dark glasses, Burdon worked the crowd, ranging from ages 15 to 40, into an absolute frenzy, leaving them screaming for more. As familiar organ sounds spilled into the hall, Eric flashed a satisfied grin and wailed into the microphone, “There’s a house in New Orleans / They call the Rising Sun…”

Many high points that evening included “Bring It On Home,” “It’s My Life,” “Misunderstood,” and Burdon’s solo of “San Franciscan Nights,” which along with Alan Price’s only solo of “O! Lucky Man!,” was added later to the tour by the demands of the crowds, according to Burdon. The bluesier tunes, “I’m Crying,” “Boom Boom,” and “When I Was Young,” seemed to retain more lyrical sentiment than just an “oldies but goodies” merit.

Later, after the show, Eric and the band (with the exception of Alan Price, who hastened out of the hall) relaxed backstage and spoke with FFanzeen. Chas Chandler, interested in our comments on the show, asked publisher Robert Barry Francos what he thought of it. “I’m a big fan of yours,” said Robert. “Thanks to this guy in Buffalo named Mad Louie, I got to see the show up there, too, at Shea Auditorium. Both shows were intense.” Chandler listened intently for a moment, and by the look on his face, seemed relived it was favorable. “The tour has been doing good, so far,” he said, sipping a glass of wine. “It’s amazing. When we played in London, all these papers picked up on us the same day. Some of those papers are the equivalent to magazines like Time and Newsweek in America.” Chas said he enjoyed being in the States, but can’t wait to get back home to Newcastle and work on the new material for the Animals’ next album.

Eric Burdon, with a drink in his hand, huddled in the corner of the dressing room, and was being entertained by several female guests. The 42-year-old legend has always been an ardent believer in emulating the rock’n’roll lifestyle to the extreme and intends to make a film of the recent tour [As far as I know, this also has never appeared – RBF, 2010]. One difficulty he faces with the newfound project is the resistance of the other band members to be seen on film. Eric, however, confident in his power of persuasion, hopes to have the film finished by spring.

Picking up a copy of FFanzeen [No. 11], Burdon carefully inspects it and places it in his coat for future reading. “That’s a fine looking magazine,” he says, nodding his head in approval, giving the high sign for an interview. He sits down and one of the women pours him a drink of whiskey, and the other, kneeling, lights his cigarette. This typical backstage setting is nothing new to Burdon, who relishes and comes to expect it with each performance.

“Fire away,” he said to us. The conversation focused on the blues, one of his favorite topics. “The blues have a lot to do with working class, but more to do with sexuality,” he explained. “I remember hearing one of the first blues songs I heard; it had a lot of saxophone in it. It was a real sleazy, sexy sound. I think the white kids are more political and the young black kids are more sociological, and come from that background. They understand because their parents were fighting about being unemployed and subjected.”

Eric, in his childhood, used to “hang out with black Americans in particular,” and feels these people view the blues as ecology. “That is what makes it working class, I think. My first instant feeling about the music was sexual and very meaningful,” he continues. “Johnny Lee Hooker only wanted to express himself through his guitar and voice about what was wrong with his situation. I am more drawn to the erotics of blues than the politics of the blues.”

Going on to define different levels of the blues and what kind of people it included, Eric stated, “I think there is an understanding between working class humor and black humor, where worship is involved,” he expressed. “There’s the marriage of songs, the love lost, and the forgotten songs; and then there is the pimp and whore relationship. What about the guy that doesn’t have anyone at all?”

Eric laughed at the thought of the blues ever catching up with him during a live performance. “I try to keep it under wraps. I try to keep on the political side of the blues, mainly because I am white and European.”

He is also concerned, socially, with America, on a musical aspect. Eric hopes one day people will acknowledge Chuck Berry as the “poor lord of America. I learned more about the United States before coming over here though Chuck Berry records than I did from books over in London. His rock’n’roll records were fucking documents of the time.” Perhaps the blues will make a “return some 20 years from now – who knows, maybe next week,” Eric offered.

Earlier in his career, Eric worked with blues great Johnny Lee Hooker, who, to this day, has had an incredible influence on Burdon’s music. At that time, Hooker seemed more than willing to combine creative efforts with a long-standing admirer. “Johnny really loved the fact that I was interested in him. I really get the feeling he was flattered by it,” Eric recalls. “At one point, I was hanging out too much with him. It was very sad. I watched him drink himself to death.”

Before taking leave for the night, we asked Eric how he felt about David Johansen’s remake of the Animals’ songs. “One night I saw the video on TV. It was funny watching him sing it,” he said with a Mona Lisa smile. “I thought it was a little too short, too. It was alright. I like the new arrangement.”

With a fond farewell and a hi-yo Silver, Eric Burdon and company rushed off into the night to their questionable future. All Robert and I could think of was to look at each other and ask, “Who was that blues man?”
* * *

THE ANIMALS: Loose Change

Text by Robert Barry Francos and Mary Anne Cassata
Introduction by Michael McDowell
© Blitz, 1984

To reiterate the history of the Animals here would be redundant. Suffice it to say that the British band enjoyed great aesthetic and commercial success between 1964 and 1966 with such singles as “I’m Crying” (MGM 13274), “Bring It On Home To Me” (MGM 13339), “Don’t Bring Me Down” (MGM 13514) and “The House of the Rising Sun” (MGM 13264), as well as cracking the album charts with such blues-based releases as Animal Tracks (MGM SE4305) and The Animals on Tour (MGM SE4281) before dissolving in 1966.

The legendary band return in 1983 with the original line-up intact. They released a studio album,
Ark (IRS SP70037), which has since produced two hit sings, “The Night” (IRS IR-9920) and “Love Is For All Time” (IRS IR-9923). The band is presently working a live recording, scheduled for April release.

The Animals’ first American concert of the
Ark tour transpired during the last week of July 1983, at Shea Auditorium in Buffalo, New York, a performance deserving of many superlatives. Lead vocalist Eric Burdon remained in fine form, taking command of the stage for over two hours, with a set consisting primarily of new material, interlaced with Animals classics.

The following interview was conducted at the Beacon Theater in New York City at the end of 1983. In attendance were lead vocalist Eric Burdon, lead guitarist Hilton Valentine, bassist Chas Chandler and drummer John Steel. Only keyboardist Alan Price was not present. – Michael McDowell

Blitz: Do you think that the Animals are a blues-oriented band because of the working class background of the members?
Burdon: It’s more than just being working class. It has more to do with sexuality. I like the blues because of its sexual connotations.

Blitz: In which ways?
Burdon: When I was younger, I used to hang out with Americans. Blacks in particular. My first feelings about the music were sexual and very meaningful. I remember hearing my first blues song, which had a lot of saxophone in it. It was a sleazy, sexy sound. I think the young, white kids were more political and sociological. The black kids understood the blues. It is only the young, white intellectual that sees it on its political level. That’s what makes it working class. It is like saying, “I want every other Saturday off at least once a month for my workers. I want to fuck up the Russian government,” which is something like what great revolutionary characters say. Then the media zeroes in on it. That’s what makes it a working class hero. I think there is an understanding between working class humor and black humor, where worship is involved. There are so many different shades and textures to blues. There are marriage blues songs. There are the long lost and forgotten songs. There is the guy who doesn’t have anyone at all. Then there is the pimp and whore relationship. It does creep up on me in performance. I try to keep up on the political side of it, mostly because I am white and European. I currently live back and forth between Los Angeles and London.

Blitz: So your implication s that white people see the blues politically and that black people see it socially.
Burdon: I don’t think they see it at all these days. It will come back. Look at what is happening socially in America now. Look at Chuck Berry. One of these days people will recognize him as the poor lord of America. His rock and roll records are not rock and roll records: they are documents of the time. Before coming over for the first time, I learned more about America from Chuck Berry than from books in London. Chuck berry is brilliant. There are some wonderful songs on his more recent albums.

Blitz: In the 1960s, it appeared as though many middle class guitarists were going south to find some musician to teach them the blues.
Burdon: That must have been some kind of trip! I get the feeling from John Lee Hooker that he really loved the fact that I was interested in him. He was flattered by it. Sonny Boy Williamson was, too. I was hanging out with him, as well. I watched him drink himself to death. That’s all whiskey under the bridge now!

Blitz: It has been speculated that the original Animals line-up dissolved in 1966 as a result of personality conflicts. Are there any difficulties now?
Valentine: Well, the personalities are quite strong. When that happens, there are bound to be some clashes. We all see different ways of doing things.

Blitz: The members of the Animals allegedly experienced financial problems after that 1966 break-up. What happened to the royalties?
Valentine: That’s what we would like to know! We had a terrible manager. We were making records and going on tour while he was supposed to be taking care of things. After the tour, we found out that he was not taking care of business. You try to get your money and you find out that possession is nine-tenths of the law. We tried to check things out, only to find another door slammed in our faces. We’re told that nothing is obtainable now.

Blitz: There have been a couple of different versions of the Animals. Was it Andy Summers who joined the band briefly in 1968?
Steel: Yes. The original Animals broke up in 1966. Then Eric formed Eric Burdon and the Animals. That is where Andy came in.
Valentine: Alan Price was the first to leave in 1965. John left in 1966, six months after Alan did. We continued for about six months after that. Eric then decided to form his own band at that time, with all the San Francisco stuff.

Blitz: What line of work was everyone doing before the reunion took place?
Steel: Right before the reunion, Alan Price had just finished a musical on stage in London called Al Capp, based on this comic strip character. Chas Chandler had just sold his business, a studio and production company. He was going to take off for a couple of months and buy a word processor and write a fact/fiction kind of book. I worked with Chas most of the time after the band broke up. We managed Slade. They were a very big hit in most parts of Europe, Australia and Japan. They were big in America, but not as much. About five years ago, I got fed up with the music business and went back up north in England, back to my roots.

Blitz: And Slade?
Chandler: They were ahead of their time. And look what happened with Quiet Riot!

Blitz: What did you do after your association with Slade?
Steel: I got a job with a friend who owns a factory that makes parts for refrigerators. I was production manager for him. I was also playing with a blues band. I was actually quite happy. Then I got a phone call in January 1983 from a guy named Ron Weinberg, who said he wanted to get the Animals back together again. He wanted us to record and all.

Blitz: What was your reaction to that?
Steel: I thought that he was kidding! I asked him if he had talked with anyone else and he said yes: Eric, Chas and Alan had already given their approval. If he could get those three together, it was a lot! Since everyone else wanted to, the more I thought about it, I thought it would be fun. The first thing we did was get into a rehearsal studio and work on some songs to see if it was realistic. So we started straight off with new material. We wanted our new material to reach out to the people without having to depend on our hits. But we also do the hits, because that’s what people want to hear.

Blitz: Is it difficult for the band to break newer material when people want to hear the hits?
Valentine: We haven’t experienced any of that on this tour. People are pretty patient. I think they want to hear the new songs, too.

Blitz: Your live show is augmented with lead guitarist Steve Grant, keyboardist Zoot Money, saxophonist / flautist Pat Crumly and percussionist Nippy Noya. Why are you using additional backing musicians?
Valentine: When the Animals broke up in 1966, we were heading toward augmenting the band anyway. I think back-up musicians add more color to the songs. It works out very well.

Blitz: Why have Steve Grant play lead guitar on all the songs except “The House of the Rising Sun,” instead of you taking the responsibility?
Valentine: Because he is a much better guitar player than I am! But I play the chords on the early Animals songs. On the new material, I am basically playing rhythm.

Blitz: In Buffalo, the band performed only material by the original Animals, but in New York, Alan Price did his solo single, “O! Lucky Man!” and the band played “San Franciscan Nights,” which was a hit in 1967 for the newer Animals. Why did you decide to put those songs in?
Burdon: I like that sound. Also, I think that’s what people want to hear. I have to give them what they want. I was pressured. That’s the truth!

Blitz: You were caught in a hurricane in Texas.
Valentine: Like idiots, we flew into Texas when a hurricane was imminent. The gig was still on, as far as we knew. By the time we flew in, the gig was cancelled. So we said we could either stay there or move to Austin. But by that time, the police had bordered the town off. So we had to stay there. The hurricane hit the town at about three o’clock the next morning. The windows were popping out. We had to come out of the rooms into the lobby on the floor, with blankets. I don’t remember too much about it after that, because I went to a bar to get drunk. I figured that if I was going to go, I waned to be drunk silly. It was scary!

Blitz: Does touring feel the same as it did when you first started?
Steel: Just about. Things are on a much bigger scale now, with the amount of equipment that we travel with. It’s pretty much like where we left off. We were experimenting with a much larger line-up just before we broke up in 1966. We had a brass section and did a couple of gigs in London with that sort of line-up. The extra musicians we have now give us more space to experiment with different things.

Blitz: What kind of comments are you getting from fans on this tour?
Valentine: “It’s great to see the Animals back together again! Can I have your autograph? It’s for my mother, not for me.” Then there are mothers that say, “It’s not for me. It’s for my daughter.”

Blitz: How has the press reaction been so far?
Chandler: Amazing! Three weeks ago, we played in London. Papers we never heard of picked up on us in the same day. Some of the papers are like Time and Newsweek are in America.

Blitz: On the Ark album, Eric Burdon resumed writing most of the material?
Valentine: Yes. He co-wrote with various people that he knows in Los Angeles. Alan Price has a song on there, too. The guitarist, Steve Grant, has a couple of songs on there. I have no songs on it. I am no writer. We produced the album ourselves, in conjunction with Steve Lipson, who happened to be available at the time. We just recorded it and went on tour. It all happened very fast. We do most of the new album in our live set.

Blitz: Have you heard any of the live covers of Animals songs by Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty?
Valentine: No, I haven’t. But I have heard mention of them.

Blitz: What did you think of David Johansen’s remake of your songs?
Valentine: I haven’t heard it, but I have heard of it. I don’t think it was released in England at all.
Burdon: I saw him do it on television one night. I thought it was a little too short. But it was alright. I really did like the new arrangement. I was very flattered by it.

Blitz: There is such a need for rock and roll now.
Steel: I have a daughter who is 18. She feels the same way. So do her friends. They are bored with heavy metal rock. Now they even listen to the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and a lot of stuff from the 1960s. They listen to that more than the current stuff. I think younger people now are more broad-minded. They are quite happy listening to the Rolling Stones. They don’t give a damn if the guys in the band are in their 40s. The music is still good. That’s the kind of reaction we were getting from the start. That is what we want. It is perfect!

Blitz: Bands popular 20 years ago have become big cult heroes now.
Burdon: I think you’re right. I saw a German television special about a man who runs a blues school in Chicago. It was called “I Am the Blues.” It turns a really sexual thing into thoughts. That is what makes the blues so great. This is an example of what I was talking about earlier.

Blitz: What plans do you have in the event that the reunion does not work out?
Valentine: Hopefully it will work out. If not, I will go back to Newcastle, get a new band together and probably do some writing. In order to do some writing, you have to have some time. Your head has to be in the right position.

Blitz: Do you plan on making the reunion a permanent situation?
Steel: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. We seem to go in sections. We started in July with a world tour that would bring us to the end of October, which involved a studio album. It is past October now. We are on another section, another series of shows in North America. After that, we go back to Europe for a while and record a live album. It will be a mix of our hits and some of the new material. It should be released some time around April. We are working on new material now. Once we finish the series of tours in England, we have to see if we can carry on for another year. We must take it step by step. We would like to do another studio album. If we do that, we would be pressured to promote it. We have no way to knowing what is going to happen. Who knows, we might go for each other’s throats in the meantime and it will suddenly end bloody! We all seem to have this friction between us. We always did and probably always will. It’s a matter of whether we can ride over it or not.


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