Day 249: House Of The Rising Sun

Song: “House Of The Rising Sun” by the Animals
Reached #1: September 5, 1964 (their first, 3 weeks)

There’s nothing traditional about this ballad

I can’t find the source, but I know I’ve read that “House Of The Rising Sun”, while being a traditional folk ballad, also became an early prototype of what eventually became heavy metal… too bad, because it’s an argument I’ve made before…

“House” was, indeed, a traditional ballad.  But in the hands of the Animals (all of them, no matter who got credited on the single label), it picked up a growl and a swagger that no other version of the song had.

It got to the point that Bob Dylan, who’d been doing the song for a couple of years in concert, had to abandon it after being accused of ripping off the Animals.

A few years ago, when I was doing weekends on Richmond oldies station WBBT, I had the bright idea of phoning up my mom on Mother’s Day to let her make a request.  I figured she’d go for something pop like the Beatles or maybe even Dylan or Elvis.  When, unprompted, she came up with “House Of The Rising Sun”, I nearly ruined the segment.  I did manage to recover, and said on the air something like “no matter how old you are, your parents can always surprise you” and aired the bit… of which I can’t find a copy, either (it’s one of THOSE days)… too bad, it was fun.

The Animals were ill-fated from the start – the first incarnation of the band collapsed after 3 years… the second made it 2 before threats from the yakuza on a Japanese tour (which included future Police-man Andy Summers) lead to the band coming unglued again…  Eric Burdon and co-founder Alan Price toured in 1983, an attempt that barely made it a year… and, eventually, there were three or four different versions of Animals or New Animals by the late ‘90s.

At one point, the original group was billed as “Eric Burdon and the Animals” – a decision that later cost Burdon the trademark to the name “The Animals”, as a court ruled that the stand-alone billing separated Burdon from the Animals for trademark purposes… that decision ended Burdon’s New Animals.

Tomorrow, a British “girl group” who’ve outlasted just about everyone…

Other songs that reached #1 on September 5:
1998 –
“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith (their first, 4 weeks)


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