Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Don't Bring Me Down- The Animals

The Animals were part of the British R&B movement that emerged out of England in the early 1960's, hailing from Newcastle with a decidedly dirty sound that had a strong sense of swing. They had a great vocalist in Eric Burdon who could belt out a blues song as good as anybody, to me he was the best R&B singer to come out of the U.K during that period. They were also a lesson in what could happen if you didn't have a grasp of the music industry, despite selling millions of records the band were broke by the time they wound up in 1968. Constant touring also added to the pressure, keyboard player Alan Price departed the band in 1965 due to his fear of flying which made it difficult for the band to tour the U.S. In 1966 the band began to fragment but not before they cut one final single before there were significant line up changes.

Don't Bring Me Down was released in May 1966, The Animals were never prolific songwriters themselves although Eric Burdon and Alan Price did compose quite a few songs for the group, not many were released as singles. Initially the band focused on covers of R&B songs, it seems their producer Mikie Most wanted them to record more pop oriented material which the band weren't keen on doing. Don't Bring Me Down was from the Goffin-King catalogue although it's given a distinct treatment from the Animals. In the U.S they had signed with MGM and found a more sympathetic producer in Tom Wilson who gave them more artistic freedom. It's also a song that featured possible the best performance Dave Rowberry ever committed to record, he gives the song a pulsating organ intro before Hilton Valentine adds a distorted fuzz guitar. Barry Jenkins who had just joined the band provides a more crisp solid rock and roll beat than did his jazz oriented predecessor John Steel. Chas Chandler was a bass player I always liked, he had busy hands and played more as a rhythm player but he always set a solid grounding for the rhythm section.

Burdon gives a great performance, pleading for understanding from his partner,

When you complaint and criticise,
I feel like I'm nothing in your eyes
It makes me feel like giving up
Because my best ain't good enough

It's a song that has some similarities with the Yardbird's Shapes Of Things, not the tempo but the guitar distortion is present on both songs and was perhaps a harbinger of what would happen the following year with psychedelic music gaining a foothold in music culture. In some ways this was the last great song The Animals would record although San Francisco Nights is a great song, I don't think Burdon's voice was necessarily suited to more drawn out styles of music, he was a soul belter. The two groups share similarities in that they were poorly managed and were basically ripped off blind, both had Mickie Most as a producer who was unsympathetic to their creative desires and pretty much forced them to record crap. Alan Price went on to have a successful solo career and Chas Chandler managed Jimi Hendrix and in the 1970's Slade. Jimmy Page who joined The Yardbirds in 1966 went on to found Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck has enjoyed a very successful solo career after leaving the band at the end of 1966.

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