Geordie Love Beads (Eric Burdon & the Animals)

Eric Burdon did not hang about after the demise of the original Animals. There were a couple of singles in 1966 which were promoted by a band which was now called Eric Burdon and the Animals even though one, “See See Rider”, was an old track & the other was from a solo LP of covers (3 Randy Newman songs !) backed by the Horace Ott Orchestra (No, me neither). It was in 1967 that a run of distinctive, even sensational, 45s, all composed by this new band, established a new direction for Eric & brought more success.

Eric had some things to get off his chest. About his childhood, “I met my first love at 13, she was brown & I was pretty green” in “When I Was Young” & then his years as a star in “Good Times”, “when I think of all the good times that I’ve wasted having good times”. This direct confessional style, undoubtedly influenced by his use of L.S.D. & patchouli oil, contrasts with the more allusive, even obtuse lyrics of much of the “Love Generation”. Burdon embraced this new emotionality with a lack of guile, an almost naive candour. Back in Northern England 2 teenage boys (drug-free) appreciated such a straightforward reaction to the new ideas from a fellow Northerner. We loved Eric Burdon & the New Animals.

The band were up to the job as well. Vic Briggs’ distorted tremelo (huh !) intro to “When I Was Young” is classic acid-rock. Multi-instrumentalist John Weider went from ragas to rockers. This was a muscular psychedelicism, a working class reaction to new freedoms & new experience. Having said his piece Eric began to write about his hippie friends.

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” wrote Mark Twain. There is more than a touch of rose-tinted spectacles about “San Franciscan Nights”. Still if you were going to Northern California in 1967 the flowers in your hair & the free love would keep you warm. It’s unrealistic, a little credulous but that’s hippies for you, you gotta love the innocence. “San Franciscan Nights”, the band’s biggest hit is charming, a couple of years ago we were listening to this on a 60s radio show, the DJ let it run out & said, “that’s the coolest song ever”. We may have laughed but we did not argue. BUT, the song seems to have been removed from the Internet. So, “Good Times” it is then.

The group played at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The psychedelic Animals stormed it with the hippies, their attack a good fit with the aggression of the Who & Jimi Hendrix (an honorary Brit). Eric, of course, wrote a song about it. “The Byrds & the Airplane Flew” (ouch !) & a lovely quote from the former’s “Renaissance Fair”. This single was not released in the UK. Two young fans knew which dark corners of the radio dial would be likely to play the tune. I can often struggle to remember what I had for dinner two nights ago but the memory of hearing “Monterey” for the first time is palpable…strange.

With the confidence gained from decent sales & the acceptance of a new audience the band recorded a lot of material. In January 1968 they released an epic 2 part single which was over 7 minutes long.

From my, hopefully, more adult perspective if a band had a track which already included flanging, aeroplanes & gunfire and they were thinking of adding bagpipes, I would advise against it. My 15 year old self  loved the everything but the kitchen sink approach of “Sky Pilot”. It was anti-war, against the hypocrisy of a religion which gives its blessing to troops before they go out to kill people. It was both right on and far out…at the same time…still is.

This run  of 45s are simplistic hippie statements (“includes Indians too”) with some very distinctive acid rock. In the USA the Vietnam War was causing a polarization of the generations. Eric Burdon & the Animals records were played on the radio & were so straightforward that you had to go…well yeah ! The band were a little too prolific. In 1968 they released 3 LPs, one of which, “Love Is” is a double & there were diminishing returns. 1967’s “Winds of Change” was a cherished record of ours at the time. If I can find some interesting clips of the future Police guitarist, Andy Summers’ short time with the band then I’m not finished with Eric because those records were a little crazy, Prog-rock Johnny Cash covers…anyone ?

Eric was caught in a whirlwind for a while & the band finished. He still though had a good reputation and any music he made would be given a hearing. It was not long before he was back in the charts with an L.A. funk band as he declared War.