Tag Archives: The Animals

[24] The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun

20 Sep

Since this week’s guest blogger covered this track so well, and since it brings to mind such a vivid memory for me, allow me to try something a little different this week.


It is the moment when the 80s give way to the 90s and I am at a youth leadership conference in North London, a young teen learning how to work with even younger kids.

It was at one of these things a couple of years earlier that I discovered the power that my singing voice had over groups of people, and I now take every opportunity to burst into song. In many ways it has begun to define my personality. I am a little less shy, a little more outgoing with a skill to anchor my confidence to.

It is late at night now, workshops over for the day, and we are all socializing in the sprawling hotel lounge when a scruffy bunch of 20-something guys walk in, sweaty and tired looking, carrying guitar cases, drum paraphernalia.

It turns out they are a German rock band coming back from a gig.

We notice that we are dressed alike, me and them – with our long hair, our black tee shirts with band names printed on them, our tight jeans, our cowboy boots – and they stop to say “Hi”.

We have some homemade fakebooks lying around – used to kick start sing-alongs, full of perennial classics as well as more recent songs that will be obsolete in a few months – and somehow, in no time at all, we find ourselves lounging on the couches, guitars in hand.

Scientists will tell you that they don’t know what 90% of the brain’s capacity is used for. In my case it is clearly filled with song lyrics, and this comes in incredibly useful at times like these as we start to play Beatles classics, Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n’ Roses ballads, Clapton and Zeppelin hits.

Then the guitarist asks if I play.

I don’t really, but I can finger four chords almost well enough and the song I know how to play with those four chords is “House of the Rising Sun” . . .

House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun











It is The Animal’s version that we all know – the somewhat sanitized, very male tale of a lost gambler rather than the darker original song of a fallen woman – and we all know every word, every nuance. We wail away, as I clumsily strum the almost right notes on a beautiful Ovation semi-acoustic handed to me by one of the Germans.

I know as it is happening that this is a memory that will live with me forever.

It is a moment where I step well outside my comfort zone and succeed, a moment where I am taken seriously by “adults” I aspire to be like, a moment where a group of strangers come together and make music that is raw and powerful, memorable, tuneful and true.

And the soundtrack is “The House of the Rising Sun”.

Owned before blogging? Yes. (2 of 24. 8%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (4 of 24. 17%)
Recommend? Yes. (19 of 24. 79%)

Next week: Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85 – 92

Guest Blogger Rosanna Luke: The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun

17 Sep

This week’s guest blog, by Rosanna Luke, discusses the first Recording on the list that is a single rather than an album. Ro is English, which explains and excuses some of her spelling.


Back in the mid-1980s, there was a programme shown on the BBC called The Rock and Roll Years. The programme covered one year each week, starting from 1956, and showed short clips of archived news reports, to a soundtrack of popular music from that year, and cut with bands’ appearances on music shows.

The timing of the programme meant that at the age of around twelve or 13 – when most teens begin to develop their own musical tastes – I got to listen to 30 minutes of premium 1950s and 1960s music each week when most of my peers were buying records by Madonna, The Smiths and the Pet Shop Boys. This has left me with a lifelong love of performers such as The Rolling Stones, Cream and Janis Joplin and a gap in my cultural knowledge where 1980’s chart pop should be; in retrospect this was almost certainly A Good Thing.

In each episode there was usually at least one song that make my world rock on its foundations a little, and “House of the Rising Sun” was one of those tracks. From the opening guitar line and Eric Burdon’s passionate, gritty vocals, the song still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it. Alan Price’s haunting keyboard solo around two minutes in is highly reminiscent of the late (how it pains me to have to type that word) Ray Manzarek’s performance with the Doors a few years later; “House of the Rising Sun” was a US Number 1 in 1964 so it’s feasible that the Doors unique keyboard sound was influenced in part by this song.

The song’s appeal for me lies in its quirkiness; it’s an unlikely song to become a Number 1 hit for several reasons. It is a traditional song, perhaps a 16th Century song about a brothel in Soho (London) or a traditional New Orleans ballad.

The Animals’ cover, unlike earlier versions by The Almanac Singers, Bob Dylan and others, use a different set of lyrics – subtly changing them from the point of view of a woman led into a life of prostitution, to that of a man, whose father was a gambler and drunkard, as opposed to the woman’s lover.

It’s a cautionary tale and about as far from the usual early 1960s boy-meets-girl chart toppers as it’s possible to get. At the original uncut nearly four and a half minutes, it’s also far, far longer than most pop singles of its time.

It’s impossible to write about the Animals without mentioning a piece of trivia that encompasses two other bands who I grew to love as a result of my weekly viewing of The Rock and Roll Years.

The band split in 1966 and on their final tour of the US they saw an unknown guitarist playing in a club in New York. That guitarist was a young Jimi Hendrix, then performing under the name Jimmy James. Chas Chandler, The Animals’ bassist, persuaded the young Hendrix to come to Britain and was instrumental in introducing the musicians who went on to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience; he later went on to manage the band.

Chandler also managed the British glam-rock band Slade and oversaw their twelve year career and six UK number one hits; surely an impressive career by anyone’s standards.


Rosanna Luke is a Brighton-based writer, project manager, student and quilter, not necessarily in that order. Her short stories have been published in printed magazines such as Scribble (where her World War 2 story “Shooting Apples” won first prize in the Winter 2012 edition), Debut and also online at Alfie Dog e-publishers and The Cynic Online Magazine.

Her story “The Reunion” recently been shortlisted in the Curry Mallett Festival short story prize.

Rosanna is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and hopes one day to finish writing the novel she’s been drafting for three years.

Rosanna has an eclectic and unfashionable taste in music, her particular favourite bands are 80s post-punkers Carter USM and veteran alternative rock band New Model Army.


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