Monday, May 18, 2020

We Gotta Get Out of this Place—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

We Gotta Get Out of this Place by The Animals.

More than two months of Cronavirus confinement for many of us and yesterday’s torrential downpour and nuisance flooding in these parts have pushed a lot of us over the edge.  A primal scream seems called for.  We have just what you need courtesy of The Animals.
The Animals were an English rhythm and blues and rock band, formed in Newcastle upon Tyne in the early 1960’s. They band moved to London upon finding fame in 1964. The Animals were known for their gritty, bluesy sound and especially for their deep-voiced front man Eric Burdon.  Their breakthrough #1 hit The House of the Rising Sun turned a New Orleans honky-tonk blues about a girl gone wrong turned brothel whore  into a blues lament for a lad led astray and set the tone a raw edged style quite different from those nice boys The Beatles or even the blusier rockers The Rolling Stones.   But unlike those other British bands, they did little original music of their own creations relying instead on covers, adaptations, and professional songwriters.  Their hits included It’s My Life, Inside Looking Out, I’m Crying, and Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.

The Animals in 1965-- Eric Burdon, vocals'Alan Price, Keyboards' Chas Chandler,bass; Hilton Valentine, guitar; John Steel, drums.

Under the name Eric Burdon and the Animals, the much-changed line-up moved to California and achieved new commercial success as a psychedelic and hard rock band with hits like San Franciscan Nights, When I Was Young, and Sky Pilot, before disbanding at the end of the decade. Altogether, the group had ten Top Twenty hits on both the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100 In the U.S.
Burdon was the working class son of an electrical repairman who described his childhood as a dark nightmare” that “should’ve been penned by Charles Dickens.” Due to the river pollution and humidity in Newcastle he suffered asthma attacks daily. During primary school, he was “stuck at the rear of the classroom of around 40 to 50 kids and received constant harassment from kids and teachers alike”. He went on to describe his primary school as “jammed between a slaughterhouse and a shipyard on the banks of the Tyne. Some teachers were sadistic—others pretended not to notice—and sexual molestation and regular corporal punishment with a leather strap was the order of the day,”

Eric Burdon circa 1968.
He developed an early interest in American jazz—Louis Armstrong was his first hero—and later blues.  He switched from jazz trombone to singing while studying at the Newcastle Art College.  He hung out with a tough and hard drinking crowd from which the original members of The Animals were recruited before moving to London.  He was only 23 when The Animals hit with House of the Rising Sun.
After the Animals broke up Burdon went on to front Californian funk rock band War in 1970 with singles like Spill the Wine, Tobacco Road, Paint It Black, and They Can't Take Away Our Music.  Since the mid-70’s he has performed as a solo act and with several bands under different names.  He continues to work today at age 79. 

Burdon still going strong in 2018.
Today’s song We Gotta Get Out of This Place was written by the Brill Building songwriting Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and originally intended for the blue eyed soul Righteous Brothers who had achieved their hit with the duo’s You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ but was snatched up by Mickie Most, the Animals’ producer.  The song was recorded in England at Columbia Gramophone studios.  Two takes were recorded, one released in the United Kingdom and another released by the band’s American label MGM.  There were only minor variations in a line or two of lyrics but many critics thought that the American version feared a rawer and more emotional reading by Burdon.
The song reached # 2 on the UK pop singles chart on August 14, 1965 held out of the top slot by the Beatles Help! And made it to #13 on the U.S. pop singles chart but its cultural importance transcended those numbers.  Burden heartfelt performance was a reflection of his own experiences in Newcastle—the bleak town he had to get out of. 

We Gotta Get Out of this Place was voted the #1 by the troops themselves like the grunt in Ken Burns' and Lynn Novick’s documentary series The Vietnam War 
It resonated first with teenagers and was soon a defiant scream and became an anthem of defiance at high school proms and graduation parties.  But it was really adopted by U.S. troops in Vietnam.  It was central to the G.I. grunt’s soundtrack to the war and was later used in theatrical movies like Hamburger Hill and the TV series Tour of Duty and China Beach.
In a 2012 keynote speech to an audience at the South by Southwest music festival, Bruce Springsteen performed an abbreviated version of the Animals’ song on acoustic guitar and then said, “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them.  I’m not kidding, either. That’s Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A.
Surely it is just as apt for our current sequestration.

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