The Animals’ #1 US single, “House of the Rising Sun,” turns 50

turns 50


What better time to celebrate 50 years of the Animals’ number one hit, “House of the Rising Sun,” than the first day of the long-awaited Meltasia Music Festival hosted by Andy Animal? There is none.

The Animals emerged from the redundancy of the Merseybeat wave, which overpowered Liverpool’s nightclub scene in the early ‘60s. Instead, the group pursued an American rhythm and blues swagger; such was the case for other English bands like the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks. “House of the Rising Sun” managed to interrupt the Beatles’ reign of the British Invasion on September 5, 1964, by becoming the first British band— unconnected to Lennon or McCartney— to top the charts in both the UK and US since 1962. The four-and-a-half minute ballad was later shortened for Top 40 radio rotation due to airwave restrictions and commercialization, and also for the band’s Ed Sullivan Show performance. Here’s the full set:

History of the song’s meaning is a bit murky and its origins would probably start some sort of fight over the Internet, so I’ll leave that be. All things considered, Bob Dylan’s 1962 folk version, sung from a female perspective, was the most recent recording before the Animal’s.

The raw, slithering range of Eric Burdon’s vocals and Hilton Valentine’s arpeggios and chord picking put an R&B shade over Dylan’s version. Halfway through, Alan Price’s organ solo completely floors me every time. It’s even more impressive that the Animals recorded the song in mono, with no over dub engineering, and in a single 15-minute take. Interestingly enough, after the Animal’s topped both UK and US charts with “House of the Rising Sun,” Dylan switched to electric.