Animal memories

Eric Burdon featured on a BBC 4 programme about blues music. After The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the first pop singer I remember was Eric Burdon. He was lead singer with a group called The Animals. I never knew much about the group, other than that they sang a song called, “We gotta get out of this place.” My Dad used to say that the words were how he felt about the place we were living.

In teenage years, I discovered that The Animals has sung a version of The House of the Rising Sun. Sung by Eric Burdon it was a song that was instantly memorable, such was the feeling in his voice when he sang it. His gravelly tones injected the song with an intensity that other versions didn’t quite possess. It never occurred to me to think about what sort of dwelling place the house of the rising sun might be; I just liked the song, lyrics seemed to be incidental to sound.

Amongst the other songs from Eric Burdon and The Animals I remember discovering was one called Good Times. Like the song about the house in New Orleans, it was a record I could listen to without giving any thought to what might be implied in the words.  One line remains in my memory,

“When I think of all the good times that I’ve wasted having good times”.

It never ever occurred to me to think about what experiences could have been considered to be “good times” for a 1960s rock star. Five decades after the song was popular, I think I would probably prefer not to know; I suspect there wouldn’t have been much crossover between our lifestyles.

The programme about the blues, in which Eric Burdon was interviewed was followed by The Rolling Stones at the BBC. One studio recording from the 1960s picked out a young George Best dancing in a disinterested way among the audience. Perhaps it was George Best who best represented the idea of “good times” for 1960s stars. A man with extraordinary talent for the best and the worst, he once commented, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered,” and, “in 1969, I gave up women and alcohol – it was the worst twenty minutes of my life.”

Eric Burdon recalls times as they were. Perhaps some who recall memories of the 1960s now are laddish in their telling stories of the “good times” –  they don’t really seem so good.

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