In early 1964, the British Invasion of the American music scene was still strictly a Beatles affair. The amazing British soul singer Dusty Springfield broke into the Billboard Top 40 in July, but didn’t reach the Top Ten. That changed in the summer of 1964, when Newcastle garage rock band The Animals, fresh off of a tour of the United Kingdom with Chuck Berry, came to America to capitalize on Beatle Mania.
The Animals, particularly lead singer Eric Burdon, played a decidedly different version of Rock and Roll than the Beatles. Their gritty take on rhythm and blues started the “Anti Beatles” movement within the British Invasion. Their first No1 hit in the UK, “Baby Let Me Take You Home” takes a very different path than the similar Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The Rolling Stones popularized and built a 50 year career on what The Animals started.
The Animals’ distinct take on Rock and Roll is nowhere more evident than in their signature song “The House of the Rising Sun”. It’s a bluesy soulful song about a man who lost himself in the whorehouses and dive bars of New Orleans. Eric Burdon’s deep howling voice, Alan Price’s haunting organ riffs, and Hilton Valentine’s indomitably classic and instantly recognizable Les Paul guitar riff swept America and sunk everything on the Beatles “Hard Day’s Night” album, then ruling the charts. On 6 September 1964, it hit No 1 on the US charts, the first non-Beatles British song to do so.