John Steel and The Animals - a Rhythmic Reign and Everlasting Beat


The Animals - Icons of Rock, Drummer John Steel, and the Tale of Eric Burdon

British rock band, The Animals were born in the ’60s and crafted a revolutionary sound blending blues, rock, and soul. They were one of the first of the British bands who rose to fame in the wake of the Beatles that broke through in America and none were as tough or more forbidding than them. They were also one of the first English acts to break internationally while aligning themselves with the blues. 

The Animals' Origin:

The Animals were founded in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1963. Their roots lay in the Alan Price Rythm and Blues Combo.  The Combo featured Alan Price  on keyboards and vocals, Hilton Valentin on guitar, “Chas” Chandler on bass, and  John Steel on drums. Eric Burdon joined Price’s new Combo as lead vocalist. 

The group’s powerful style soon earned them an audience, and they adopted a new name, the Animals. In 1963, the newly branded Animals headed to a small recording studio and cut a four-song EP of Rhythm & Blues standards that faithfully documented their live sound. A copy of the disc made its way to a producer who managing a like-minded R&B outfit called The Yardbirds and the band was encouraged to relocate to London to pursue a larger audience. 

London Calling:

The Animals became a regular attraction at a local club and they were spotted by successful producer and manager Mickie Most who signed them and engineered a deal for them with a record company.  Their first single, “Baby Let Me Take You Home,” was a hit.

The House of the Rising Sun:

MGM Records signed the band for the American market, and their second single, a reworking of the folk ballad “The House of the Rising Sun,” became their international breakthrough, going all the way to number one in England, the United States, and Canada, and reaching the Top Ten in Germany, Australia, and Sweden in 1964. 

Growing Tensions:

While “House of the Rising Sun” made the Animals major stars, it also led to unrest within the group. Despite the fact that the song had come from the public domain, Alan Price claimed copyright on their arrangement, which meant he received publishing royalties on the track and his bandmates did not. The tensions grew even though Alan appeared on subsequent hits including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Bring It on Home to Me,” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”  In 1965 he left the band. 

By 1966, drummer John Steel had also dropped out of the Animals. The same year, the Animals landed another hit with “Don’t Bring Me Down,” but it was a last moment of glory for the original lineup, and they disbanded by the end of 1966.

Eric Burdon and the Animals

In early 1967, Eric Burdon revived the group calling it Eric Burdon and the Animals. In 1975, the original Animals lineup reunited to cut a new album. In 1983, another album and the subsequent concert tour was documented on 1984’s Rip It to Shreds: Their Greatest Hits Live. It marked the end of the Animals, though in the 1990s Hilton Valentine and John Steel toured with a group known as Valentine’s Animals and later Animals II, while in the 2000s, John Steel led a band called Animals and Friends.

John Steel's Animals

The original Animals lineup was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Bryan “Chas” Chandler, who went on to manage Jimi Hendrix and Slade and died in 1996 and Hilton Valentine passed in 2021. Eric Burdon is living in Athens, Greece with his young wife and John Steel continues to lead The Animals into concert halls around the world playing their timeless classics.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Van Lester

    Among the best of the time, Eric’s voice is amazing, I hate when greed and self importance devour strength, none the less, one of my personal all time favorites..

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