Transcript: Transcript John Steel and The Animals – a rhythmic reign and everlasting beat

Breath of Fresh Air Seg 1

(0:36) Hello and thank you so much for joining me. (0:39) I’m so excited today that I have to share my news with you. I recently entered a Breath of Fresh Air into the She Podcasts Awards in Washington DC and guess what? We won! This show is now not only an award-winning show, but I’m officially a musical genius.

How about that? Whether you’re (0:59) listening to me on the radio or on a podcast player, do me a favour and subscribe to the (1:04) podcast, will you? And tell all your friends to do the same. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

(1:10) Now onto the show. They were one of the first British bands that rose to fame in the wake of (1:16) the Beatles. They were also one of the first English acts to find success internationally (1:21) while aligning themselves with the blues.

Grungy, raw and tough, the Animals were undeniably one of (1:29) the most important groups of the British Invasion. Formed in Newcastle in the northeast of England (1:35) in 1962, my guest today is still out there touring the group’s extensive back catalogue (1:42) that includes this massive hit. (1:45) There is a house in New Orleans, they call the rising sun, and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God I know I’m one.

(2:07) John Steele was the drummer with the original lineup of the Animals. (2:10) He played and recorded with the group until 1966. And while he’s not quite as flashy or colourful (2:17) as other drummers of his generation, like Keith Moon, Ginger Baker or Ringo Starr, John did give (2:24) the mid-60s Animals a hugely solid swing.

I’ll let him fill you in on his story. (2:30) Hello, John Steele here. (2:31) How are you? (2:33) Alright, thank you, Sandy.

How are you? (2:35) I’m good. I cannot believe it is almost four years to the very day that I spoke with you last. (2:42) So much has happened in between.

(2:44) Oh, don’t tell me. I mean, it would have been only a year or so after the first time we talked, (2:50) but the pandemic got in the way. (2:52) That’s right.

So you’ve managed okay? (2:55) Well, yeah, well, we all had a horrible time, didn’t we? (2:58) We sure did. What did you do with yourself during that downtime? (3:00) I bought myself a practice kit. I’m a drummer and I’ve never been a great practicer before.

But (3:07) when that pandemic kicked in, I thought this is going to be running for some time, (3:12) you know, I’m going to be off the road. So I better keep my chops together. And I got (3:16) myself pads and electronic things.

So it’s not making a big banging away on a full set of drums. (3:22) But it just keeps your hand in, you know. (3:25) John, tell me a little bit about how you first met Eric Burden.

(3:28) Well, it was the first day of our induction into the Newcastle College of Art and Industrial (3:35) Design. Newcastle is the main city that we came from. And we were both 15-year-old dropouts (3:44) from school because we sort of had an artistic bent and we didn’t want to go into anything (3:50) too serious.

And so we sort of ducked out and met each other on the first day of the term. (3:57) And hit it off straight away. We discovered that we both had a thing about jazz, blues (4:04) and movies and became very fast friends.

I was playing trumpet at the time. I wanted to be in (4:12) a jazz band. And Eric already had a little band with a not very good trumpet player.

(4:18) So I stepped in and I mean, I’m talking about 1956. Jazz used to be the dance music of youth at (4:26) that time. But suddenly rock and roll was taking over in great strides.

And Eric very quickly (4:31) decided that that’s where he wanted to be. He wasn’t a very good player anyway. (4:57) He said, look, I don’t want to do this.

I want to sing rock and roll and rhythm and blues. (5:02) And we said, OK. So the banjo player said, well, I’ll play this new instrument, electric guitar.

(5:10) And the drummer said, I’m going to take up this new instrument, the Fender bass. And I just said, (5:17) OK, I’ll play the drums then. And that’s how we started.

As soon as I started to do it, (5:23) I thought, oh, I can do this. Took to it naturally. So, John, Eric Burden must have (5:28) been pretty charismatic to convince you all to head in a different direction and take up (5:33) different instruments.

Yeah, he’s always been a character. And it turned out he was a pretty good (5:38) singer. So we just went along with it.

Could you feel the changing times in the air in terms of (5:44) music and inspiration? Oh, yeah. It was very much in the air. Like I say, it was a transition between (5:52) jazz and swing.

And suddenly rock and roll was just taking hold of the whole thing. And we just (5:58) sort of gravitated towards it. All of a sudden, we started hearing guys like Chuck Berry and Little (6:03) Richard, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley, of course.

I mean, the first single that made us all sit up (6:10) was Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel. We thought, what on earth is that? Where did that come from? (6:16) And that inspired everybody of my age who had any idea about being in a band. Just (6:25) listening to that record made the hair stand on the back of your neck.

(6:46) I could die. (6:48) Oh, though it’s always crowded, you still can find some room for broken-hearted mothers to cry (6:57) they’re in a gloom. I think it’s so lonely, baby.

I think it’s so lonely. Oh, it’s so lonely. (7:06) They could die.

Now the bellhop’s tears keep flowing. The desk clerk’s dressing black. (7:13) Well, they’ve been so long on the street.

They’ll never look back. I think it’s so lonely, baby. (7:28) I’ve heard you say that you, at that point, you stopped being fans and you became bands.

(7:34) Yeah, it happened all over the country. And we were aware of it at the time where what was (7:40) happening a bit in every provincial city and also London. (7:57) One night, we played support to a Graham Bond organization, which was a rhythm and blues (8:03) quartet.

Graham Bond on Hammond organ, Jack Bruce on bass, Indio Vega on drums, (8:10) and Dick Hexl Smith on tenor sax. And it was a great band. When we played, we sort of warmed the (8:15) place up for him.

And then after he finished, we went on to close the night. And he said, (8:22) can I come up and sit in with you? He was a very good alto sax player. So he got up and (8:27) had a go with us.

And he loved our band. He persuaded the manager of the club, who became (8:32) our manager. He said, you want to get these guys down to London? I can introduce you to some people (8:36) who can help you along, you know, which he did.

So Mike Jeffries took Graham’s invitation and went (8:43) off to meet some people in London. And he came back. This is the end of 63.

And he said, right, (8:49) we’ve got a great gig here. Giorgio Gomolski, who manages the Yardbirds, they’re going to come up (8:54) here and do your gigs. And we’re going to go down to London and do their gigs for a couple of weeks.

(9:00) That’s the deal. Oh, he said, by the way, Graham came up with a great idea. He said, (9:04) that name you’ve got there, which is so clumsy, just why don’t you call yourself, you know, (9:09) like the Beatles, you know? So and he suggested the Animals.

It sounded outrageous at the time. (9:14) You know, I mean, the Beatles obviously were way ahead of us in that. But I don’t know, (9:19) it just sounded outrageous.

And I don’t know where he got it from. It just popped out of (9:23) his head. And when he said that, that’s good enough for us.

Yeah, that’s what happened. (9:27) That’s what you became. All right.

Oh, well, thanks for clarifying that story, (9:32) because there’s all sorts of rumors floating around as to why you were called the Animals. (9:36) Now we’ve set it straight. John, who chose the songs that you recorded? (9:41) Well, we first signed up with a guy called Mickey Most, who became our record producer for (9:47) most of the earliest recordings.

He went across to the Brill Building in New York, where (9:53) songwriters like Carole King and, you know, all kinds of people. It was like an office, (9:58) like a factory, where he wrote songs for other people. And he came back with a bunch of stuff.

(10:04) We chose the record. We always chose what we wanted to do. We just listened to what he brought.

(10:09) We said, I think this one’s it. We had a good year for his song. And we recorded (10:15) Baby, Can I Take You Home? (11:03) The only reason we took to it was because it was so similar to a track on Bob Dylan’s first album, (11:09) Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.

Same song, basically. So that’s why we tried it. It (11:13) wasn’t a big hit, but it was enough to get us a tickle in the charts.

And it got us on the radio, (11:17) and it got us a couple of TV spots. So it did the job. But the next song we chose, (11:22) because we love Bob Dylan, but his very first album, we loved House of the Rising Sun, (11:26) which is a great song.

So we said, we can do something with that, you know? So we worked on (11:31) it and it became sort of an electric folk song. That went straight to number one and (11:36) just completely a life changer, you know? (11:38) You say it was a life changer. (11:40) Yeah.

(11:40) You were massive right around the world. But apparently, (11:43) I believe you weren’t actually making much money at that point. (11:47) No, no.

It was one of those things at the time, I think, everybody got ripped off, you know? It was (11:54) a bad bit of business, yeah, to get through. Everybody was green as grass, new to the game. (12:00) Nobody knew what to do.

So, you know, we signed up and we got taken to the cleaners. (12:05) Never made a lot of money at all. (12:19) And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know I’m one.

(12:40) My father was a tailor, (12:47) sewed my new blue jeans. My father was a gamblin’ man down in New Orleans. (13:26) The other thing was, although we’d all contributed to the arrangement of House of (13:50) Rising Sun, we each put stuff into it.

I picked that drum tempo, you know, that 12-8 feel, (13:58) because I always had a jazz background. Eric rewrote the lyrics, because the original lyrics (14:04) are about a prostitute, which was never going to get played on BBC radio in those days. So he (14:09) transformed the song to a gambler, you know? And Hilton, on guitar, it was his idea to play that (14:15) intro, which so many people say, that’s the first song I ever learned on my very first guitar.

(14:28) When the record came out on the label, it said, traditional arrangement, Alan Price. (14:34) Everybody was like, what? Hang on. But, you know, my manager said, no, don’t worry about it.

(14:40) It’s just to make it easy for the label. You don’t want all those names on it. (14:44) He was so stupid.

(14:46) Alan Price was getting all the royalties ever since? (14:49) Exactly, because it was a traditional song. No known author. It became what’s called public (14:54) domain, which in fact, whoever makes a particular version of it, can claim that version as the (15:01) author and get the rights.

Is it true that the House of the Rising Sun was actually about a (15:07) New Orleans brothel? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. (15:11) What do you know about its original origins? (15:13) Eric always says he heard it from Josh White or somebody like that from way back.

But in fact, (15:19) for a fact, the first time any of us ever heard that song was from Bob Dylan’s first album, (15:25) his debut album. He gave the credits to a friend of his called Dave Van Ronk, (15:29) who we met a year or so later in New York when we went out with Bob for a little pub crawl around (15:36) Greenwich Village. We ended up in Dave Van Ronk’s flat with him and Bob Dylan playing songs and (15:43) sitting about having a drink.

(16:15) Oh, doctor, I’m a whore. My mother was a tailor. She sewed these new blue jeans.

(16:37) My sweetheart was a gambler, Lord, down in New Orleans. (17:03) When you had that massive hit, did you go out and blow the bit of money that you did get? You (17:07) bought women and wine and cars and all sorts of things? Well, it was definitely a change. I mean, (17:14) it booked our fee up quite considerably, you know, and suddenly we were able to afford things that we (17:20) couldn’t before.

And also it opened the whole world up in a way that we’d never envisaged, (17:26) you know, to be able to fly off to New York and play in America, where everything that inspired (17:32) us had come from that direction, you know, from rock and roll and blues and movies and things like (17:37) that. So it was very exciting to be able to go to places we would never otherwise have seen. (17:43) It definitely was a life changer in all sorts of ways.

The House of the Rising Sun wasn’t (17:47) the only song the Animals recorded that was in the public domain. The group seemed to have (17:53) quite a knack for choosing royalty-free songs and giving them that winning twist. (17:58) More from John Steele in a sec.


Breath of Fresh Air Seg 2

(0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kay. (0:04) It’s a beautiful day. (0:08) It was the early 60s when Eric Burden joined the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues combo.

(0:14) Their original line-up consisted of Eric on vocals, Alan Price on organ and keyboards, (0:20) Hilton Valentine on guitar, Chaz Chandler on bass and John Steele on drums. (0:26) Changing their name to The Animals, the group quickly became known for their fiery versions of R&B songs, (0:33) as well as for their gritty, bluesy sound. (0:36) Back then, the band could have never predicted that their songs would remain timeless.

(0:41) The stand-up sold well after all these years. (0:43) We get a whole new audience every once in a while, you know, (0:47) the new generation of young kids who’ve been hearing these things from their parents’ regular collection or radio or whatever. (0:53) Now I know I’ve asked you in the past whether you get sick of playing all these old tunes (0:58) and I recall quite clearly that you say absolutely not, you love it because it makes audiences happy.

(1:05) Is that still the case? (1:06) Absolutely, yeah. (1:07) It’s like since we’ve been back on the road, back working again, (1:11) people have been coming out in droves to see us. (1:14) It’s like standing ovation every night.

(1:16) It’s really great. (1:17) And do you still say that House of the Rising Sun is your favourite to play? (1:21) Yeah, there’s something about that song that just, I don’t know, (1:25) on so many levels that it appeals to people. (1:27) And I never get tired of playing it.

(1:29) It’s a different kind of tune. (1:30) It’s out of the ordinary. (1:32) That’s why we first started playing it, you know, (1:34) because I think I probably told you when the first proper tour that we had (1:38) was supporting Chuck Berry and his first visit to the UK.

(1:41) And we played that song because it was going to be completely different than anything else. (1:45) It was a package tour, there was a few bands on. (1:48) So everybody was playing rock and roll.

(1:51) When we started to play House of the Rising Sun, (1:53) you could tell it was something special. (1:55) There’s a number of people who will come up and say, (1:57) I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard that song, you know. (2:00) You started off with a band known as the Pagan Jasmine that morphed (2:05) into the Pagans.

(2:06) That’s right. (2:07) Then you became an R&B rock outfit after that. (2:09) That’s right, yeah, yeah.

(2:11) After the Pagans, we added a couple of instruments (2:14) and we played a kind of R&B, not a big band, but, you know, (2:18) augmented band. (2:20) We called that the Kansas City Seven. (2:22) Then the numbers reduced to the Kansas City Five.

(2:25) And then Alan Price, who was the keyboard player, (2:28) Eric Burden and me and Alan were the real founder members (2:31) of what became The Animals. (2:33) But Alan got guys together again, you know, (2:36) and said, let’s get back together. (2:38) And we formed ourselves under the name the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo, (2:43) which is a horribly, horribly clunky name.

(2:48) But that’s basically what became The Animals. (2:51) Alan wasn’t so keen, mind you, Alan Price. (2:54) I guess he would have wanted the band named after him as it had been, right? (2:58) Yeah, right.

(2:59) But he went along with it and didn’t do us any harm. (3:13) I’m in love with you (3:16) Love that is true (3:19) Boom, boom, boom, boom (3:22) I like the way you walk (3:25) I like the way you talk (3:28) When you walk that walk (3:31) And you talk that talk (3:34) You knock me out (3:37) Right off of my feet (3:39) You were ruling the airwaves at the time. (3:42) In 64, you were actually just behind The Beatles in terms of selling records.

(3:47) You were the second British band to top the American charts after The Beatles. (3:51) That’s right, yeah. (3:52) Yeah, for a while, The Beatles, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, (3:56) we were in the premier division, you know.

(3:58) How did you handle it? (3:58) It was thrilling. (4:00) It only took a few months from leaving our hometown of Newcastle, (4:04) where we were sort of top band at the time locally. (4:08) But then when we headed for London, (4:10) it was only a matter of two or three months before we had a single out.

(4:14) And then we were touring concert tours with Chuck Berry. (4:18) That summer, we had a number one. (4:20) Within six months of leaving Newcastle, (4:22) we were gone from a local band to an international outfit.

(4:28) It was phenomenal. (4:30) When you complain and criticize (4:35) I feel I’m nothing in your eyes (4:39) It makes me feel like giving up (4:43) Because my best just ain’t good enough (4:47) Girl, I want to provide for you (4:51) And do all the things that you want me to (4:55) Oh, oh no (4:58) Don’t bring me down (5:00) I beg you, darling (5:05) Oh, oh no (5:07) Don’t bring me down (5:10) How did you handle that? (5:12) Did you take it in your stride? (5:13) Were you, you know, your egos were all out of control? (5:16) What was going on for you? (5:19) Well, I think I can speak for all of us at the time (5:22) when we took it in our stride, really. (5:24) I mean, we were Geordies, you know, working class Geordies (5:26) from a provincial industrial town.

(5:29) We loved the idea of what we were doing (5:32) and having an international appeal. (5:35) But I don’t think any of us turned into divas about it, you know. (5:38) We were just sort of level-headed Geordies (5:41) with our feet on the ground, you know.

(5:42) Right, you would have got a clip in the ears (5:44) if you’d let it run away with you, right? (5:46) Yeah, absolutely. (5:49) My mum would say, (5:51) what’s the matter with you? Pull yourself together. (5:53) Was she happy about it? (5:54) I was just chucked to bits, really, you know.

(5:57) I mean, she, you know, like all mothers, (5:59) she had ideas, (6:00) I went to a grammar school, (6:02) but then I quit. (6:04) I kind of dropped out and went to art school. (6:05) That’s where I met her.

(6:07) And that’s where our lives changed, really. (6:10) She was always a bit nervous. (6:13) I was the youngest of four, you know, (6:14) and I was a bit kind of left to my own devices (6:16) and a bit feral.

(6:20) And so she was always a bit nervous (6:21) about where my life was going. (6:23) And then we had a fresh fish shop (6:24) and my mum worked in the shop. (6:27) And these people would bring in clippings (6:29) from the music papers and things like that.

(6:31) The wall was covered with pictures (6:34) of her wayward son. (6:36) She was really proud, huh? (6:38) Did she like Eric? (6:39) She was, yeah. (6:42) We had quite a big house (6:44) and I was a bit of a party person at the time, (6:46) so she would often find, you know, (6:48) bodies all over the floor (6:50) on a Sunday morning.

(6:52) But she didn’t mind. (6:54) No, she was great. (6:56) You know, she gave everybody breakfast (6:57) and sent us up.

(7:00) No, she was good. (7:27) Ah! (7:34) Did you always remain a party person? (7:36) Oh, quite a lot. (7:39) I got married quite early.

(7:40) I met Anne and we got married in 1964. (7:43) You know, just the way it was all happening, (7:45) you know. (7:45) We still had parties.

(7:46) We still had social life and everything. (7:48) It was good fun, but (7:50) I wasn’t quite as scary as I used to be. (7:55) And tamed you a little, huh? (7:57) Oh, definitely, yeah.

(7:58) And do you still go to the gym and keep yourself fit (8:01) and eat healthily and stuff (8:03) to keep yourself in good shape? (8:04) I don’t do the gym, but I do (8:06) twice a day, light exercises. (8:09) I’ve always been fairly careful about (8:10) my diet. You know, Anne (8:12) made sure that I overfit the audience.

(8:15) That’s great. (8:15) So I’m still pretty much the same weight I was (8:17) when I was 21, you know. (8:19) Wow.

(8:19) So it’s true what they say, (8:20) behind every good man is a good woman. (8:23) Yes. (8:25) Indeed.

(8:26) I’m chatting with John Steele from (8:27) The Animals. John, tell me about (8:29) We Gotta Get Out of This Place. (8:31) It actually became the anthem for the US (8:33) Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, didn’t it? (8:36) Yes, it did.

(8:37) It took off there. (8:40) From what I’ve heard, it was number one (8:42) on the US Armed Forces radio network (8:43) over there for three years, continuously. (8:46) And yeah, from then (8:47) on, it seemed to (8:49) spread to all sorts of other things.

(8:51) I mean, it’s become an anthem (8:53) to generations of people ever since. (8:55) You know, people (8:57) leaving school, leaving (8:59) university, or leaving a job, or (9:01) whatever reason. People all over the (9:03) world sing We Gotta Get Out of This Place (9:05) whenever it seems to fit the occasion.

(9:07) In this sturdy old part (9:09) of the city (9:11) where the sun refuses (9:13) to shine (9:15) people tell me there ain’t (9:17) no use in trying (9:23) Now my girl, you’re so (9:25) young and pretty (9:27) and one thing I know (9:29) is true (9:31) you’ve been dead before (9:33) your time is due (9:35) I know (9:38) Watch my daddy (9:40) in bed and cryin’ (9:43) Watch his hair be turnin’ (9:45) gray, hey (9:46) He’s been workin’ and slavin’ (9:49) his life away (9:50) Oh yes, I know (9:56) He’s been workin’ so hard (10:00) My heart’s been workin’ too, baby (10:04) Every night and day (10:06) Yeah, yeah, yeah (10:09) We gotta (10:11) get out of this place (10:13) If it’s the last (10:15) thing we ever do (10:16) We gotta (10:18) get out of this place (10:20) Girl, there’s a better (10:22) life for me and you (10:29) Does the longevity (10:30) of these songs surprise you still? (10:33) Yeah, pretty much. I mean, (10:34) we never expected that. I mean, back in the (10:36) day we thought, well, that’s great, we’ve got a (10:38) hit record and what happens next? (10:40) But we never thought those songs would have so (10:42) much meaning to so many people.

Something (10:44) that was completely unplanned for. (10:47) I’m quite happy about it. (10:49) I bet you are.

(10:51) John, still, in 2004 (10:52) you released an album called (10:54) The Animal’s Retrospective. (10:56) It spans 1964 to 1970. (11:00) That album (11:00) has a lot of your top hits on it.

(11:03) My top hit from that album was (11:05) definitely Sissy Rider. I love (11:06) that song. Oh, yeah.

(11:08) We still play that. It’s a good song. (11:11) I see (11:14) Sissy Rider (11:16) Girl, see (11:18) what you’ve done (11:20) Oh (11:24) Sissy Rider (11:27) Sissy Rider (11:29) what you’ve done (11:31) now (11:32) You’ve gone away laughing (11:35) like now (11:37) And now the blues, they come (11:39) Oh, yes, they do (11:42) Oh, well, I’m (11:44) going (11:45) away (11:46) going away, baby (11:48) And I won’t be (11:51) back till (11:52) fall (11:52) Oh, yes, I am (11:56) going away, baby (11:59) And I (12:00) won’t be (12:02) back till fall (12:05) If I can’t be (12:06) a good-looking woman (12:07) I don’t know (12:09) I won’t be back at all (12:12) All right (12:15) And I see Sissy Rider (12:18) I love you (12:20) Yes, I do (12:21) And there isn’t one thing, darling (12:23) I would not do for you (12:26) You know (12:28) I want you, Sissy (12:30) I need you by my side (12:33) Sissy Rider (12:34) Ow! (12:35) Keep me satisfied (12:37) Sissy Rider (12:39) Sissy Rider (12:42) Sissy Rider (12:45) Sissy Rider (12:47) Sissy Rider (12:49) Sissy Rider (12:52) Keep on a ridin’ (12:55) Keep on a ridin’ (13:05) Come on! (13:07) Come on! (13:08) Yes! (13:09) Uh (13:31) Dave Robery, who took over the keyboard role when Price quit, he got, I think it was a (13:38) Grammy Award or something for his arrangement of, because again, that’s another old song (13:43) that nobody really knows the origin of it.

(13:46) So it’s been recorded by many people, including Elvis, and our version seems to have been (13:51) considered to be the definitive version in us. (13:54) What is it about you guys that your versions make each of these songs so much better than (13:59) in their original form? (14:02) Ah, well, we’re a pretty good band. (14:04) Is that what it is? (14:06) I don’t know.

(14:08) We just had a song that we liked and we’d, you know, kick it around until we were satisfied (14:12) that it was the way we wanted it to be. (14:14) Fortunately, it turns out to be the one that everybody turns to and says, that’s an animal (14:19) song, you know. (14:20) I mean, Bruce Springsteen, you probably know the story.

(14:23) Two or three years ago, he was doing a world tour and everywhere he played, you can see (14:27) it on YouTube, he always says, you know, everything you hear from me, everything you hear tonight, (14:33) it’s all about these three songs. (14:35) We’ve got to get out of this place. (14:36) Don’t let me be misunderstood.

(14:38) And it’s my life. (14:39) All by the animals. (14:40) That’s where I come from.

(14:44) That’s a great story. (14:45) I hadn’t heard that. (14:46) So you really set the pace for a lot of musicians to follow you, didn’t you? (14:51) It seems that way, yeah.

(14:52) We were lucky. (14:54) Well, you were more than lucky because you had some sort of raw quality, well, you still (14:59) have, that hits people straight in their souls. (15:02) Yeah, absolutely.

(15:03) How do you describe the magic that the animals have? (15:07) It’s just, we played, I mean, we still do with this band, with Naua, I mean, they’re (15:12) really talented guys, they’re really good players, and they really know what they’re (15:16) doing in the field of music. (15:18) We don’t have any kind of double track, you know, trick stuff or anything like that. (15:22) We just go out live and play live, you know.

(15:25) That’s what you get, a live band having a good time on stage. (15:28) Do you miss the other guys? (15:30) Yeah. (15:31) I mean, it was a special time.

(15:32) I mean, anybody would have been proud to have been part of that band in those days and that. (15:38) You form a bond, you know, when you’ve got something going, especially when we’re all (15:43) going in the same direction, you know. (15:44) So yeah, you can’t turn the clock back, you just have to move on.

(15:47) What happens when you go back to Newcastle, do they do a ticker tape parade for you and (15:52) stuff? (15:52) You’d be the hometown heroes, wouldn’t you? (15:56) No, not exactly. (15:57) But there was just a couple of months ago, there was a blue plaque, do you have blue (16:02) plaques? (16:02) You know what I mean? (16:03) No, I don’t know what that is. (16:05) They started off in London where authors and people famous for whatever reason lived in (16:11) this house in such and such a time.

(16:13) And they put a blue plaque on the wall saying this is where Charles Dickens lived between (16:18) this year and that year. (16:20) So when Charles died, Newcastle Council put a blue plaque on the house where he was born (16:25) and raised. (16:26) And just recently they put one on the site of what used to be the Club O’Go-Go, where (16:29) we were the house band.

(16:31) This was the home of the Animals, it says. (16:32) That’s nice. (16:33) Your house may be next, but you might have to wait.

(16:37) They put them on posthumously. (16:39) Yeah, I hope it’s going to be alive again. (16:42) Yeah, me too.

(17:05) There’s a way, everybody says, I’ve got to do each and every little thing, yeah. (17:17) But what good will it bring, if I ain’t got you, if I ain’t got you? (17:27) Baby, you don’t know what it’s like, you don’t know what it’s like, to love somebody, (17:41) to love somebody the way I love you. (17:48) The Animals sure were feeling the love.

(17:50) Rolling Stone magazine included keyboard player Alan Price’s arrangement on the House of the (17:56) Rising Sun on its list of the greatest songs of all time.


Breath of Fresh Air Seg 3


(0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. (0:04) It’s a beautiful day. (0:08) Glad you’re still here.

(0:10) The animals were flying high despite various personnel in an ever-changing line-up (0:15) that followed from the mid-60s onwards. (0:18) They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 (0:22) and against all odds, their music seems fresher today than it ever did. (0:27) We managed to have the very good taste to find some really good songs (0:31) that I think that we made the definitive version of.

(0:35) We did, um, We Gotta Get Out of This Place and It’s My Life, (0:39) Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. (0:41) You know, Nina Simone did a beautiful version of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, (0:45) but the animals version was the one that hit the charts (0:48) and became associated with the animals. (0:52) She didn’t like that at all.

(0:53) We met her in a recording place, a TV thing, (1:00) and she tore into us, you know. (1:02) She didn’t like us at all, you know. (1:06) You little uppity white boys stealing my songs.

(1:11) Baby, you understand me now (1:17) If sometimes you see that I’m mad (1:23) Don’t you know no one alive can always be an angel (1:30) When everything goes wrong, you see some bad (1:35) But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good (1:43) Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood (1:51) Eric tore into her back, you know. (1:53) He said, you didn’t write that song. (1:55) It’s not your songs.

(1:56) You know, Benny Benjamin wrote that song. (1:58) We just did a better version than yours. (2:02) She was taken aback.

(2:03) She was a difficult woman. (2:05) Amazing. (2:06) Most of the songs that you’ve done deal with the darker side of life, (2:09) don’t they? (2:10) Do you think it’s because they deal with the darker side (2:13) that they’ve remained relevant today? (2:16) Absolutely.

(2:16) I firmly believe that. (2:17) It’s what I call grown-up songs. (2:20) I’ve got a dark edge to them, (2:21) and every generation seems to be able to identify with those songs.

(2:26) Baby, do you understand me now (2:30) Sometimes I feel a little mad (2:34) But don’t you know that no one alive can always be an angel (2:38) When things go wrong, I seem to be bad (2:43) I’m just a soul whose intentions are good (2:46) Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood (2:59) Baby, sometimes I’m so carefree (3:02) With a joy that’s hard to hide (3:06) And sometimes it seems that all I have to do is worry (3:10) And then you’re bound to see my other side (3:14) I’m just a soul whose intentions are good (3:18) Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood (3:23) In the face of all the success that you were having, (3:25) why did you decide to leave the band in 66? (3:28) I think the band was heading towards a crack-up (3:31) because we were badly managed. (3:33) It was relentless. (3:34) We were just overworked, (3:36) and we felt as though we weren’t getting the kind of money (3:39) that we were generating.

(3:41) And I was newly married, (3:43) and we had a baby on the way, (3:46) and I just felt, I thought, (3:47) I’ve got to get off this treadmill, you know, (3:49) and I just decided to turn to it. (3:52) Because I could feel, (3:53) I mean, within a few short months of me leaving, (3:56) the band cracked up and fell apart, you know. (3:59) I think I could see it coming, you know.

(4:02) Well, and you were certainly the backbone to that band. (4:05) I mean, if for no other reason but you were the drummer. (4:08) The Animals did disband, (4:10) but John couldn’t stay away from music for very long.

(4:13) In the early 70s, he did some work with a pub rock band (4:16) and then started on the business side, managing artists. (4:20) That’s right. (4:21) We were invited to do a charity concert (4:24) in our hometown of Newcastle in 68.

(4:27) That’s the first time we got back together since 1966, (4:30) by which time Charles discovered Jimi Hendrix (4:33) and become very, very successful and important. (4:36) He said, why don’t you come and work for me, Johnny? (4:39) I thought, well, why not give it a shot? (4:40) So I joined up and became a kind of man Friday to Charles. (4:45) He actually ended up managing Jimi Hendrix and Slade, didn’t he? (4:49) He did, yeah.

(4:50) By that time, Jimi had moved on (4:52) and Charles introduced me to his new discovery, (4:55) which was a bunch of young guys (4:56) from the black country, northwest of England, (4:59) and they were called Slade. (5:00) At the time, they were completely unheard of. (5:02) Charles and me, between us, (5:04) managed to persuade enough people to listen to them (5:07) and give them a break.

(5:09) By the time it was 1973, (5:11) we had a year with three consecutive singles (5:14) that went straight into the charts at number one. (5:16) They never cracked America, (5:17) but they did just about everywhere else. (5:20) Then by 1975, you got back together (5:23) with the original Animals line-up.

(5:24) How come you decided to come back with them? (5:26) Well, I was working with Charles on the business side (5:29) and Eric happened to be in town (5:32) and he’d been living in California all this time, (5:36) but he was on the bottom, really. (5:38) He was not having much luck at anything very much. (5:41) So I said to Charles, (5:42) why don’t we get together? (5:44) Alan wasn’t having much luck with anything.

(5:47) Hilton was working for, I think, (5:49) McDonald’s in Los Angeles. (5:53) Charles had just recently formed his own record label (5:57) and I said, why don’t we have a little get-together? (6:00) And he said, no, I don’t fancy that. (6:02) You could put it on your label and he went, (6:04) oh, that’s a good idea.

(6:06) So that’s how that came about. (6:07) So Before We Were So Readily Interrupted (6:09) was the end result of that. (6:11) Do you recall a favourite track on that one? (6:13) Oh, there’s a good version of Many Rivers Across (6:15) which comes to mind.

(6:17) Eric really tore into that. (6:18) It was a good song. (6:36) I am lost (6:38) As I travel along (6:44) The white cliffs of Dover (6:48) Many rivers to cross (6:54) And it’s only my will (6:59) That keeps me alive (7:03) I’ve been nicked, washed up for years (7:07) And I barely survive (7:11) Because of my pride (7:18) And this loneliness (7:20) Just won’t leave me alone (7:25) Such a drag to be on your own (7:31) My woman left (7:34) And you didn’t say why (7:39) Well, I guess I’ll have to try (7:51) This is funny.

(7:53) Just last week it was, I was doing a gig. (7:55) It was in England somewhere. (7:56) And there was a young guy who did a warm-up spot (7:58) playing guitar and singing songs.

(8:00) And after he did his spot and before we went on, (8:03) he came up to me and he said, (8:04) could you sign this for me, please? (8:05) And he pulled out a vinyl copy. (8:08) I said, sure. (8:08) He said, yeah, yeah, my granddad gave me this.

(8:12) You must be so excited by the fact (8:15) a young guy wants you to sign the album (8:17) that came out in 1975. (8:20) So your music is timeless. (8:21) You’re still just as big today as you were.

(8:24) How does that feel for you? (8:26) It feels great, you know, that everything still holds up (8:29) and there’s nothing that we ever did (8:32) that I’ve ever felt embarrassed about musically (8:35) because we did some very good recordings (8:38) and they still stand up well all those years (8:41) and they’ll keep on going on, you know. (8:43) They’re just grown-up songs, you know, (8:45) proper dark songs about life (8:47) and not middle-of-the-road pop songs. (8:49) They’re serious, dark songs, you know.

(8:52) That’s what I like about them. (8:53) It’s a hard world to get a break in (8:56) All the good things have been taken (9:00) But girl, there are ways to make certain things pay (9:05) Though I’m dressed in these rags (9:07) I’ll wear a sable someday (9:12) Hear what I say (9:15) I’m on a ride of the serpent (9:19) No more time spent (9:21) Sweating wet (9:23) Hear my command (9:25) I’m breaking loose (9:27) It ain’t no use (9:29) Holding me down (9:33) Stick around (9:35) But baby, baby (9:38) Remember, remember (9:40) It’s my life and I do what I want (9:44) It’s my mind and I think what I want (9:48) Show me I’m wrong (9:50) Hurt me sometimes (9:51) But someday I’ll teach you right (10:03) John Steele, do you have to make many concessions to allow for your age? (10:07) Well, fortunately not, Sally. (10:09) I think if I felt physically unable to do it, (10:13) I would drop it immediately.

(10:15) I wouldn’t want to be an embarrassment to anybody. (10:17) But I keep up as well as the rest of the guys who are a lot younger than me. (10:21) And I play as well as I’ve ever been able to play.

(10:24) So if I start getting where I am and falling over and things, (10:28) I’ll do it. (10:30) But otherwise they’re likely to take you out playing the drums, right? (10:34) Yeah, right. (10:35) My daughter said, (10:38) Are you ever likely to give up? (10:39) And I said, I’ll probably stop doing it when I fall off the drums to a dead.

(10:45) And just to remind us, (10:47) I know the rift between you and Eric has never been repaired (10:50) and it was a fight, well a legal battle that you two had over (10:53) who gets to keep the name The Animals. (10:56) You and he though are the last ones standing. (10:59) Yeah.

(10:59) I feel kind of sad about it in a way (11:01) because that to me was a completely unnecessary, expensive exercise (11:06) that could have been settled over a bottle of wine and a meal, you know. (11:09) But Eric, for whatever reason, wanted to take it to the limits (11:14) and that kind of broke up what used to be a very good long-standing friendship, (11:19) which is a great shame. (11:20) It sure was.

(11:21) Eric, of course, went on to lead Eric Burden and The New Animals (11:25) and then he joined War to have hits like this one. (12:23) This really blew my mind (12:26) The fact that me (12:29) An over-fed, long-haired (12:31) Sleepy, the star of a Hollywood movie (12:43) I was taken to a place (12:45) A hall of the mountain king (13:03) Every kind of one (13:09) Tall ones, short ones, brown (13:27) She whispered in my ear (13:31) Something crazy (13:33) She said (13:36) Do what? (13:38) Take that girl (13:40) Do what? (13:42) Take that (13:44) Do what? (13:46) Take that (13:48) Do what? (13:49) Take that girl (13:51) From what I hear, Eric’s moved to Greece (13:55) To Greece, yeah (13:55) Yeah, and he’s married a Greek girl (13:58) who’s sort of taken over his life, basically (14:02) So you haven’t tried to reach out to him at all there? (14:06) No, the last time I saw Eric was 20 years ago (14:12) Unfortunately (14:12) It’s not on your bucket list to try and patch it up before you both go? (14:18) I wouldn’t mind that at all (14:19) It seems like Eric’s just not prepared to do that (14:22) My door’s open, but I don’t know (14:25) I think there’s a bit of a Yoko Ono, John Lennon thing in there (14:29) Mariana is her name (14:30) She wants to keep Eric to herself (14:32) and she doesn’t want anybody taking him away from her (14:36) It’s a strange situation (14:37) It’s a shame, because the two of you together were a force to be reckoned with, weren’t you? (14:42) We were, right from the start (14:43) John Steele, thank you so much for chatting with me today (14:46) It’s so good (14:47) You’re very welcome (14:48) It’s always a pleasure (14:51) Thanks a million, John (14:52) Thank you, bye now (14:53) And so is the story of the animals (14:56) Brian Chas Chandler died in 1996 (14:59) Dave Rowberry lost his life in 2003 (15:02) and Hilton Valentine passed in 2021 (15:06) John, however, is still out there touring (15:08) and Eric is hanging out somewhere in Athens, Greece (15:12) Here’s hoping John and Eric do manage to patch up their differences (15:16) Thanks for your time today (15:18) I hope you’ve enjoyed the show (15:20) Don’t forget, if you’d like to hear from someone special (15:22) just send me a message through the website (15:26) (15:28) I’ll do my best to get them onto the show for you (15:30) I hope you’ll join me again same time next week (15:33) I’ll look forward to being back in your company then (15:36) Take care and have lots of fun (15:38) Bye now (15:58) Bye now!