Tag Archives: Eric Burdon

The Animals & Friends

Friday 5th September sees English rock legends The Animals & Friends hit the Vertigo stage at the Reef Casino direct from the UK in what will be one of the weekend highlights. Original band member John Steel and veteran Mickey Gallagher will be joined by friends Pete Barton and Danny Handley on stage to pump out classics such as We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, House of the Rising Sun and Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The Animals can lay claim to being one of the most influential British bands of the 1960s. They became the first UK band after the Beatles to produce a number one track in the USA with House of the Rising Sun. The track topped the British charts and stayed at number one in America for 21 days eclipsing any single since the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love. I caught up with the Animals original drummer John Steel ahead of their show at Vertigo on Friday night..

TM:- It was 1996 last time you came to Cairns, when you played at the sadly missed local institution Johnos Blues Bar. This time around you have Mickey Gallagher on keyboards, who replaced Alan Price in the Original Animals for brief stint back in 1965. Mickey has had a somewhat busy career since then right?

John Steel:- Yes, Mick is back with us now, but he has had a great career in the meantime. Mick was with Ian Dury and the Blockheads for over 25 years. He’s also been with The Eurythmics, Peter Frampton, Recorded London Calling with the Clash (and Sandinista!!). He’s even been in the studio with sir Paul McCartney, so he’s been around the block a bit!

TM:- And the other members Pete Barton and Danny Handley, what’s their history?

John Steel:- Pete’s played in different versions of “The Swingin Blue Jeans” and loads more. Danny’s just a bloody good musician really, he has worked with Spencer Davis, and briefly with Ten Years After, he’s the young boy in the band, not quite 40 yet! Iv’e really enjoyed having Danny in the band, part from being a great musician, he’s a lot of fun to have on the road, he’s the one that keeps everyone laughing.

TM:- looking into some of the gigs you have done with the Animals and Friends over the last few years, you seem to have played a very diverse range of venues..

John Steel:- Yes, we’ve played all sorts of places. I love it, because the Animals Repertoire can take us anywhere. We’ve played nice croaky blues bars and also theatres, festivals, and even cruise liners. Everywhere we go, we don’t have to alter our material, we just play our Animals stuff and it hits people in all sorts of different ways. Whether it’s a young audience or an elderly audience, it doesn’t matter, we just get up there and do our thing and enjoy ourselves. I feel very lucky in that. A lot of bands seem to be only able to play in a certain type of venue to a certain type of people. We seem to be able to play anywhere!

TM:- I hear you have had some guest artists touring with you recently…

John Steel:- Yes, In recent year’s we’ve been doing tours with people like Spencer Davis as guests. When we get to play an Animals set, then bring Spencer on to play “Keep on Runnin” and “Gimme Some lovin”, we’re having as much fun as the audience. After this Australian tour we are kicking off with Steve Cropper (Booker T & The MG’s, The Blues Brothers, Otis Redding and countless Stax recordings). When Steve was in the Stax house band, he got writing credits for songs like “The Midnight hour, Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay and many more. It blows me away to have Steve come and get to play all those great stax songs with him.

TM:- After the Animals folder, the original bass player Chas Chandler, went on to discover and manage Jimi Hendrix, and later Slade, did you ever get to meet Jimi?

John Steel:- Unfortunately not. The Animals folded in 1966 and I got out of the business for a while. Chas went from being a funky bass player in a R&B band to being a manager and producer of one of the biggest acts we’ve ever had in the rock world. I just missed out on Jimi. After Chas and Jimi parted company I went and worked for Chas on the business side of things. I was part of the scene when he developed Slade from being nobody to being an international hit. That was an interesting experience, I was with Chandler 10 years on that.

TM:- Why did you leave the music scene after the Animals folded?

John Steel:- The Animals thing was such a roller coaster ride, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I had just got newly married, and I was never so starstruck to think that this thing would last so long. I thought it may last 2 or 3 years and then I’ll get back to some sort of normality. but there is no normality after that, a bit of time goes by and you think, why not have another go at that!

TM:- I understand the Animals also had some management issues with the infamous Mike Jeffery who is notorious for his business dealings with Jimi Hendrix..

John Steel:- Oh yeah, Mike was our manager from when we started in Newcastle. He owned the Club Au Go Go, which was the hottest club in town, we helped him start that off when we were just an up and coming local band. When Mike realised that labels all around the world were kicking down doors to get us signed up, he thought he better sign us up to a management contract. Unfortunately he turned out to not be the greatest manager in the world, in the sense of being on our side. With Hendrix it was a great shame. When Chas took on Jimi Hendrix after the Animals broke up, everybody all of a sudden discovered there was no money in the kitty because we had been overtaken by accountants who had plundered the funds. Chas had this incredible potential with Jimi, but didn’t have the money to fund it, so he had to go to the only guy he knew could help him – Mike Jeffery. In one way it helped get Jimi off the ground, but in other ways not so good. Mike was a nice personable guy, but when it came to business he was a corkscrew – he couldn’t do anything straight!

TM:- Do you have a favourite memory from the Animals heyday?

John Steel:- This has to be taken in the context of when Eric Burden and I started out in the business. All our heroes were American bands and we were big movie fans, and America was the centre of the movie industry. It seemed like everything exciting was coming from America. It was a pretty dark time in Britain during the 50s after the war. When we suddenly got propelled into the big time with the Animals in 1964, we flew across to America and it was like a different planet to us. When we landed, we were taken into Manhattan on the backs of 5 english sports cars, with beautiful models dressed as tigers in fishnet stockings. It was like “whooah, how the hell did we get here!”.

TM:- Have you ever been tempted to do a reunion with Eric Burdon and the other original surviving members?

John Steel:- Last time we did that was back in 1983, when we did a world tour, but most of the gigs were in North America where the market was. I had a great time, but there was a lot of friction between Eric, and Alan & Chas. Last time I saw Eric was about 12 years ago at his birthday party in Los Angeles when a bunch of us flew over for it. We don’t see each other these days, which is a great shame as we started out in the business together. I think Eric’s decided that he’s Eric Burden, and that’s all he needs to be.

TM:- And what can punters expect from your show at Reef Casino Vertigo bar on Friday night?

John Steel:- The Main thing is we enjoy ourselves, and the audience enjoys themselves and has a good time. That’s all we care about.

Todd Macalpine

The Animals and friends play the Reef casino this Friday night 5th September. Entry is free with local supports from Mr Smith, and The Montgomery Brothers.

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