Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orpheum Theater, Madison, WI: Eric Burdon and The Animals, March 8, 1967

This picture from the February 21, 1967 edition of Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times promotes two  shows by Eric Burdon and The Animals at the Orpheum Theater in Madison on March 8, 1967. The caption says
The young rock 'n' roll veterans have recorded nine hit singles, including the million platter seller, "House of the Rising Sun." and also "Don't Bring Me Down," "Cee Cee Rider," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "Bring It On Home To Me."
While the blurb about the Animals recording history is correct, it was a somewhat misleading promotion. The Animals were one of the biggest "British Invasion" bands in America, and only The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Dave Clark Five could fairly be marked as bigger. However, except for lead singer Eric Burdon, the previous Animals were a different entity. The new group, initially called Eric Burdon and The New Animals, were a different creature entirely.

The Animals had visited San Francisco in July of 1966, where Eric Burdon experienced that rare natural occurrence, a warm San Franciscan night. After visiting the Fillmore and hanging out with the bands, Eric underwent a sort of conversion experience. When the Animals "broke up"--not least because bassist Chas Chandler had discovered Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village and planned to become his manager--Eric formed a "new" Animals with an entirely different sound.

While the original Animals had played very basic blues to great effect, the new Animals were a musically sophisticated group ready to stretch anything out in true psychedelic style. Eric sang in his powerful,  over the top style, but instead of swirling organ he was supported by the twin guitars of Vic Briggs and John Weider. Weider had a driving blues sound, which contrasted nicely with Brigg's jazzier stylings. Danny McCullough and Barry Jenkins held down the rhythm section. Surviving tapes suggest the band sounded somewhat like Quicksilver Messenger Service. Interestingly,  none of them (save Burdon) would have ever heard Quicksilver, who had neither recorded nor played outside of San Francisco at that point.

Although the group typically performed a few Animals hits, like "House Of The Rising Sun," "See See Rider" and "When I Was Young" (their current single at the time), they also performed extended versions of songs like "Tobacco Road," "Roadrunner" and "Rock Me Baby." What few recordings survive suggest that they were a tremendous live band, well ahead of their time but perhaps not entirely what their fans expected.

Eric Burdon transformed himself from a British Beatster to a psychedelic ranger, and the Animals even went so far as to entirely relocate to California, unique among 60s British bands. Their concert history has remained all but entirely untold up to now, but Ross and I have rectified that with a Family Tree and Performance History for Eric Burdon and The New Animals of 1967 and 1968.


  1. I tried to confirm the date that Eric Burdon visited the Fillmore. My thought had always been that this was the July 14, 1966 show with the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company and the Hindustani Jazz Sextet [featuring Hari Har Rao on Sitar and Don Ellis on Trumpet]. The only alternative I had ever considered was the August 7, 1966 "Trips Festival" with Big Brother and The Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, Grass Roots, Sunshine, Jook Savages, PH Phactor Jug Band, Si Perkoff Jazz Quintet and the San Francisco Mime Troupe. I had discounted this as it is by no means clear if the Grateful Dead actually played the event or not – they were advertised but appear on no-one’s Dead lists except mine. After some e-mails back and forth yesterday and your overnight post, I though I would consider this all again.

    I took a look at Burdon's autobiography (I Used To Be An Animal But I Am Alright Now) and the salient points appear to be: (a) The Grateful Dead are playing; (b) Big Brother & The Holding Company are playing; (c) Bill Graham is present; (d) Jim Morrison was present; and finally, according to the autobiography: (e) The Doors had just returned from a tour Canada.

    Having trawled through my notes and checked various lists and old posters, my conclusions are the only dates on which both the Grateful Dead and BBHC played together at the Fillmore Auditorium during the summer of 1966 were July 14 and possibly August 7. These match salient points (a) and (b). I have been unable to find any other dates at all that provide a good match. Now, the first complication, The July 14 event was presented by The Calliope Company and not Bill Graham, but the August 7 event was a Children’s day Camp Benefit presented by Bill Graham. I have decided to dismiss this complication on the basis that the Calliope Company only presented a couple of shows and would not have had their own security etc., or in any probability, the capabilities to manage such an event. As such, I figure that Bill Graham would be there to make sure all was well.

    As for Jim Morrison, on August 7 he is confirmed as playing with The Doors at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in West Hollywood with The Chambers Brothers and Johnny Rivers. Whilst many Doors fans will tell you that Morrison was capable of time travel, I fear I now have to discount this later date. What of the July 14 date – it was still in the midst of the Doors summer long residency at the Whisky. Well, we know that they appeared on the 16th with The Turtles and First Review. However, there appears to be nothing to support Jim Morrison being in Los Angeles on July 14 – and on the basis of that, there is no reason to assume that he was not in San Francisco.

    Finally, to the last point. Burdon quotes Morrison (pp164 Faber & Faber first edition) on the night in question as saying “Yeah, I just finished a tour up in Canada. The rest of the guys are in LA. When you coming down there, man? It’s a good scene too.” Now believe that this last point is an error or misunderstanding that in the autobiography. From those who would have been at the Fillmore that night, only the Grateful Dead would have been visitors to Canada – and not until the July 29 through August 6 window. I don’t have The Doors in Canada until the following summer. Is it possible that Eric is confusing two events, or was Morrison tired and emotional and perhaps told a fib, could Eric have misheard?

    So in summary – I believe that Eric Burdon visit The Fillmore, was greeted by Janis Joplin and hung out with the bands on July 14, 1966. The Dead and Big Brother were playing, Bill Graham was overseeing security and making sure the bands made it on stage although he was not promoting the show. Jim Morrison was hanging out backstage and catching the “vibe” – he would not play the Fillmore until the following January. As for Canada, I guess we will never know.

  2. I like the analysis. Eric Burdon is well known to "remember" events that did not exactly occur as he recalled them, particularly if they involved Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. I wouldn't rule out Eric simply "adding" Jim Morrison to his memory of the July 14 show by substituting a different conversation.

    To give Eric a break here, all these musicians met each other backstage at numerous dark, smoky venues, and it has to have been hard to recall which night was which.

  3. I have added a few notes about July 14 to the Eric Burdon page. The Morrison involvement has been played down.