The Animals: Did you EVER think Eric was a Folk Artiste? Well, he IS! Read why here

THE EXCELLENT Eric Burdon flew into London for a brief break in his American activities. We talked long about the scene. What emerged was a rather puzzled, disillusioned, but optimistic Eric. As ever, he was a delight to listen to; tough in his opinions. Here’s a breakdown, in quotes, from our chat.

“I’m disappointed in the British scene — the general scene, not just for records. But now I’m stretching out towards films. We’re doing The Death Of Harry Farmer, being made by two young brothers, Roger and Gerald Sindell, for Associated Film-makers. It’s being made in Los Angeles, with location work in New Mexico, San Francisco and so on.

“Really it’s the story of San Francisco. The dope thing. How the people there got hung up by the Mafia and so on. Kids out there thinking it’s a groove, but really dying on methedrine. How groups have broken away from ‘Frisco and got together on communal farms in the desert. It’s the story of one of these.

“It’ll take me through to October. And then? I don’t know right now. But this British scene — surely people could see the way it was going here. Anybody should have seen it three years ago.

“Take the Bonnie And Clyde thing. Here it received a different reaction completely to America. Here it was the fashion side that registered. Nobody took notice of the actual message, the violence side, which was what Beatty tried to get across.

“Still, America is AT WAR now. That’s what we forget. There are kids there in various age groups who can be called up and taken away and be killed at war. Violence has no relevance here. There they live with it twenty-four hours a day.

“Me, I’m going through changes now. I accept them. There are periods for an artiste where you have to say things right out loud. Take my LP, cut in America — Winds Of Change, which is a dedication to people in the business I learned from.

“‘Sky Pilot’ is an integral part of that album. So it didn’t do well here — again, because it has no relevance. But for me it was a matter of putting the boot in against the British aloof attitude. Anyway, a priest in America rang me up and said he agreed with the sentiments of the record, about padres urging men into war. Twenty years ago, the church in America raised the same issues.

“I could have released ‘Monterey’, a nice amiable song, as the single. But I wanted to shock the British attitudes. Come to that, I could have brought out an LP of pseudo-American blues songs, just as expected. But trying to find myself. The closer I get to myself, the further I get away from myself.

“Really ‘Sky Pilot’ was folk music of the time. The last line quotes the Bible… ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’. Really I’m a folk singer. Take the Beach Boys and their ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ — it was folk music of the time. I never thought I’d get round to sounding in that idiom… representing folk music of the moment.

“I’d been studying sacred music of the world. All over, it’s all on the same wavelength. Negro spirituals, Indian music, Spanish. On ‘Sky Pilot’ I represented war by the most warlike and hard sounds — the bagpipes. Certainly the Scottish people have that warlike edge. So they represented war and then came the gentleness of the sitar.

“There’s a track on the LP ‘We Love You Lil’, an instrumental based on Lili Marlene. I wanted to give proof of the strength of music. Both German and British armies sang that same song to give them inspiration during the war.

“Music is simply a religion to me. I live it, eat it, drink it, sleep it. People who just churn it out, like on a factory line— I don’t like that. That muzak we’re hearing now — it’s nothing. Every musician should aspire to something great. To me, that something great would be Ravi Shankar — all he stands for.

“Not every musician need go the same way. But that factory music — it’s just empty and soulless. Now we get this argument about rock ‘n’ roll coming back. Rock and roll is folk music. The Beatles are the greatest folk artistes — that’s the way I think.

“In America now, there are companies developing the idea of LP’s in colour. You go home, plug in and while the record is playing you get a picture representing the music on your television screen in colour. I’d want to get in on that. A musical sight-and-sound trip on an album. Come to that, I want the group to become a musical touring theatrical company. We have this light show coming now. We show pictures of the Pope, then of Hitler, then of the two together. It’s because each is an extreme of the two sides, violence and peace. And when the circle continues, they come close together.

“But as I say Britain and the scene here is disappointing. Things like Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, purporting to show Britain — it’s rubbish. I’ve found pretty well what I want to say in my music — and it just happens that it gets through in America but here we’re too far away for it to have any relevance.”

Eric and his new manager, friendly American Kevin Deverich, had to move on. Between them, they’d covered a lot of ground.

A parting word from Eric: he’s got some personally-taken exclusives of some of America’s top artistes. They’ll be appearing in Record Mirror. Watch out for them in a few weeks.

© Peter JonesRecord Mirror, 30 March 1968

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