EVERYONE is talking about the new Animals. But few have spared a thought for the new Eric Burdon with “bluesynite,” the wonder ingredient which enables a body to stay awake 24 hours a day – rehearsing a new group by daylight and living it up after dark at the Scotch of St. James.
Healthier, happier and less hairy, our Eric loped across the road, from his London agency office to consume breakfast with me – a Holstein lager!
“Do you realise there are pelicans in St. James’ Park?” he asked me, and waited for my look of wonder. “I was in the park at six o’clock this morning and there they were – big beaks and everything. I’ve never been up that early before. It’s beautiful.”
One can only assume that the sight of Burdon bouncing about in his Korean combat jacket, dark yellow tinted glasses, faded blue jeans and black zip boots, must have had an equally profound effect on the pelicans.
I hasten to add that all this early-morning activity had nothing to do with that excellent adage “Early to bed and early to rise…” It was simply that, following a late-night party with Beatles Harrison and Lennon, Eric had omitted to go to bed.
“George has really sorted himself out since his trip to India,” Eric told me. “He’s such a peaceful guy now. We get on very well together with our ideas on life, although he cannot figure out my obsession with weapons. Guns and knives give him the horrors.
“I tell him it’s not that I would ever use them on another person; it’s simply to me they have a fascination because of their finality. To me a gun can be a beautiful thing, even though it may be used for evil purposes.
“I believe that within the next ten years we will be involved in a nuclear war. That frightens me to death, but it’s almost inevitable.
“People say that no one will drop the bomb because everyone is afraid of it. People were afraid of the flint, but they used it to light fires…and fire guns. The saddest thing is that there are about four or five people in the world who could prevent nuclear war if they got into power, but I doubt if they will.”
Following these somewhat pessimistic speculations we dealt with the new John Winston Lennon.
“Completely changed,” said Eric. “You’d never believe it. He came over to me at the party, and said: ‘How are you, Eric?’ and ‘How’s the new group?’
“I asked him about his film role in How I Won The War, and he said: ‘Great, but if the film is a success, it will be due to the other actors and the director!'”
Modesty is apparently now a Beatle called Lennon. Far be it from me to state I preferred the sound of the old one but then perhaps he was just tired after winning the war!
But what of our very own Eric, you may ask? Well, plans are afoot, and Burdon appears to be running a one-man campaign to bring back the “Rock.”
“We’re rehearsing a number of early Presley numbers for the stage act, including ‘Jail House Rock’ and Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’,” revealed Eric. “We’re also doing our own versions of the Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’, the Beatles’ ‘Love Me Do’, and Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’.”
Expected to join the new Animals group in a few weeks is Vic Briggs from the Brian Auger Trinity, which will give them two lead guitarists.
“This will enable our present lead guitarist to double on amplified violin,” said Eric, nonchalantly.
“We’re working on the amplification of this instrument to such a pitch that it will sound like a string section.”
Burdon with strings on is something not to be missed, and the effect of echo and reverberation on the instrument has an almost orchestral effect which must be heard!
“I stopped dead musically with the old Animals,” said Eric. “Now we’re moving forward experimenting with our own compositions and sounds. I want the next single to be by the group, and I want it to be something new.
“‘Help Me Girl’ is just an interval disc. I didn’t really want to release it at all, but I was frightened people might forget about me altogether unless something went out.”
Eric is still reeling under the impression that Brian Epstein’s presentation of the Four Tops at the Saville Theatre made on him.
“When I walked in I thought it was like the Apollo in the U.S. We really deserve a National Theatre to showcase pop music in this country after all that has happened in the last year, and Brian told me that this was what he was trying to do. I can’t wait to see the next presentation – if it’s as good as the Four Tops it’ll really establish the concerts.”
Having swallowed his lager, Eric made off to rejoin the pelicans. Every time I meet him I get the feeling he has no right to be a pop star at all. But Burdon, with his down-to-earth ways, is someone very real on an image-ridden scene.
© Keith Altham, New Musical Express, 3 December 1966