ALAN PRICE huddled in an armchair, shivering despite being wrapped in a huge blanket. His fellow Animals were their usual sympathetic selves. For instance, John Steele consoled him with: “Don’t worry about a thing, Alan, we’ve put in the ad for a new organist. Just try to hold out until we’ve auditioned the applicants.”
In truth, though, Alan was not much more “indisposed” than his colleagues. They’d come back from America feeling shattered and had only just begun to recover when they voluntarily immersed themselves in the pre-Christmas party spirit. These five wild Newcastle revellers seem to be constantly engaged in endurance tests. (Chas Chandler, instead of taking things easy during a week’s holiday, went to Hamburg — Europe’s hottest city — and came back in a state of near-collapse; now he’s trying to interest the group in playing a couple of days there in February!).
The night — and morning — before my visit to their mews cottage in Holland Park, London, Alan and Chas had been about to go to bed when the rest of The Animals arrived with George Harrison and others bent on having a party.
The neighbours in this once-sleepy mews have been amazingly kind and tolerant. Even the sight and sound of an American actor, Dennis Hopper, strutting around outside the house cracking a monstrous bull-whip brought only one mild comment from a neighbour who enquired: “Was that The Animals’ trainer?”
“We’ve only ever had one serious complaint about noise,” said Chas, “and that had an unfortunate consequence. Later, the postman told us that somebody else, further up the street, wanted some autographed pictures so we gave them to him. Then he went and delivered them to the wrong address — to the people who had complained! He was handed the pictures back in silence.”
For the next couple of weeks The Animals, are likely to be a little tamer, off stage, than usual: they are gathering strength for their third visit to America (from January 18). This time they are going for important TV dates, including The Ed Sullivan Show.
America is a subject that endlessly fascinates the boys. All of them, but Eric Victor Burdon in particular, had been aching to see the country that produced the kind of music they love. Now they’ve seen it their admiration is mixed with horrifying memories. John Steele remembers being warned by Negroes not to go into any Harlem side street. “Not because we are white but because anybody would be done up, no matter what colour.” Eric remembers a posh hotel manager apologising and saying that they were not welcome there because the owner didn’t like them. “The only possible explanation was that we were bringing Negro friends into the bar with us. I told the manager I understood that he couldn’t help living in such a rotten place.” They remember going into a swimming pool in the South with their Negro road manager, Sonny. All the other bathers immediately got out of the water. While having drinks in a hotel room with famous American deejays a little dog came in and went round everyone, wagging his tail to be patted. But Sonny, the only black man there, was ignored. As the prejudiced dog left Sonny said: “Yeah, we sure are in the South!”
Worst of all they remember the violence. “It’s a violent country and this even affects the fans,” said Eric. “Never, in Britain, have we been so knocked about. One girl who was trying to get at Hilton had to be put in a strait jacket and taken off to hospital.”
Said Alan: “I once took off my tie and threw it into the audience. But it landed round a cop’s shoulders. Girls grabbed, at both ends and the cop went purple. They very nearly strangled him before he shook them off.”
Said John: “I threw some fans a tie and none would let go. They all hung on to it until somebody fetched a pair of scissors and cut them a little piece each.”
Chas, who’s quite the largest Animal, had to have the help of three policemen to remove a massive girl who got him in a bear hug.
Girls who can afford it will check into the hotels The Animals use. The others will sleep in nearby doorways, always making sure that somebody is watching out for the sight of an Animal. One girl lost a finger in a door. Another has written to Alan telling him he’s going to have his face smashed in when he returns. His crime: he didn’t reply to her fan-letter.
Still, there is a bright side to the fan-fever. Hilton Valentine is still keeping up his aim of writing to as many lovely girls as possible. He’s had one grateful letter from a parent thanking him for writing to her daughter. It seems the girl was behaving dreadfully until she received a note from Hilton which cheered her up and restored her to the bosom of her family!
Most startling of all, three young Brooklyn girls saved up $800 (nearly £300) and sent The Animals some marvellous clothes, including jumpers and leather jackets. These clothes are worn at home but they are unlikely to be worn when they return to New York.
“We don’t want them ripped to bits,” said Eric. “And over there they don’t just take bits of clothing as souvenirs. They take bits of you if they can.”
Fortunately, The Animals have now become proficient escape artistes. All the same, it is by no means certain that The Animals will be able to return to England in just five pieces.
© David Griffiths, Record Mirror, 2 January 1965