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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

'60s British Star Recalls Impact of Era's Music

August 22, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 1964, Eric Burdon was on top of the musical world. This Saturday, he'll be in Glendale performing at the city's last Summer Street Concert of 1996.

Along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals were among the leading and most influential bands of the early British rock invasion of the 1960s.

The band, comprising vocalist Burdon, keyboardist Alan Price, guitarist Hilton Valentine, drummer John Steel and bassist Chas Chandler, formed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England in 1963. The group moved to London later that year and became a hot item in the city's blossoming rock club scene.

The next year, the Animals' recording of the folk song, "House of the Rising Sun," featuring a 23-year old Burdon delivering a mature-beyond-his-years vocal and Price's solid organ solo, sold several million copies and propelled the group to the forefront of the international music scene.

Other hits followed, including "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "I'm Crying," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," "It's My Life," and "Don't Bring Me Down."

Burdon, who now lives in Palm Springs, said he knew the band was doing some good work that would endure over time.

"To be honest, yes I did," Burdon said. "But on the other hand, not to this extent."

Burdon said his life in the early 1960s was like a dream. "You go day to day from town to town, and everyone knows your name, everyone identifies with you, who you are--the young rebel . . .

"Being a musician in the 60s was really something special. You were the entertainment of a universal peace movement."

By 1967, the original band had broken up. Burdon moved to California and dove headlong into the West Coast hippie lifestyle and psychedelia. He brought his considerable vocal talents to bear on recordings such as "San Franciscan Nights," "Monterey" "Sky Pilot" and "White Houses." It was the music from this period that Burdon remains most proud of today.

"It was because of what we were a part of," Burdon remembers. "We were the Brits, who were part of this fabric [in California]. The hippie movement in London was only one summer; it didn't make a lasting generation like it did in the States."

In 1970, Burdon and harmonica player Lee Oskar formed the band War and recorded two albums with the group, the first of which contained the hit single "Spill The Wine."

Since then, various other music projects, collaborations and reunions have followed, along with some film acting gigs for Burdon. He wrote his autobiography, "I Used to Be an Animal, But I'm Alright Now," in 1986. Burdon and the other members of the Animals were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. But still, Burdon can't help waxing nostalgic for the '60s.

"In the 1960s, we produced some great joyous things," he said. "My heart is really warm when I see young kids coming to my gigs."

Last month, former Animal bassist Chandler died of an aortic aneurysm. After his Animal days, Chandler became a manager for other rock acts, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Burdon and Chandler had had differences in the past, but Burdon said he regrets not having said goodbye to an old friend.

"We were the best of friends in the best of times," Burdon said. "It's a shame I didn't make it over there to have one last drink with him."

In May, Burdon toured with the Best of British Blues tour along with Alvin Lee, Aynsley Dunbar and others.

After that tour, Burdon formed a new band, which has been making demos, but he doesn't sound terribly enthusiastic about anything they've done so far. Saturday's show in Glendale will feature more of his older material.

"We're still dishing out the old Animal stuff," he said. "But I make it a habit that I never sing the same song twice, and once in a while, we'll slide in something new."

Burdon blames the state of today's music on music television. "MTV has negatively influenced everything--music, fashion, movies, even news gathering," Burdon said.

"I'm at my best when I improvise and feed off the musicians. It's like finding a fresh clear pool to dive in, or a blank canvas.

"Hopefully, we'll have some new, exciting music next year," Burdon said. "I hope."

* Eric Burdon, Iron Butterfly, the Spencer Davis Group perform from 6-11 p.m Saturday at Brand Boulevard and Wilson Avenue in Glendale's final Summer Street Concert. Free. Call (818) 548-6464.

*

Canadian Song Set: Singer-songwriter Ted Wallace, who's playing at the Hot House this Wednesday, moved to Los Angeles from his native Canada about four years ago.

"The weather was a vast improvement," Wallace said of the move. But the weather was not his only motivation. Wallace had decided to move to either Los Angeles or Nashville to ply his songwriting craft.

Los Angeles won.

Wallace's first CD, "My Father's Car," has just been released. When Wallace's father died about 18 months ago, he inherited his dad's 1995 Oldsmobile. Rather than drive the car cross-country, Wallace decided to sell the car and use the money to finance his CD.

Although he looks like a younger version of singer-songwriter James Taylor, Wallace's voice is evocative of fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot. But, his music has more of a rock edge than either of those two.

"When the song starts to write itself," he said, "you know you're on to something good."

* Ted Wallace performs Wednesday at the Hot House, 12123 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood. No cover. Call (818) 506-7058.

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