The Animals had hit the ground running with “House of the Rising Sun”, which topped the US and UK charts in 1964. Bob Dylan had previously recorded the folk song about a brothel in New Orleans, but the Animals took it to Number One. This song was the perfect vehicle for their powerful take on rhythm and blues, highlighted by Eric Burdon’s gritty howl. The quintet was made up of lead singer Burdon, Hilton Valentine on guitar, Alan Price on keyboards, Bryan “Chas” Chandler on bass, and John Steel on the drums.
The boys first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on October 18th 1964. With young girls screaming their lungs out, The Animals took the audience hostage as they played “I’m Crying” followed by their #1 hit “House of the Rising Sun.” The audience got so out of control that Sullivan had to shush them several times.
Eric Burden remembers, “I was making my way to CBS one time to do The Sullivan Show, and I ran down this back alley and got cornered and I had to get rescued by a couple of New York cops, and the kids were so wild, one cop lost his badge and his cap and his gun, I think, and the other one backed into a corner and he had a night stick, and he put the night stick across this doorway, and I was in the doorway. And the hounds were like this, and the door under the pressure just gave in, and I fell in through the door and landed in somebody’s front room.”
For their second appearance on January 24, 1965 The Animals performed “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” These early shows recorded some of The Animals best performances as they energetically charged the audience. Although Burdon’s singing was emotionally raw, he came off as shy and somewhat awkward.
During 1965, they did two more Sullivan shows, singing “Bright Lights Big City,” “Bring it Home to Me” and “The Work Song.” On February 6, 1966 they again appeared, and performed the hit “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Inside Looking Out.” For their last appearance on August 14th 1966, they sang Sam Cooke’s “Shake” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” But by this time, they had begun to disintegrate.
The original lineup of the group only recorded three albums, yet nevertheless managed to break out eight Top 40 hits between 1964 and 1966. Price left in 1965, and Steel the following year. Also in 1966, Chandler left to start managing talent, and it was he who discovered Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village. Now a very different group, they were known as Eric Burdon & The Animals, and had six additional Top 40 hits before finally disbanding in 1968.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at reunions, The Animals got together for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 1996, Chandler died in his sleep from a heart attack, and Rowberry died of heart failure in 2003. The Ed Sullivan Show remains an integral part of the group’s history. In a recent interview with The Examiner, Burdon recalls The Ed Sullivan Show as “Long hours of continuous rehearsals, but if you didn’t do the show, you went nowhere. It seems like he liked us. We were invited back to the show many times. Six appearances in all.”