Hear 2 Zen Hangs With: John Steel From The Animals

Hear 2 Zen Hangs With: John Steel From The Animals

Today we are hanging out with legendary drummer, and Rock n Roll Hall of Famer, John Steele from The Animals.

The Animals announce their 60th Anniversary “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” – The band’s Final Tour of Australia.

The Animals’ impact and influence is undeniable. They created some of the most iconic songs in popular music history including – ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, ‘The House of The Rising Sun’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, ‘It’s My Life’, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘Boom Boom’ and more all of which will be performed on this Greatest Hits Final Tour.

The Animals were “one of the most important bands” in the British Invasion. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were the headliners, whilst The Animals were the backbone of blues!

Britannia Ruled the airwaves in 1964. In the front ranks, marching in formation behind the Beatles were The Animals who became the second British band to top the American charts after The Beatles. Featuring original member John Steel alongside Danny Handley, Bobby Ruiz and Barney “Boogie” Williams, music fans can expect a fantastic concert of the Best of The Animals.

John Steel first formed The Animals when he and Eric Burden met as art-school dropouts.

“We started off as the Pagan Jazzmen and we morphed into the Pagans, a slightly R&B rock outfit. We played a church hall in Byker [East Newcastle] and this kid from another band who was a rhythm guitar player came over and said, ‘Can I sit in?’ and there was an old upright piano, so we said, ‘Sure’. He hammered this piano with a left hand boogie style. We went, ‘Oh come on, you’re in the wrong band, you should be playing piano, not guitar!’ This was Alan Price and that’s how we became a keyboard driven band.”

When the band found a 1956 album by Joe Turner called Boss of the Blues, the guys lifted a couple of numbers off the album and called themselves the Kansas City Five and after many incarnations and members coming and going, finally settled on calling themselves the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo – later changing their name to The Animals when they moved to London. According to folklore ‘animals’ described their wild stage act and the name stuck.

The Animals performed fiery versions of the staple rhythm-and-blues repertoire, covering songs by artists such as Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone.

Signed to EMI’s Columbia label, their first single was a rocking version of the standard “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” (retitled “Baby Let Me Take You Home”) In June 1964, the transatlantic number-one hit “The House of the Rising Sun” was released, creating perhaps the first folk-rock hit. It topped the charts in the UK, US and Canada and tells a cautionary tale of a person’s life gone wrong in New Orleans.

Steel explains his memory upon first hearing the song.

“Well to be honest, the first time I ever heard it was on Bob Dylan’s first album, all acoustic. Then I learned that it had been around for donkey’s years and nobody knew who originally wrote it. I’m pretty sure regardless of all the stories, it was the first time any of us had heard it. We liked it. We loved that album. I knew there was something special – the rising sun stood out. Since then, it’s been sung by Led Zeppelin, Josh White, all sorts of people around the world.”

The track was reportedly recorded in just one take with producer Mickie Most. ‘House of the Rising Sun’ remains one of Steel’s favourite songs today and its longevity is not lost on him.

“One minute we were five working- class Geordie lads just having a nibble at the charts with ‘Baby Let Me Take You Home’ and the next minute we’re jetting off to America with a number one. It had an enormous effect on us and apart from that, it’s a bloody good song. I still think it’s the definitive version, in electric terms anyway.”

The other well-known hits The Animals still perform today are all classics in every sense of the word.

‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’ was chosen as the anthem for the US armed forces during the Vietnam War and is still sung by high school kids on the last day of school.

Steel loves to perform with The Animals, the only remaining original member to do so. He is constantly amazed at the families and vast age ranges who attend their shows.

It’s just us onstage with our instruments, playing and we love what we do and I think it comes across. We get a standing ovation every time, so we must be doing something right I guess!”

THE ANIMALS February / March 2024 Australian Tour Dates

Tuesday 20th February NEWCASTLE, Lizottes
Wednesday 21st February WOLLONGONG, Centro CBD
Friday 23rd February PADDINGTON, RSL
Saturday 24th February ROZELLE, Bridge Hotel
Sunday 25th TWEED HEADS, Twin Towns
Wednesday 28th ADELAIDE, The Gov
Friday 1st March ALBURY, SS & A Club Saturday
2nd March DONCASTER, Wanstock 2024 @ Shoppingtown Hotel