July 25, ’64: Animals ‘Rising Sun’ Debuts, Causes Rift

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The U.K. release. Note: “Trad. Arr. A. Price”

It was the biggest chart hit ever by The Animals, a band from Newcastle, England who played R&B music, eventually hitting #1 on both the British and American pop charts. But the credits on the single brought longstanding strife to the band.

As a public domain folk blues song (i.e., never originally copyrighted), artists could take an arrangement credit when they recorded it and receive songwriter royalties. The group was told when they tracked “The House of the Rising Sun” in May 1964 in one take that they would all share that income for their version.

An ad for the single that appeared in the July 25, 1964 issue of Record World

But when the single was released in the U.S. on July 25 on MGM Records, the only name credited as “writer” was that of keyboard player Alan Price. (It was already a #1 hit in the U.K.) The group were told by their management that it was because all of their names wouldn’t fit on the 45 RPM record label. But Price was the only band member who ever received the songwriter income, which no doubt eased his transition to a solo career when he left the Animals in the summer of 1965.

There was also a debate over the origins of the band’s version. Bob Dylan recorded it on his 1962 debut album, using an arrangement he learned from fellow Greenwich Village folk artist Dave Van Ronk. The similarities led that to be thought of as where the Animals learned the song. The group’s singer Eric Burdon says he first heard it sung by British folk artist Johnny Handle at a Newcastle club.

Related: Review of Eric Burdon at Monterey Pop Festival 2017

The Animals’ version of the classic rock song is one of eight Top 10 singles they would earn in the U.K. Songs like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” would follow.

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