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.

The band’s Chas Chandler was asked whose idea it was to release it as a single. “We fought our manager and our producer for weeks to convince them to allow us to record that,” he told Best Classic Bands’ editor Jeff Tamarkin. “And to give Mickie Most his due, the day after we recorded it, he rang us back and said it was the single.”

Price was asked if he was surprised at how well it did.

“I knew it was a monster right away,” he told Tamarkin. “I remember Hilton [Valentine] always saying it was definitely a hit.”

Valentine said, “Mickie Most was talking about getting it used as the signature tune for [British rock TV program] Ready, Steady, Go!, because that was on the air every Friday. Radio wouldn’t play it.”

I don’t remember it like this at all,” said Price, “because it was a hit two weeks after it was released. Its first 10 days of release it got no airplay. Then it got Ready, Steady, Go! on a Friday and it was a hit a few days later.

We were playing it on a Chuck Berry tour we did and all the kids came away from the tour remembering that song,” Burdon told us. “We recorded it mid-tour. We did it in one take, they pressed it and shipped it, those fans bought it and it had initial impact. Then we did RSG, the radio wouldn’t play it, but on Saturday morning it was a hit. The next week it was number one all the way.”

Chandler recalled, “Two weeks after that it was number one in America, two weeks after that it was number one in Japan.”

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.

Related: A “lost” interview with the five original members on their early days

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  1. Muddywatersmann
    #1 Muddywatersmann 26 July, 2021, 02:22

    The RIFT is that Alan Price, as far as I know, got ALL the royalties, and never shared the $$$ with rest of the band members….I have heard Eric Burdon speak about it on misc youtube interviews…not cool, imo!

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