To chart-topping American acts like Steve Lawrence (“Go Away Little Girl”) and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs (“Sugar Shack”), 1963 have been a year filled up with guarantee. And then came the Beatles, whose dramatic arrival in January 1964 clearly posed a industrial threat. By the center of 1964, with Louis Armstrong (“Hello Dolly”) and Dean Martin (“Everybody Loves Somebody”) both possessing earned #1 pop hits, it could have seemed that the worst was a lot more than. But then came yet another blow by means of the Animals, whose signature hit, “House of The Rising Sun,” reached #1 on the U.S. pop charts with this day in 1964. Steeped in a musical idiom quite distinct from “She Loves You” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “House of The Rising Sun” hinted at an completely new type of attack from the forces of the British Invasion.
While the Beatles traced their roots to early stone, Eric Burdon, Alan Price and another founding members of the Animals traced theirs to American R&B and blues-the exact same musical influences then shaping future members of the Rolling Stones, Cream and Led Zeppelin. Formed within their native Newcastle in 1962, the Animals got their large break playing because the opening act for Chuck Berry on his 1964 tour of England. While other bands tended to close their acts with tough-charging rock-and-roll numbers, the Animals produced the idiosyncratic decision of closing theirs with a typical song from the American south, reworked right into a folk/blues/rock amalgam featuring Burdon’s growling lead vocal and Price’s pulsating organ line on the Vox Continental. “We were looking for a song that would grab people’s attention,” Burdon would later say, also it worked. Producer Mickie Most heard the Animals in 1964 and quickly arranged a recording contract. “House of The Rising Sun” was recorded in only 15 minutes in May 1964 and continued to top both American and British pop charts just four months later.
While some have claimed that the Animals’ rendition of “House of The Rising Sun” was lifted pretty straight from the version Bob Dylan recorded for his 1962 debut album, Dylan himself appears to have lifted his from fellow Greenwich Village folkie Dave Van Ronk. In any event, it had been the Animals’ version that topped the pop charts with this day in 1964 and made Dylan himself “jump out of his car seat” with enthusiasm when he initial heard it on the air.