The Animals concocted an unusual recipe for their breakthrough hit and signature song – a century-old tune about a New Orleans brothel. The song hailed as “the first folk-rock hit” MA and a “classic…of the British Invasion” WK may date back to 18th century American settlers WK as an African-American folk song. SF Folklorist Alan Lomax archived several versions in the ‘30s or it might have been lost forever. WK The song was recorded by Roy Acuff, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Frankie Laine, and Bob Dylan, among others. WK
Drummer John Steel says Dylan’s version inspired them. “We followed the same chord sequence and we just made it electric.” HL They also took a cue from Dylan on refining the song’s bawdy lyrics, BR1 changing the perspective of a Southern girl trapped in a whorehouse RS500 to a gambling, boozing man. WK Ironically, Dylan abandoned playing the song live because people assumed he was copying the Animals. WK
Singer Eric Burdon claims to have heard folk singer Johnny Handle cover the song at a club in Newcastle WK although other reports say he heard Josh White’s version at ten years old. BR1 Regardless, Burdon thought it would distinguish the Animals from Chuck Berry, for whom the group was opening at the time. BR1 The song got a positive enough audience response to convince producer Mickie Most to record it. WK
While it is uncertain whether the Rising Sun is real or fictional, WK one account says it is named after Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (French for “Rising Sun”) and operated from 1862 to 1874 in New Orleans. WK
Supposedly on the advice that everyone’s names wouldn’t fit, only Alan Price was credited with arranging the traditional song. That meant only he got the songwriting royalties, a source of discontent which eventually split the band. KL
The House of the Rising Sun
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for “The House of the Rising Sun”
- The Animals’ DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
- BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 156.
- HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh. (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 90.
- KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 100.
- MA Dave Marsh. (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 65.
- RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
- SF Songfacts.com
- WK Wikipedia.org