An Animal Roars Again: The Eric Burdon Interview, Part 1
As lead vocalist for the '60s British Invasion band the Animals, Eric Burdon fronted what was perhaps the toughest R&B-influenced group from the era (sorry, Stones fans), and had a second incarnation exploring psychedelic music.
In his collaborations with War, Burdon pushed the boundaries of improvisational jamming and started the group on a career of its own. And as a solo artist, he's freely followed his musical muse with little regard to satisfying anybody but himself, wherever that may have led him.
Now, the 71-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member is out with 'Til Your River Runs Dry (ABKCO). Its dozen tracks, ten of which he wrote or co-wrote, explore a wide variety of lyrical topics, from water conservation and border security to death, drugs, Hurricane Katrina, Obama, his friend Jimi Hendrix, love, and Bo Diddley.
In this two-part interview, Rocks Off spoke with Burdon about the record, his long career, a surprise collaboration with Bruce Springsteen at last year's SXSW, and how he scored pot in Houston during the aftermath of Hurricane Alicia.
Rocks Off: So, how does this record stand out for you artistically from your other solo projects?
Eric Burdon: It took longer to do, that's for sure, the longest recording process I've been involved with. In fact, there's enough material for two albums. I've got to stay in the game, stay on top of it.
I used to be the guy who didn't like to be in a studio. We could cut entire records sometimes in a few days or weeks. But I wanted a lot more for this one. We used three different locations and a lot of different musicians.
RO: I wanted to ask about a few particular songs on the record. You have "The River Is Rising," which was inspired by the story of Fats Domino during Hurricane Katrina. You told Rolling Stone that it was "the greatest piece of music you've ever been involved with." That's saying something.
EB: The story is intriguing. We were in the studio doing a previous album and watching the Katrina debacle on TV. I started to conjure up a song that would be a remembrance. I read the story of Fats Domino being trapped in his house and the first responders [who] thought he was dead and they put a red cross on his door and moved on. And he was actually just asleep! They sent a helicopter rescue and the photo of him being pulled out of the water gave me the idea for the story that goes with the song.
The strange thing is that before I recorded it, onstage I would improvise this chant that went "Yeah....the riving is rising...yeah." And the audiences would sing along with me, and they'd never heard it before. That was an incredible sign to me. So I did more thought and research and we went to New Orleans to record it, with some great players including guys who played with Fats.