* LEGENDS * SPILL THE WINE: An Exclusive Interview with the Iconic ERIC BURDON

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 666   By: Robert 'Bo' White

21st August, 2008     0

Eric Burdon is a bona fide rock & roll hall-of-famer with a career spanning over four decades.  For Eric it all began back in 1963 when he stepped in front of the microphone as the front man for British stalwarts The Animals.  Along with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks, he helped define the 'British Invasion'.

By 1967 Burdon reformatted the band with a whole new lineup and a more progressive sound as Eric Burdon & the Animals. After many magical moments from the Monterey Pop Festival, Burdon penned some of the most astonishing music of the late sixties including San Franciscan Nights, Sky Pilot, White Houses, and a Girl Named Sandoz.

In the early seventies Burdon joined with War to create a rich body of work that included the psychedelic Spill The Wine and the peace and brotherhood anthem They Can't Take Away Our Music.

He's recorded with Jimmy Witherspoon and a host of others and just recently released Soul of a Man to critical acclaim. This writer interviewed Eric shortly before his headlining appearance at Hippiefest held at DTE in Clarkston Michigan

Review:   I read "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood and was impressed that a tough Newcastle lad could be so kind and sentimental - quite a difference from other bios that were filled with narcissism and name dropping. How do you see your personal evolution? How is it that you found your balance and integrity? 

Eric Burdon: I am just a sentimental pussy at heart but being from Newcastle on an English /Scottish borderlands, we have a reputation for being a tough lot. So you have to have a front, plenty of face. Having a strong voice helped me to get through it.

Review: Did anyone in particular contribute to your change?

I had a teacher at school that changed my life. All it takes is one, you know.
And I never understood why teachers don't get paid more. Our early development and our kid's lives depend on them.

Review: In your book you talk about your recording of House of the Rising Son as a career-defining momentŠand finding the actual "House" is New Orleans and being heartened by its beautyŠ

I remember like it was yesterday, the day I first visited the House, on St Louis Street in the French Quarter. But it's all over since Katrina hit the city. Now "New Orleans" is just a sweet memory for me.

Review: You also mentioned that the fabulous Don't Let Me Down (what a great production and incredible lead vocalŠthe fuzz tone guitar riff was way cool) as one of your favorites. Are there other songs from your rich catalog of music that you consider amongst your best or personal favorites?

: Back in the mid 60's recording in the field, so to speak, was a very rare event. But we flew a 4 track recording board out to Nassau in the Bahamas. One of the tracks we cut was Don't Bring Me Down, which proves to me that the art of recording is to capture the atmosphere of the moment, bringing it down to earth and putting it on tape. A few days later a fight in the band really got out of hand and quite destructive. I'd had enough. I headed for California and put together the New Animals.

Review: I always loved Sky Pilot the ballsy anti-war message, the perfectly nuanced lead vocal, layered instrumentation - and those incredible bagpipes, a great bass line and soaring harmonies. Have you ever performed it live? If so how were you able to re-create the sound? Did it go over well?  The message still resonates today with the world on the brink of destruction. How do you view your anti-war/pro peace spiritual masterpiece today in the context of current warfare?

Since I recorded the song I performed it many times live. But the original recording burns bright in my memory. It happened at a time that the Royal Scotch Guards pipe and drum marching band were on a good will tour of the US. We managed to assemble them in the studio at 9.00am. We paid them in cases of beer. The song I wrote refers to World War I Army Chaplains, which the troops refer to as Sky Pilots. At the time I saw on the TV a news report from Vietnam where a priest was blessing napalm bombs with holy water. I was repulsed. Coming from a military family, except for my father, who was a conscientious objector. I cannot ignore or lose respect for the warrior credo. But it makes me sick to see young men wasted on a wrong war at a wrong time over a big lie.

Review: How do you keep and nurture your energy and inspiration to perform?

I don't think about it 'til I step up to the microphone and face the crowd.

Review:  The portrait you paint in your autobiography about the unsavory business practices in the music industry is a tragic yet familiar story. Have you regained the rights to your Animals catalog?  How do you see the role of the music licensing agencies - ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the corruption of the music business? Do they protect your properties?

I really believe that the music business is one of the most heartless septic pools filled with bottom feeders and that artists for most of the part are eaten alive due to their good hearts and innocence. At the moment, I'm in the middle of a fight to gain the name "The Animals" in the UK. Otherwise, it's a wonderful world.

Review: What is the set list for your current tour/Hippie Fest? With such a massive catalog how did you decide which songs to include?

It's really difficult to decide. Half an hour on stage is like 5 minutes when you are up there. The guys in the band don't get the chance to have a solo. The truth is we are doing our best to please everyone. This time, I have added a great violin player, Bobby Furgo, to recreate the sound of the psychedelic era. Jack Bruce is great and we have a lot of fun with Flo and Eddie

Review: In your autobiography, you described your use of mind-altering substances such as LSD. What effect did the use of drugs have on your creative process and performances?  Albert Hoffman, the chemist who created LSD recently died. Your song A Girl Named Sandoz seemed to be a tribute of Dr. Hoffman. Did you ever meet him? How did Hoffman influence you?

I never got to meet the good doctor, but in order to celebrate his memory I took my last LSD trip the day he died. It was difficult to explain then in the 60's and it's impossible to explain it now.

Review: I loved your early R&B/Blues songs especially BOOM BOOM BOOM. John Lee Hooker lived in Detroit for several years and a few of his friends have played my club - Alberta Adams and Johnny Bassett. Bassett was a TOTAL gentleman and called Alberta just before she went onstage to wish her luck. Do you find yourself and your friends doing the same thing before a gig?

John Lee was a beautiful man. I stayed at his home in Detroit back in the sixties. He invited me to play his last birthday party at Humphrey's in San Diego. In June 2001, I was recording my album "My Secret Life" in LA when I heard the news that John Lee was dead. The same day I recorded a song "Can't Kill the Boogieman" in dedication.
Review: One of your former bandmates from War said that you were an inspiring presence and that you taught them the art of improvising. Some of your Animals records sound like you were improvising lyrically in songs like It's My Life. True? Or was the improvising in rehearsal simply written into the songs?

Don't matter to me if the song I record was written by someone else or self-penned. When it comes to recording, it's normal for me to jam out some extra emotions, to put down my own personal stamp on tracks. My early background is in Jazz, from back in New Castle when I was a kid, and it just won't go away.

Review: What's your weirdest drunk ?

These days I just enjoy a good glass of red wine.


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