The lead singer of the Animals looks back on the Boss’ epic praise, and what it was like during the 1960s music heyday
When Bruce Springsteen gushes like a fan boy, it’s impressive. But that’s what the Boss did during his epic 2012 keynote speech at the South By Southwest music conference when he mentioned the Animals.
Singer-songwriter Eric Burdon, who will perform Wednesday at the Keswick Theater, reveals what it’s like to be among Springsteen’s favorite artists, why the Animals’ material still holds up and what it was like to experience Jimi Hendrix before he became an icon.
Q: I was in the audience when Bruce Springsteen picked up a guitar during his SXSW keynote and played a bit of “We Gotta Get out of this Place” and said, ’that’s three-quarters of every song I’ve ever written.” How cool was it when Bruce noted that he was so inspired by the Animals?
A: I thought it was very generous and brave of him to give us such high praise. It was a very moving experience to have our working class roots cited as one of his biggest influences. He is a true gentleman.
I understood what he was saying, since his work has always been very conscious of the working people, social justice. It meant a lot to me and it certainly put me in the spotlight.
Q: Also, I always wanted to ask about when you sang “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” with Bruce later than evening at Austin City Limits. How did that happen? He made it seem like it was a coincidence. Was that so or was it planned?
A: No it wasn’t planned. It was a coincidence. No doubt about it.
I had no clue whatsoever that he was in Austin, that he was a keynote speaker and that he was in fact going to talk about us in such a generous way. I was doing a radio appearance, as the Boss was giving his keynote address, half a city away. (Wife/manager) Marianna came in and showed me his speech as it was happening, on her cellphone. Sometimes, technology is amazing. I tweeted him to acknowledge his kind words and, to my surprise, I received an answer back from him. Before I knew it, I was on stage performing with him and the E Street Band.
Q: Nils Lofgren told me that he had no idea that you would perform. It’s so cool since so much in rock is orchestrated. How cool is that Bruce calls audibles?
A: I am glad to hear Nils had no idea about it. That makes two of us. It’s a long story how the entire night unfolded.
Q: The Animals’ classics still hold up. What is it about those songs that are so timeless?
A: We had brilliant songwriters at the Brill Building send us songs constantly. If they sent something we thought was too “pop” for us, we would pass it along to Peter Noone for Herman’s Hermits. Carole King once chastised me for the way we did “Don’t Bring Me Down.” I think she learned to love it once it became a hit. Randy Newman, the best writer at the time, sent me “Mama Told Me Not to Come”
Q: How competitive was it during the ’60s between other bands?
A: In the beginning it wasn’t competitive at all. We were all brothers under the same canopy of blues. It was a very cooperative scene. The Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and Manfred Mann in London; the Beatles. I do remember Mick Jagger taunting me when we went to see Charlie Inez Foxx perform his song “Mockingbird”, telling me he was going to “copy those moves before you do, Eric Burdon!” But I wasn’t a dancer and I had no intention of trying to copy Foxx. All I had then and all I have now is my voice.
Q: What was it like when you first saw Hendrix?
A: One day he came over and he didn’t have his guitar with him. That was rare. He asked one of the guys in my band if he could borrow a guitar to jam. Vic Briggs offered up his guitar and he just woke up everybody. We were thunderstruck after he did his virtuoso jam as he just walked out as he walked in.... See you later! Our heads were spinning.
If You Go
Eric Burdon appears Wednesday at the Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside Tickets are $39.50 and $79.50. Show time is 8 p.m. For more information: 215-572-7650 or keswicktheatre.com