Manfred Mann versus the Animals
I had a lot of fun a few years back when I played with the idea of who would prevail, Mann or the Animals. It was a fun little piece of humor that wore off quickly, but the substantial quality of the music made the presentation a success.
“It has been said that, through evolution, man has grown to become far superior to the animals. Not wanting to take this for granted, I set about to research that in the best way I know. I am no anthropologist, but I have developed a certain taste for music, particularly of the English R&B variety. I therefore set up the challenge of comparing two of my favorite sixties groups to shed some light on the subject: Manfred Mann versus The Animals.” (From the original blog post, August 2009)
I often say that it was John Mayall and Paul Butterfield that turned me on to the real Chicago Blues by checking out the back of their albums and seeking out the guys who wrote the songs but, thinking back, it was much earlier as groups like Spencer Davis, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and especially the Animals that made me realize the tunes I preferred were most often Blues-oriented.
Pianist Alan Price, vocalist Eric Burdon and drummer Johnny Steel were all playing in the Kansas City Five around Newcastle until Burdon left for London. About the same time, 1962, Price joined the Kontours which included bass player Bryan “Chas” Chandler. Steel eventually joined them and the band became known as the Alan Price R&B Combo, adding Burdon upon his return home in early 1963. The final piece to the puzzle was guitarist Hilton Valentine, who joined the group now going by the name The Animals (a nickname acquired due to their wild stage persona) just before the recording session for their self-produced 1963 EP. I find no references to their December concert(s) with Sonny Boy Williamson except that a recording was first released in 1973, but it is considerably better than the set he recorded with the Yardbirds about the same time. Tours with Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis are mentioned on the back of their 1964 debut American album and they also played with John Lee Hooker.
The band was booked into Giorgio Gomelsky’s Crawdaddy Club and fell under the tutelage of producer Mickey Most, who got them a contract with Colombia Records. The first session for the label in February of 1964 brought out a restructuring of Bob Dylan’s Baby Let Me Follow You Down, re-titled Baby Let Me Take You Home, with the flipside Gonna Send You Back to Walker, which charted number 21 in the UK, while the June follow-up House of the Rising Sun / Talkin’ ‘Bout You soared to number 1 in both the UK and the US charts, leading into their first LP sessions that summer. Before the album came out, a third single I’m Crying / Take It Easy reached number 8 UK and 19 US.
As was the custom, the British and American albums differed somewhat in content. The Brits saw the singles and EPs as separate entities and did not include them on their LPs while the Americans had no such qualms about duplication. The first two singles (A & B sides) were included on the US album while six of the other eight songs plus six more appeared on the Brit LP, which actually came out a month later than the American version. A US-only single followed the album with Boom Boom, which was on the Brit LP, and it’s B-side Blue Feeling from the American album, but it only reached number 43. It was their version of Boom Boom that led to my eventual purchase of a couple of John Lee Hooker’s Vee Jay albums, among the earliest entrants in my “authentic” Blues collection.
A number one single plus a top ten album on both continents plus another top ten single in England between April and October of 1964 gave them a pretty fiery start on their career. January didn’t let down with the 45 Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood / Club A Go Go (number 3 UK and 15 US), but their second US album, a collection of studio tracks in spite of the name On Tour, only charted at 99. The April 65 release of Bring It On Home to Me / For Miss Caulker showed the band still very popular at home with a number 7 ranking but only reached 32 stateside. Likewise, their second UK / third US album Animal Tracks made number 6 and 57 respectively. While the Brit and US albums shared the same name, the only songs in common were Roberta and For Miss Caulker.
With July’s release of We Gotta Get Out of This Place / I Can’t Believe It, The Animals again solidified their standing on both continents by climbing to #2 UK and #13 US, but immediately after it’s recording Alan Price left the group, citing an aversion to flying as the reason for his departure. Burdon and Price had been having differences over who should run the band but, as I understand the story, the entire group had taken part in the arrangement of The House of the Rising Sun but only Price's name made it on the legal paperwork, and when the song hit big and the royalties came gushing in he opted not to share with his bandmates so instead took the money and ran. His Alan Price Set went on to score a hit with the remake of Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You. The Animals had already recorded Its My Life / I’m Gonna Change the World while Price was still with them, and its October release again brought highly respectable numbers at 7 UK and 23 US.
Price’s departure was not the only change the band made at this time. They had become increasingly dissatisfied with much of the material their producer Mickey Most had been choosing for them, thinking it too commercial and not representative of the band on stage. Not only was Most sacked, but they changed from EMI to the Decca label (while continuing MGM’s American distribution) and, of course, a replacement for Price was found with the installation of Dave Roweberry.
The first single with Roweberry, who had been playing with the Mike Cotton Sound, was Inside – Looking Out with its UK B-side Outcast (#12) and the American flip side of You’re On My Mind (#34), but before the dust had cleared, former Nashville Teens drummer Barry Jenkins replaced Johnny Steel. Burdon considered Steel his best friend and the two had played in college Jazz bands together, Burdon on trombone and Steel on trumpet.
May 1966 saw the release of the 45 Don’t Bring Me Down / Cheating (6 UK & 12 US) and the English album Animalisms reaching #4. Somewhere in mid-1966, Chandler opted out of the band in favor of musician management and Steel eventually became his assistant. Chandler’s best known client would be Jimi Hendrix. The last original member aside from Burdon, Hilton Valentine, stuck around ‘til the end of the year. In August, the similar American LP Animalization hit in at #20. From that album was taken the September American #10 single See See Rider / She’ll Return It (the first record released as by Eric Burdon and the Animals) followed in November by another US album, Animalism (still credited to the Animals), which reached number 33.
Price briefly took part in a reunion with the other original members to record the 1977 LP release, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted (did his ill-gotten gains finally run out?), and Zoot Money took his place for a 1983 tour culminating in an album of all original material, Ark. The band was voted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
While I am used to thinking in terms of when the songs came upon the American airwaves, I decided to use the British release dates as I tried to put the Animals’ material used in some semblance of a chronological order. For me, I care more about the recording dates than the release dates because it tells me more about the musical growth of the band as opposed to how the record companies wished to present them. And especially since the Animals’ Brit and US albums were put together so differently, logic tells me the Brit release dates must be much closer to the recording dates. Our first set led off with a song from their first recording session, for the 1963 EP, followed by tunes from their first three singles before delving into material from the first UK LP.
I took a different tack with the Manfred Mann set because their first American album made such an indelible impression on me that I wanted to run it by you in its entirety before getting into material from preceding 45s. When I finally got around to purchasing the CD edition (waiting because my vinyl was actually less scratchy than many LPs I have) I was a little bit irritated that they wasted space on the disc with mono and stereo tracks rather than adding more material, but during my research I learned that the American album had subtle differences in its stereo presentation than the British mono release. Besides, I already had two compilation CDs so there likely would have been little new added.
Our first Animals set took us through their 1963 and ’64 releases and our next set covers 1965. It is relatively easy to see the influences on the band by looking at who did the originals of the songs they covered, and most recognizable in this set are three by Ray Charles, a couple of Jimmy Reed tunes and one by Bo Diddley. The earlier set also showed an appreciation for John Lee Hooker and Chuck Berry. As far as writing credits for the band (at least to this point), aside from the arrangement of the traditional Rising Sun, there is only I’m Crying and For Miss Caulker.
Unlike the Animals, the crew of Manfred Mann wrote many of the songs they released. Similar to the Animals’ first set, our first Mann set covered material through 1964 while the closing set covers mostly their second US album from 1965 with a few favorites tacked on at the end.