An Animal Roars Again: The Eric Burdon Interview, Part 2
In Part 2 of Rocks Off's interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Burdon, he talks about a surprise call from Bruce Springsteen at last year's SXSW, how he feels about ever reuniting with The Animals and War, and how he braved a post-hurricane Houston to score some pot.
Rocks Off: You are playing SXSW in Austin again this year. My favorite story from last year was when keynote speaker Bruce Springsteen namechecks both you and the Animals' song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" -- not knowing you were in town -- and then you end up performing it with him later that night.
Eric Burdon: I was so physically sick, I had no idea what I was doing there. I was out of it completely and ready to jump on a plane after I did this little gig with my band and recorded a radio session.
Then I got a call from Bruce, who had obviously heard something, and he said, "Are you here?" And I said "What? California?" And he said "No, I'm in Texas, just up the street from you. Do you want to get onstage tonight?"
I didn't hear the keynote speech until later, and found it really funny. He had real insight into what I was like back then when he saw the Animals on TV. But I agree with 100% of what he said! (laughs)
[Note: Springsteen denoted "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" as "every song I've ever written. Yeah. That's all of them. I'm not kidding, either. That's "Born to Run," "Born in the USA," everything I've done for the past 40 years."
In describing Burdon, he said "When you saw Eric Burdon, he was like your shrunken daddy with a wig on. He never had a kid's face. He always had a little man's face... They put him in a suit, but it was like putting a gorilla in a suit. You could tell he -- fuck that shit, man, he didn't want it, you know? And then he had that voice that was, like, I don't know, Howlin' Wolf, or something coming out of some 17 or 18-year-old kid."]
RO: I've always found it fascinating that you and all these teens in England who were in all those bands had a better appreciation for American blues and R&B music than American teens did and in fact, put your own twist on it and sold it right back.
EB: That's true. I've always felt that we put our hand into the garbage bin, the cultural trash bin, and pulled it out. And I ran into a lot of those performers in my travels to France and Sweden because they couldn't get a cabaret card in New York to work! And there wasn't the same appreciation for those performers in their homeland as there was in Europe.
RO: I know you are now working on your third autobiography [after I Used to Be an Animal, But I'm All Right Now and Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood] that's more about people you've met and experiences you've had rather than a straight biography.
EB: I'm about halfway through it and I've got a publisher, and a team that wants me to get it done as quickly as possible.
RO: A few years ago, you did a "reunion" show with War, but it was the current group that has the rights to the name with only Lonnie Jordan in it. The other surviving members -- Howard Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar, and Harold Brown, have to perform legally as The Lowrider Band due to lawsuits. Do you ever see a day where you'll do a show with all five of them?
EB: Well...what can I tell you? I tried. I did that show in London at the Royal Albert Hall and tried to get my point across...find my position in that band that I once helped create. But it just wasn't offered to me. So been there, done that.
Same with the original Animals, or what's left of them. One minute they're telling me I'm the voice of a generation and the next they're taking me to court and winning a lawsuit and excommunicating me from the name The Animals.
It doesn't leave a very good taste in my mouth, as much as I might say "It's only business...forgive and forget." Well, I might forget, but I won't forgive. But there's plenty of things to do with other musicians.
I'm in this business to keep learning. I'm just a vocalist, I'm not a musician. I absorb music and I transmit it through my voice. I'm a receptacle. And if you have to keep drinking from the same water cup, it gets pretty boring.
RO: One more question. Do you have any particular memories of Houston?
EB (laughs hard): Oh, do I! I was in a hurricane there! In 1983 on the Animals reunion tour. I was in a high-rise, and I was sitting there watching Linda...what's her name? [Blair] in that horror movie where her head starts spinning around [The Exorcist]. I had taken three Valium. And when her head started to spin, the windows just broke in, and glass came flying across the room! I'll never forget it. It was Hurricane Alicia.
The amazing thing is that we went out looking for some pot to smoke the next morning and went to this guy's house and he was locked in. We managed to move the furniture and did a little deal with him, and said there was a Mexican lady who lived next door who got killed in the Hurricane...and her name was Alicia!
And I was told she was the only person to die in the Hurricane, or at least that's how I remember it. Somebody will probably write in and correct me and say "No, my granny died in it too..."
See more information on this rock and roll gentleman at www.ericburdon.com.
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