A rueful memoir by the uniquely British blues stylist Burdon, a Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer, depicting his chaotic 35+-year career.
The forthright Burdon first notes that his youthful combo was “fucked from the get-go,” unprepared for the “vampires of the music business.” Still, his early years with the original Animals are recalled with a romantic shine. Forming within the heady, early-1960s British blues cult that arose in unlikely locales like working-class Newcastle, influenced by early tours with Gene Vincent, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis, and fueled by drugs and internal competitiveness, the Animals hit the top of the charts in 1964 with “House of the Rising Sun.” Foolishly, however, the band assigned the rights to a single member, who together with the thuggish management withheld most of the profits. Such incidents divided the Animals and dogged Burdon’s career. His music was bootlegged; he fought with and eventually picketed MGM Records; and he got mixed up in a scuttled film starring his friend Jimi Hendrix, whose last days are portrayed in jarring detail. But he remains proud of his most prescient moves, from his early psychedelic performance with the New Animals at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival to his appearance as the first Western rocker to perform in Russia to his continuing passion for racial justice. Though his libertarian attitudes toward the era’s recreational sex and drugs make him appear an unreconstructed Boomer-rocker archetype, many stories strike humorous or poignant notes, as when a refugee from the Bosnian conflict tells him that his music “was the best thing for escape from dying and crying.” This theme of haunted survival (e.g., in the Animals’ most enduring song, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”) epitomizes Burdon’s life as it emerges here.
A compelling look back at the rock ’n’ roll era, and a cautionary tale for today’s pop-star wannabes. (50 b&w photos)