Unless you’ve spent the last fifty years living under a rock, if you’re a fan of music you’ve probably heard The House Of The Rising Sun. The track, by British rockers The Animals has stood the test of time and still holds a place in the hearts of music fans today. The original drummer and only original remaining member is John Steele is who headed out to Australia later this year with his fellow band mates for a handful of capital city and regional shows.
We discussed the tour first and I asked John if he was excited, the answer was simple “Of course, I love Australia!” For a band that has been around for as long as The Animals have, it may surprise some people to know that they’ve only been to Australia four times. John reminisced on playing at The Gov in Adelaide, “We played their about 18 months ago, it’s a great club.” It’s been fifty five years since The Animals first found fame, and I asked John if he felt as if it had been that long. With a laugh he replied, “Sometimes it feels like forever, and sometimes it feels like it can’t be that long. It depends on the day but it feels like yesterday sometimes.
There’s a great video of The Animals playing live on television in the mid-sixties and I asked John if he remembers what it felt like to have thousands of girls screaming at him and his bandmates. “It was phenomenal . It was ’64 when we first hit number one with House Of The Rising Sun and it changed our lives completely. From being from a provincial town in northern England, to being the national hit group, it took a lot of getting used to.” Fondly he says “It was fun, it was a lot of fun.”
Delicately I asked John as a seventy-something year old, how he stayed healthy on tour. “Healthy? Yeah I’m healthy!” Laughing he continued “You gotta be healthy to do what we do, we’re not a little cabaret band, we’re an in your face rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues band. I’m very lucky to get to do what I do.” I next asked about the crowds at Animals shows and what the age range was. “The majority would be older people you know but there’s a good, healthy proportion of fans who weren’t even born when we made our records.” He also said “We get a good reaction, we play with a lot of enthusiasm. We always get a standing ovation so we must be doing something right!”
Sharing a laugh, I then asked John about the band playing on a cruise ship. “It was called ‘Rock the Boat’, it was an Australian based company and was going around the U.K.” Suzy Quatro and Big Country were also along for the ride (no pun intended). I then asked John if it was a little surreal playing on a cruise ship, compared to playing in bars and clubs. “Well no, the thing is so big! The room we played in was a 2000 seater so it was like playing a hotel in Las Vegas or something. It was hard to remember sometimes that you were playing on the high seas!”
I then turned the conversation back to 1994 when The Animals were inducted into the Rock’N’Roll Hall Of Fame. “It was before the museum was built and was in New York City. I’ve always last that place since we went there in ’64. To be inducted into the Hall Of Fame was such an honour.” John dropped a few names here of people there that night, “Chuck Berry was there, Eric Clapton, Rita Marley had her outfit there. It was a great night.”
I looked into House Of The Rising Sun’s statistics before I spoke to John and discovered that it had been covered 108 times. I told this number to John and his response was great. “Good grief!” We shared another laugh and I asked if he had a favourite. “It’s impossible to pick a favourite when I haven’t even heard a fraction of the covers. I’m really proud that we seem to be top of the heap for the original though.” People to seem enjoy covering The Animals songs as Australian band The Angels did a famous cover of ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ which John has heard. “I think someone played it to me last time we were in Australia, they’re a great band.”
For someone that has been in the industry for as long as they have I couldn’t not ask John what his advice was to younger musicians. “My advice is generally enjoy yourself, you know? You really should enjoy what you do if you’re going to be a musician in a band.” Pausing to think, John continued “For me personally, if you’re not enjoying playing music, you may as well do something else!” Next I asked how for ‘The Greatest Hits’ tour, how they choose what songs to play. “There’s obviously the really big hits House Of The Rising Sun, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, It’s My Life, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. There’s about a dozen songs that we have to play otherwise people would be really disappointed we didn’t play them.” Continuing, John said “We fill the rest of the program with other songs that we enjoy, and ones that we haven’t played in ages. We enjoy ourselves and people enjoy themselves.”
If The Animals are hitting up your city, definitely do yourself a favour and get down to one of their shows and see one of the greatest Rock’N’Roll, Rhythm’N’Blues bands of all time!
Get your tickets to see The Animals on the Greatest Hits Tour HERE!