Animals magic and the hit that Arny ‘made’

The Animals, 1963 – courtesy of ABKCO Records

OUR recent feature on the musical heritage of the Bure Club stirred up plenty of memories of the 1960s when legends such as John Lee Hooker and Jerry Lee Lewis played the Mudeford nightspot.

But when the Christchurch Times reached former Bure Club regular Tony Arnold at home in France he got in touch to tell us about the part it played in creating one of the biggest hits in popular music history.

For had The Animals not appeared at the Bure Club in 1963 they may not have recorded a version of The House of the Rising Sun that topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 and the song may have remained a relatively obscure folk-blues standard instead of the classic it has since become.

In 1963 Tony was playing with The Pack, the four-piece house band at the Bure Club, whose set consisted of versions of old blues songs they learned from Tony’s record collection.

“One of the traditional numbers we did was The House of the Rising Sun, which we had arranged from an old Josh White 78rpm given to me be my grandmother who was a huge blues fan,” says Tony.

“The Animals were appearing as guests and when they finished they asked me if I had written The House of the Rising Sun. I informed them that we only performed covers so they asked me to show them the arrangement including the chords, which Alan Price adapted to his Vox Continental Organ.

“I recorded the Animals playing it on a Uher 4200 reel to reel recorder and gave them a cassette copy.”

By the time The Animals toured the UK with Chuck Berry in May 1964 it was a staple of their set and earmarked as their second single release in June, but a degree of controversy has always surrounded the hit arrangement of the song. In some accounts the band learned it from the version on Bob Dylan’s debut album; in others they heard it from popular north-eastern folk singer Johnny Handle. The record credits the arrangement to Animals’ organ player Alan Price who, according to Tony, sent the Bure Club tape to their record producer Mickie Most.

Tony Arnold (left) with Ben Strike in Don Strike’s music shop, Westbourne Arcade

However, Tony’s part has been acknowledged by some of the band members at least.

“While I was courting my wife Natalie we were having a meal in the Royal Exeter Hotel in Bournemouth when who should walk in but The Animals’ singer Eric Burdeo accompanied by Chas Chandler the bass player. Eric spotted me and came over and shook my hand thanking me for helping them get to number one in the charts.”

Tony went on to establish the famed Arny’s Shack studio in Penn Hill where he recorded the likes of Robert Fripp, Andy Summers, The Troggs, Eurythmics and Max Bygraves. He also remastered the back catalogue of King Crimson among other artists and is a director of Helios Electronics supplying specialist audio studio equipment. He now lives in a small village in France near Orleans.

• First published in the Christchurch Times.

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