The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #322: House of the Rising Sun by Eric Burden and the Animals (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #322: The House of the Rising Sun by Eric Burden and the Animals.

I am not sure if any of you watch the tv show called The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel? If you do then, you’ll attest to the fact that they spend a lot of time digging up fragments of ancient artifacts, getting them analyzed and dated and then discussing the relevance to their treasure hunt of finding such an artifact from that particular period of time in History. Sometimes, the significance of the find is obvious but, much of the time the folks on that show are left scratching their heads and labelling the find as another piece of the puzzle.

When it comes to the history of Music and the history of individual songs, “The House of the Rising Sun” holds a place of particular importance. First of all, the version of this song we are most familiar with is the one by Eric Burdon and the Animals. It was released in the mid-1960s and is famous for being the first version of this song to include electric guitars. But Eric Burdon and the Animals had no more to do with the writing of that song that I had to do with the writing of the Bible.

“The House of the Rising Sun” by Eric Burdon and the Animals is just one of hundreds and hundreds of cover versions of this song. In fact, this song falls under the category of Folklore; with the origins of the song dating back as far as the Sixteenth Century. No one knows exactly who first wrote about the dangers to both, men and women, from brothels or houses of ill-repute but, whoever it was, they tapped into an element of the human condition that seems universal and time-tested. Over the centuries, this song has been sung from the point of view of men but also from the point of view of women.

The first written lyrics that have been found date from the early 1900s. Since then the song has been sung by any number of performers over the years. Many of these singers were either Country and Western stars or else they were Folk singers. In both cases, the instrument of choice was an acoustic guitar. Consequently, “The House of the Rising Sun” was always regarded as a Folk song. That was until Eric Burdon came along. He added a new twist to the song by adding in an electric guitar. Funny thing though, Bob Dylan used to perform this song in the classic Folk-style but, had been experimenting with electric guitars, too. He was all set to record and release an electric version of “House of the Rising Sun” as part of his Dylan-goes-electric transformation. But, just before he did so, he heard the version recorded and released by Eric Burdon and the Animals and knew that he had forever lost that race. When The Animals released their version of “House of the Rising Sun”, they became the first band to play a form of Folk-Rock that is quite common today. So, their place in the annals of Musical history as innovators is assured.

The Eric Burdon and the Animals version is noteworthy because of the electric guitars that were added but also because of the gospel fervour with which Burdon tackled the song (as opposed to the traditional, more Folksy slower style of singing). Furthermore, the song clocked in at almost four and a half minutes long which, at the time, was thought to be too long for a song to be played on the radio. When the first singles were pressed, it was an edited, two-and-a-half minute version that the public was allowed to buy. It wasn’t until The Animals released their next full-length album that the original four and a half minute version was made available. That version, with its extended instrumental breaks, is the classic version we all know and like today, which has gone on to become Eric Burdon and the Animals signature song.

Eric Burdon and the Animals are best known for their version of “House of the Rising Sun” but, they also had hits with songs such as, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, “See See Rider”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Bring It On Home to Me”. They have sold millions of albums worldwide and, for a short time in the mid-1960s, they were every bit the equals of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. However, line-up disputes and problems with their management company caused the band to break up as the 1970s dawned. But, while they played as a close-knit group, they made great music. Eric Burdon and the Animals were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Without further delay, here are Eric Burdon and the Animals with the first electric version of the centuries-old classic folk song, “House of the Rising Sun”. To watch this video is to watch Music history being made. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “The House of the Rising Sun” by Eric Burden and the Animals can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Eric Burden and the Animals can be found here.

Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their fabulous website can be found here.

***All original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this song shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2021

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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