RaR12 – House of the Rising Sun


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The House of the Rising Sun

The Animals began as the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues combo, an early British R&B band in Newcastle on Tyne. They often allowed Eric Burdon, a local singer who specialized in the blues-shouting style of Big Joe Turner, to sit in for a few numbers when they played at local clubs; he became a permanent member of the group in 1962. They renamed themselves the Animals and started playing slow nights at the Downbeat, a dodgy pub in Newcastle, but they began to develop a following and within a year were the city’s most popular band. A self-produced EP brought them to the attention of Graham Bond, at that time a member of the influential band Blues Incorporated. He passed their name on to impresario Giorgio Gomelsky, who booked them in his Crawdaddy Club in London and helped launch their first single, “Baby Let Me Take You Home.” They became one of most successful British invasion bands in the United States, with a popularity that rivaled the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.

The hit that launched them to international stardom was “House of the Rising Sun.” The earliest recorded version of the song was by an Appalachian singer named Georgia Turner, who performed it for Alan Lomax in 1937, while he was collecting folk material for the Library of Congress. However, the melody is that of a traditional English ballad, “Maddy Woods,” which probably dates to the mid-eighteenth century. Lomax included a transcription of Turner’s version in his 1941 collection Our Singing Country, and the song became popular among folk and country artists; it was performed by Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Josh White, and later by skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan and Bob Dylan. The Animals first performed “House of the Rising Sun” at a concert in Liverpool; the audience response was so overwhelming that they recorded the song the next day. Incredibly, it was recorded in one take, with no overdubs. It went on to hit number one on the American pop charts-the first British song to do so that wasn’t written by the Beatles.

So, was the House of the Rising Sun was a real place? There are a number of locations in New Orleans that claim to be; the three most likely possibilities are the site of a former brothel in which a mural of a rising sun was found in the basement; the former Rising Sun Hotel; and a Rising Sun Hall that was used by the Social Aid and Pleasure Club in the early twentieth century. However, “House of the Rising Sun” was a common slang term for brothels in England, where the song originated-and there is no shortage of former brothels in New Orleans!


Swinging feel of the piece due to the meter of the rhythm
Importance of vocals – aggressive, edgy lead vocals for the time
The organ’s contribution to the texture and quality of the piece
The lack of a guitar solo. The guitar is there, but it just contributes to the rhythmic feel of the groove/tune.
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