The Classics: House of the Rising Sun

I never really intended to write posts about classic rock but I’ve spent a lot of time cooped up in cars this summer and a lot of time sitting outside drinking, with a radio and no auxiliary hookups. Thanks to the abundance of classic rock radio stations, that inadvertently became the soundtrack for my summer.

I figure it’s not a bad thing, since the songs I reference in these posts are directly responsible for the bands that I find today. Someone had to lay the groundwork for what we now call rock ‘n’ roll.

The Animals are one of those bands. A primary culprit in the British invasion of the 1960’s, they brought a much more raw and organic blues sound to the poppier flavors of other bands. Best known for their first incarnation and the song that brought them fame, “The House of the Rising Sun”, this became a number one hit in the UK, USA, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.

This song was originally an American folk ballad that tells of the hard times and hard lives in New Orleans. Tentatively dated to the 18th century, its origins are just as shady and twisted as the story it portrays.

The Animals were the first band to take it to a mainstream success, with numerous covers form Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Muse to follow. Nothing touches to raw power, grit and emotion of the original though, as there are very few songs that are this memorably in so many places across the world.

The contrast between the twanging guitar tone and the gentle fuzz of the organ is perfectly complemented by the howling vocals provided by Eric Burdon. It puts shivers down my spine every time I hear it.

Below is the 1964 video, which is simple and straight to the point, serving only as something to distract your eyes with. Enjoy.


2 Responses to “The Classics: House of the Rising Sun”

  1. Amazing song. I think it is so good because it is specific enough that you know exactly what the song is about, but general enough to fit any time or place. Nothing about the song leads you to believe that that it was first recorded in the 30s. Heck, you could probably convince some punk 12 year old that it is about post katrina New Orleans.

    I wasn’t alive then, but i cannot fathom how in 1964 these guys were the crazy rock and rollers and how much changed in the next 5 years.

    Oh, and that tall goofy bassist? he is the guy that brought Hendrix to London and formed the Experience. Pretty good for a guy who looks like my High school math teacher.


    • Yeah I totally agree on that timeless part, which is the best part of a good folk song, it can always be applied anywhere.

      That’s a pretty sweet connection to Jimi, I had no idea about that!

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