Eric Burdon and other vague mysteries
When we turned off all but the most basic cable, the wife and I turned to Netflix to provide an hour or so of wind-down at the end of each night. We tried a season of “Weeds,” which suited her more than me, and then settled on “Heroes.” Which may seem an odd choice, since most of y’all only know me in certain contexts, and so by way of quick explanation I will mention (again) only that every editorial job I’ve held, including and especially with No Depression has been shaped by the operating philosophy behind Harlan Ellison’s series of short story/novella compilations, Dangerous Visions.
But I digress.
Last night, after the family had given up on cards and our daughter had finally succumbed to sweet morpheus, we sat still and quiet for an episode. At one point the needle dropped on an old Animals hit, one of my favorites, “We Gotta Get Outta This Place.” At the time, I thought that I’d managed not to attract a digital replacement for my Animals greatest hits LP, but this morning I realized I have, courtesy the fine folks at Raven, down in Australia. And so at some point I’ll put some of those songs, and a lot of the Nuggets box, some Yardbirds and whatever else comes to mind in an iPod playlist with which to torture the young Baptists who work at our satellite coffeeshop. Be interesting to see what they make of the Sonics.
Still, I digress.
When I was coming up, it was axiomatic that to understand rock ‘n’ roll one had to learn about the blues (read: Robert Johnson and the devil) and the British Invasion. Not the Beatles, which it was assumed one had a working familiarity of simply by having been born during their time, but the others. The other Brits who refracted fragments of American blues, the music of the African-American underclass, back to our shores through their particular working class point of view. The Yardbirds, the Kinks (which trail I never went down, alas), Chris Farlowe, Graham Bond, Spencer Davis (ah, young Stevie Winwood…what ever became of your magic?), early Who, early Stones, all that. Some of which I spent time with, much of with I simply read about and allowed myself to be absorbed by punk and psychedelia instead. (Yes, simultaneously. Name something more punk than the 13th Floor Elevators.)
But the Animals were not in the pantheon, near as I can remember. (Nor were Herman’s Hermits, but that’s a weakness for another time.) They were, I suppose, the British CCR, a startling hitmaking machine who became too popular to remain credible. And then the lead singer and the band split, and Eric Burden soldiered on with War, and iterations of the Animals, and Chas Chandler went on to discover Jimi Hendrix.
Back in my college days I read rock encyclopedias and trolled the cut-out bins for history lessons. There I found one of my lasting guilty pleasures, an Animals reunion album titled Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, which came out the year I was graduated from high school, and was cut-out almost immediately after. (Allmusic says it came out on CD a decade ago, which, had I funds for such luxuries, I would next trace down.) Among its tracks is a version of “Just A Little Bit” which became the centerpiece of a tape I prepared for an English class I took on the poetry of the blues. Not much of a class, as it turned out, but it gave me license to buy things and I put together an hour tape (or more, it’s long lost) of versions of that song simply by going through my own collection and then pawing through the blues LPs at Peaches.
The point of this was meant to be several things. First, I simply can’t grapple with the loss of Vic Chesnutt, who I never new and never saw perform because he went missing the night he was meant to play the Sutler in Nashville. Second, I was looking for some way to talk about artists with and without creative centers, only I’ve no idea which category Eric Burden fits into, in the end.
But I am curious that he and his band seem so little remembered, in the end. And I am also curious, should anybody out there know, if any of the many albums he appears to have made over the last two decades — most of them live, and so of little interest to me (I’ll explain in comments, should anybody care) — are worth hunting down.