The Animals, fronted by Eric Burdon but backed by a plethora of esteemed musicians, may well be one of the most overlooked influencers of the decade. During the sixties, the band were widely considered one of the greats, vying with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as the archetypal British invasion band.
The group have since fallen into the realms of obscurity as they lacked the fame and star power of the two aforementioned juggernauts. However, if you needed any proof as to why The Animals are such a mammoth pop-culture touchstone, then, ironically, this cover of The Rolling Stones is all you need.
The Stones have been endlessly covered over their near-six decades under the spotlight but, this one is perhaps the best. ‘Paint It Black’ is one song that has always impressed Stones fans. Released in 1966, it’s a song created from the viewpoint of a depressed person who is intent on turning everything black to fit his mood; Mick Jagger once said about why he wrote such a song: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.” A year later, Burdon and the rest of The Animals pick up the track for a searing performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.
“Cynical, nasty, sceptical, rude. We seemed to be ahead in this respect at the time. There was trouble in America; all these young American kids, they were being drafted to Vietnam.” Keith Richards describes perfectly, among many of their songs at the time, the attitude of ‘Paint it Black’. The Rolling Stones gathered much of their fame through connection. Not by networking with bigwigs but by connecting to their audience like no other band could. The Beatles were championed as intellectual juggernauts, but it made them unattainable. The Stones, however, were just like you and me.
‘Paint It Black’ is one song that confirmed this connection. Not only is it a textured piece of sonic artistry, but also playing around with the Eastern influences that were swirling around the youthful generation, but it is a bold and provocative statement. The song went a long way to defining the Stones when it was initially released and still does today. It obviously connected with The Animals too.
Live at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, The Animals’ amazing cover of The Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’ was somewhat overlooked. At the event, which launched the careers of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Burdon and his band’s performance is often forgotten.
It would make the band’s album Winds of Change in 1967, but this live performance is the one that really hits hard. From the iconic opening moments of Brian Jones’ sitar being replaced with a scathing fiddle solo right up to Burdon’s landmark vocals, this cover reeks of authenticity.
The Animals may well be one of the most overlooked influencers of the decade and below you get a taste of exactly how great they were.