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The Animals’ Eric Burdon On How Gorbachev, Hendrix & Chuck Berry Have Inspired His Music

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Like most legendary rockers from the British Invasion, Eric Burdon and his then-band, the Animals, were profoundly influenced by Chuck Berry. Burdon says that Berry’s influence on him and his band took an unusual form, resulting in: a) a song that bears no resemblance to Berry’s music, yet remains one of the Animals’ most enduring hits and, b) advice that Burdon probably should have taken.

“Chuck was responsible for a big part of [influencing] the British bands – the Stones, the Beatles, everybody,” Burdon recently told Radio.com.

But when the Animals were on a package tour with a number of other artists all opening for Berry, Burdon noticed that every band on the bill was playing Chuck’s riffs and his songs. This inspired him to go a different direction completely.

“I realized every other band was playing Chuck Berry-related songs… on a Chuck Berry tour!” Burdon explained. “I wanted to do something really different. I was thinking blues. I knew one and a half verses to ‘House Of The Rising Sun.’”

When he heard Bob Dylan’s version of the traditional folk song, the idea clicked in his head to have the Animals do their own take on it.

However, Burdon merely didn’t resist Berry’s musical influence; he ignored personal advice from the legend himself.

“I knew he [Berry] had a reputation for being a rude, bad guy. And he was so nice to me, man! He took me out to dinner one day. He said to me, ‘Keep your main money wad in your sock, and keep just a couple of dollars in your wallet. And don’t let booze and drugs tempt you like they did me!”

He laughs, recalling the conversation: “Of course I didn’t take any notice whatsoever!”

Burdon keeps his eyes and ears open, and is still inspired by conversations he has with interesting people. Case in point: the song “Water,” off his recent (and excellent) album ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, was inspired by a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Burdon says that “Gorby” told him that the world’s next big crisis will be over a water shortage (and, when pressed, admits that he didn’t actually call the former world leader “Gorby,” at least not to his face).

Related: ‘True Blood’ Music Recap: Mikky Ekko Subs In For Eric Burdon & Jenny Lewis

In our video sit-down with Burdon (above), he also discusses his relationship with Jimi Hendrix (who inspired his new song “27 Forever”) and the Animals’ music being used in the latest James Bond film.

Besides ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, the other recent Burdon recording is on a new take of the Animals’ classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” done as a duet with Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis.  The song is on the latest True Blood soundtrack, though it has yet to appear in an episode (but likely will later this season).

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