Eric Burdon Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Monday, 5 April 2010 

I think it was around San Franciscan Nights that I started to have my misgivings about Eric Burdon. While The Animals had been a significant feature of my early radio listening, there was something about the message being promulgated that didn't quite seem to work the way it should. Earnest, definitely, but something wasn’t quite right.

Those suspicions were mildly negated by Monterey before surging back with Sky Pilot, though I must admit that I still bought the single. It was early in my listening career, but even then that chorus (Sky pilot/How high can you fly?/ You’ll never reach the sky...) was pretty naff. Once again, earnest, doubtless well-intentioned, but there was a hint of preachiness thrown in that I’d detected in the previous two efforts but was much more to the fore here.

While the voice was still there, I was firmly convinced that Burdon was better off as an interpreter of other people's material than a writer in his own right, a conclusion that was reinforced by Winds of Change, The Twain Shall Meet and Love Is, where I thought the covers bought and sold the original material.

And while a few of my acquaintances were smitten by Burdon's collaboration with L.A. funk band War. The titles Eric Burdon Declares "War" and The Black Man's Burdon were greeted with a cringe that the contents didn't do a whole lot to dispel, at least from where I was sitting.

But the man was still somebody, if you catch my drift, and while I felt that based on his opinions as revealed in the odd article in the music press he was somebody you could probably push to one side of the plate in the same way you'd sideline something your hostess has dished up that you feel you should like but can't quite find the taste for.

One night in 1971 I was informed one of the kitchen ladies who looked after the meals at St Marks College that before her family had emigrated to Australia her eldest boy who'd opted to remain in the U.K. had been in a band with some of the Manchester lads who went on to form The Hollies, and that her living room couch back in those days had regularly hosted a nice young boy from Newcastle who, predictably, turned out to be Mr. Burdon.

Then, in the early bit of the twenty-first century, planning to add an extension onto the Little House of Concrete, we had the plans drawn up by a local draughtsman. It was at the stage when I was presenting a couple of hours of music on the local community radio station on a Sunday afternoon. 

The news that the draughtman was a regular listener and that he liked 'the old stuff' had me raising an eyebrow which became positively arched when I learned that Neil was a Geordie and that his best friend back in the day had been one Hilton Valentine, who'd played guitar with The Animals.

In any case, with those two memories firmly etched in, a sighting of the Burdon autobiography in the Southport branch of Angus & Robertson, marked down to $6.99 set me thinking. There was always the chance of an anecdote that would tie in with the above, and, in any case, since I'd started on this writing caper there was always the chance that I might encounter some snippet that'd shed light on something I was researching.

Oh, and there was the collectable CD inside the back cover. Not that it was a major consideration, of course., but for seven bucks....

Actually, you can do a lot with seven bucks, even in this day and age, and many of them would probably be a bit more rewarding than this fairly inconsequential read.


© Ian Hughes 2012