Part VI/chnesday. March 22. i989 R
llos Annalee mince
BURDON: ‘I Used to Be an Animal, but I’m All Right N ow’
Continued from Page I
“Not a very happy story." he
summed up. ”I wish I could tell you
a different one. but that's about it."
Burdon's steady. graveily tone
didn‘t beg sympathy as he recount-
ed a succession of recent career
mishaps. Instead there was an edge
to his reflections. a sense that time
and trouble haven’t subdued the
smoldering assertiveness thst Bur-
den brought to such Animals hits as
"It's My Life." “Don't Let Me Be
Misunderstood" and "We Gotta Get
Out of This Place."
Burdon's most concentrated ei-
fort at regaining the mass public's
notice was a 1986 autobiography, "I
Used to Be an Animal. but I’m All
Right Now." From what Burdon
says about the book, though, it
barely did appear.
“My hopes were that people
would read it and it would get to
the marketplace. I feel filled with
despair when I get continual phone
calls and letters, requests from
people on the road: ‘I heard about
your book. man. Where can I get
it?‘ I don't even have a copy of it
myself because I've given away
every copy I had.”
(The British pressing of 10,000
copies sold out, according to J oanna
Mackle. publicity director for the
book‘s London-bssed publisher,
Faber 8: Faber. A spokeswoman in
the publishing house's U.S. office
said American sales are approach~
ing 10,000 copies.)
In any case, Burdon said, most of
“I Used to Be an Animal" had
disappeared before the book ever
saw print. For that he blames Peter
Townshend of the Who, the rock
star who now and then puts down
his guitar in favor of an editor's
pencil at Faber & Faber.
"I figured with Pete Townshend
at the helm I'd have a shot, [but he
was] more like hatchet man than
editor. You don't have to be con-
nected to the literary world to see
there are these leaps and gaps in it.
i wrote 240.000 words. and 200.000
words were thrown out the win-
The book is a disjointed, unsur-
prising narration of the usual '60::
excesses of sex and drugs and rock
'n' roll, long on surface reminiscing
but short on depth, detail, perspec-
tive or reflection. Burden says that
he wrote a complete life history,
but that Townshend's cuts lapped
off his story with the death of
Burdon‘s friend. Jimi Hendrix. in
Missing. Burdon said. are such
tidbits as the genesis of the Ani-
mals' name: It wasn't intended as a
cute reference to the wild kingdom,
he said. but as a tribute to a British
World War II veteran, nicknamed
Animal, whom Burden had known
as a youngster.
“He was one of the most engag-
ing characters I'd ever met, but his
mind was blown." Burden said. “He
raped a girl at gunpoint during the
British occupation of Cypress. and
after that he couldn't handle life
anymore. It blew his mind.
“Townshend said. ‘We can’t
print that. We might offend women
readers.’ I feel pretty bitter about
it. [Townshencl] did me a great
disservice. He kept me boxed in the
'605. where I'm safe. not alive in the
'805 at all."
Burdon said he thinks that his
lack of rapport with Townshend on
the book project may have had its
seeds in the ’603. when the Who
were favorites of Britain’s trendy,
upscale Mods, while the Animals
were more in league with the Mods'
scruffier working-class antago-
nists. the Rockers.
“[Townshend] was the vanguard
of the Mods. I always considered
myself a Rocker." said Burden, the
son of a Newcastle electrician.
"Through the experience of the
”Not a very happy story,“ says Eric Burden of his career mishaps.
book, 1 came to realize we hadn’t
changed our stripes at all." Town-
shend, who handles book projects
in between his musical endeavors,
could not be reached for comment.
Eurdon's most recent attempt at
'805 career revival was an album. “I
Used to Be an Animal," geared to
coincide with the book. Released
last year on the obscure Striped
Horse label (which Burdon said has
since folded). it found Burden in
strong voice an energetic songs
ranging from straightforward rock
and R&B to rap-flsvored funk. The
album. like the book. did a quick
"There wasn’t much interest"
from bigger labels, Burden said.
“and that’s why I went with an
independent for the first time. It
was the only choice I had at the
time. and I'm still confronted with
that problem. I hope this tour will
open somebody’s ears and get me
another deal." Burden said he has
also continued to write, working on
screenplays and a biography of
Last year, Burden moved to La
Quinta, near Palm Springs, after
sojourns in Spain and West Germa-
ny. He continues to tour with the
same four-man backup group of
London-based musicians that he
has worked with for the last 3
years. West Germany remains one
of his favorite stops.
“It's one country where I feel
appreciated," Burden said. “The
people allow me to keep a grip on
the sort of reality I want to have for
myself. I want to achieve the same
thing here. This is the big chai-
ienge, the big country."
In England, Burden said, he has
been a pariah since the early "705.
when he got in trouble after giving
a stoned. emotional interview on
the BBC following the death of
“The week Jimi died. that’s the
last time I played in England.
except for guest appearances with
the Animals. It's OK for me to be an
Animal, but as Eric Burdon, I'm
persona non grate. People in Eng-
land talk to me like I'm the walking
dead?Eric Burdon—l thought you
were dead.‘ My only answer is.
‘Come to one of my gigs and 1'“
show you whether i'm dead or
not.’ " ~
Financially. at least, it would
seem that Burdon could bring his
career to life by reconvening the
Animals and joining the lucrative
rock oldies circuit (in his book.
Burdon says that the first time
'round. business scams robbed the
Animals of their earnings).
"I'd rather stay where I am and
call my own shots and keep my
own identity," he said. A 1983
reunion tour and album with the
band‘s original lineup convinced
him that, although he used to be an
Animal. he had better avoid be-
coming one again.
“I didn't want to do [the reunion]
in the first place. but everyone
from my lawyer to my mother was
saying, ‘Go on, give it a shot.’ I
figured, ‘It' you can't communicate
with old friends, what's the use?’
“But it was probably the worst
experience of my life. By the time I
got to America, we were trading
blows physically. Whatever feel-
ings I had for those guys were lost
in that tour. and nothing's worth
This leaves Burdon today in
much the same position as some of
the old blues figures he emulated as
a young man: largely ignored but
still gameiy singing and playing,
with memories of setbacks. disap-
pointments and squandered oppor-
tunities as a constant reminder of
just what the blues are about.
Burdon takes that assessment as
a compliment, not a sad irony.
“When I run into those old blues
cats and hear what they have to
say . . . I'm quite proud to be
judged that way."
Eric Burdon plays at 8 tonight at
the Coach House, 33157 Camino
Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.
Tickets: £19.50. [nlarmation.- (714)