House of the Rising Sun: A song that changed everything

Back in 1964 I was fifteen. It was not long after the end of the Lady Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP, when sexual intercourse began according to Philip Larkin. Before Kenneth Tynan uttered the first four letter word on TV. Pop songs were still bright, chirpy and devoid of any seriousness. As John Lennon said: ‘we were just writing songs a la the Everley Brothers and Buddy Holly with no more thought than that – to create a sound. The words were almost irrelevant.’ Then this came on Top of the Pops:
It was as if someone had put jump leads on your feet and connected them to a battery, giving you an electric shock that shot up your legs, up your spinal chord and into your brain. Serious funky music but more important, dark, intense lyrics. Was Eric Burdon singing about a whorehouse? On the BBC? I read an article shortly after that explained that the Animals had ripped the song off Bob Dylan and that Bob, on hearing their version while driving his car, had to stop and listen to it in shock, giving him the idea to go electrical. Well for me it was the opposite way round. I saw Dylan’s first album going in a junk shop for something daft like ten bob (it obviously hadn’t been to someone’s taste) and then heard the original acoustic version. I’ve been a Dylan fan ever since.



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