Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Eric Burdon & the Animals, "See See Rider" (1966)

Oct. 1, 1966, #10

Eric Burdon & the Animals had to go to the back of a long line in terms of getting their bite at this song, written by Ma Rainey in 1924 and recorded over the decades by LaVern Baker, Wee Bea Booze, Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Peggy Lee, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Sonny Til & the Orioles, and Chuck Willis (who had a #12 pop hit with it in 1957 as "C.C. Rider"). It is so old it has sprouted a garden of alternative titles: "See See Rider Blues," "Easy Rider," "C.C. Rider." The theme is old too: look out for the faithless sexual wanton woman, aka "easy rider," 'cos she's wrecking marriages. Everything else is a play on that—the "C.C.," for example, is said to stand for "country circuit" preachers, who carried the good word and that old time religion on horseback from town to town. Nevertheless, not understanding any of that, I liked the Animals version so much that for many years I kept reflexively including it on short lists of my favorite songs, remembering the giddy heights it sent me to whenever it came leaping out of the radio, too infrequently. I love the surging, high-stepping thrust of it, the headlong tempo, the ballsy confidence. The band is in great form. The Animals were initially my favorite of the British Invasion bands of the time (after the Beatles, always after the Beatles). "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" was my first exposure, but it wasn't long before I caught up with the shivery-good "House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." "See See Rider" is a strong point in a strong run, which also included "It's My Life," "Don't Bring Me Down," "When I Was Young," and I stuck around even for the San Francisco-addled period, which I still enjoy too, and beyond.

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