The Price of fame By Melody Rousseau Animals founder member Alan Price spoke to Saga online about the cost - and the rewards - of having been part of one of the most famous British bands of all time Alan Price "There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun," when those unmistakable organ volleys lock in behind Eric Burdon's keening, gravelly voice, you know immediately that this is the definitive version, The Animals' worldwide hit of the old standard. Although the song that is now synonymous with the Newcastle band was coveted by Bob Dylan, who had recorded it on his earlier eponymous album. Keyboard player, Alan Price laughs, "I got told this story by Joan Baez. She said when Bob Dylan heard it they were driving up the coast, past Monterey, California, and he stopped the car and got out and beat the bumpers, he was miffed because he wanted to play electric folk music and when he heard that we'd got there first he was really annoyed." Despite its US-sounding origins, Price insists the song can be traced back to the UK, "It was a song about a brothel in Soho, and it was taken in the 16th century across to America. It was a tune based on Greensleeves." It would be a lucky coincidence if it turned out that the Rising Sun had been in the vicinity of the Flamingo Club. The Animals were regulars at the legendary Soho music club's all-nighters in the Sixties, which also regularly featured Zoot Money, Bobby Tench, Maggie Bell - all of whom will be joining Alan Price in the line up for the R 'n' B Show, which kicked off at the end of September and will be playing 19 more venues over the next couple of months. "Oh there'll be nothing but hits," declares Price with some relish. "And why not? I mean that's the scaffolding of your life, professionally. I'll be doing stuff by The Animals, I'm Crying, House of the Rising Sun, Boom Boom, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. I'll be doing the hits that I had with the Alan Price Set: Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear, Don't Stop the Carnival, Hi-Lilli Hi-Lo. "Zoot Money is on the show and he'll be doing his hits. Bobby Tench, who was a guitarist with Van Morrison and all those people, will be doing Black Magic Woman; Maggie Bell will be doing Try A Little Tenderness, you know, the Otis Redding song. Chris Farlowe will be doing In The Midnight Hour and Out Of Time. "I've been rehearsing in the local pub, because I do once a month there normally, to keep my hand in when I'm not touring. Normally it's empty at lunchtimes, but it was jammed because people coming in to have their lunch were able to hear through the double doors all these big hits being sung by the originals." He may have mellowed into not minding it now, but Price learned the hard way that you have to "please most of the people all of the time," as he puts it, when touring the northern nightclubs with the Alan Price Set, after The Animals. Competing with magicians and performing budgies, he was pragmatic enough to put his own material aside and belt out a selection of the day's hits to keep the punters happy. In common with the rest of The Animals, Price had been active in the local scene in Newcastle from his youth, but things rapidly changed gear with commercial success. Starting out, Price says "I was in the true British tradition, an enthusiastic amateur. When I turned professional, I had to do '70 cities in 70 days' - and I hate flying - and all of a sudden you have to do things because you're in an industry where they're shifting product, and the conflict is art versus commerce. "If you become a success and they find a niche for you, you must keep on repeating it, because they recognise it as having sold. So they see it as a brand. That's why Bob Dylan, for instance, had difficulty when he wanted to go electric, the thing they wanted was this angelic folk singer who was a politician and a priest, who was showing them the way forward and focusing all the discontent there in that generation. When he wanted to go electric, they felt he was betraying the cause and the fans turned against him. This is where success can be a form of enslavement." Life in a Sixties pop group was not all limos and lolly - bands were worked hard. As Price says, "I was only with The Animals, officially, for 15 months, and in that time we did three US tours, we made four albums, six singles and did two European tours." The pace was relentless, as this anecdote demonstrates: "When we played New York, we did the Paramount Theatre and we started at 10 o'clock in the morning and finished at midnight, we did six shows a day." One incident, in particular, sticks out for Price, "We went on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York, we had a police escort at half past eight at night out to Kennedy Airport, got on the plane, a 707, to Heathrow. There was a car waiting to take us to St Pancras Station. We went up to Liverpool, walked on stage in the same make up and the same mohair suits the next night." Despite the exhausting schedules, however, it must have been fascinating to actually work in the US, alongside the very musicians they had been admiring from afar for so long. "Before there were pirate radio stations, you only had the fare that was served up by the BBC, but resourceful people like Eric Burdon had a next-door neighbour who was a jazz and blues fan, and a merchant seaman. He used to bring back records from America that weren't even on release here. Because there was a kind of stand-off between the American and the British musicians' unions, in the Forties and Fifties, you know, when unions were strong and they felt that people were stealing one another's jobs, and we were cut off from the supply of American artists. So everyone used to listen to the American Forces Network." "We had a missionary zeal for this music, I think we identified with it, because it (Tyneside) is a strong area politically, you know, working class. There was a strong trade union ethic up there, and we felt that blues music, the poor black music, represented the same things as the whites had. And we didn't really have contact with our own folk music, whereas the American black music was born of people in the cotton fields, but then heavy industry as well, when you moved up north to Chicago, and we identified with both the sound and the primitive side of it." One of Price's early American heroes was Jerry Lee Lewis, and, to his joy, he was lucky enough to meet and work with him on a show: "We did a Granada TV special with him, and I remember we were in a side rehearsal room, myself and group that I was with at the time. I was playing piano and showing them what I could do, when Jerry Lee Lewis walked in, with a big cigar. He sort of pushed me off the piano stool, sat down, and played the most marvellous boogie-woogie. He had never been given the credit for his piano playing, his left hand was absolutely stupendous - fantastic independence, could do great boogie, and could actually make the piano talk. He put his cigar on the end, you could feel it almost burning the grand piano, then he played a few and turned to me and said 'that's how you do it'." Maximum Rhythm 'n' Blues - A Night at The Flamingo The legendary Soho music club The Flamingo flies again with the Maximum Rhythm 'N' Blues Tour visited UK venues until November 13, 2009. The all-star line up Included Alan Price (The Animals), Chris Farlowe, Maggie Bell and Flamingo Blues Legends Zoot Money and Bobby Tench.