The Animals still rocking

The Animals. (Supplied)

Matt Hewson

For six decades, generations of budding guitar players (this writer included) have begun their musical journeys with The Animals’ 1964 hit House of the Rising Sun.

The enduring legacy of The Animals’ catalogue, which also includes We Gotta Get Out of This Place, It’s My Life, and Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, has kept the band’s original drummer John Steel playing ever since.

“It’s such a pleasure to play these songs, they still stand up so well, and it’s just great to be able to play to an audience which could range from people of my age to teenagers and young kids just starting out in the first band,” Steel said.

“We always go out at the end of the show… and there’s always somebody who’ll say, ‘House of the Rising Sun was the first song I ever learned on my first guitar.’

“It could be a guy in his 60s or it could be a kid of 15 years old, but the number of times people say that to us, it’s amazing.”

The Animals formed in 1962-63 in Newcastle, England and exploded onto the world stage in 1964 with their transatlantic number one version of House of the Rising Sun.

Steel recalled those heady days, heading to the USA on the band’s first American tour.

“To be flying across the Atlantic to our first gigs in New York in 1964 was just like a dream come true; they were absolutely exciting times,” he said.

“Just about all our inspiration for when we were teenagers in the 50s was from across the Atlantic. It was music, movies, books… America at that time to us, it was like a different planet.

“We saw America in the movies and on the television, but it always seemed so far away from our provincial life in the UK.”

The Animals now consists of Steel, frontman Danny Handley, keyboard player Barney Williams and bassist Norm Helm, who will present the band’s classic repertoire.

“It’s just so much fun, you can get a buzz going every night and everybody locks in,” Steel said.

“We just love doing it, it’s not hard work. And it seems like the audience gets something of that vibe from us, because we always end up with a standing ovation, so we must be doing something right. It’s criminal that we get paid well for doing something that we love doing.”

The Animals are at the Geelong Art Centre’s Story House on Sunday, July 7.