houseRThe Beatles had already roiled the American music scene by the fall of 1964, but the British invasion had many skirmishes to go. Another assault came in the form of the Animals who, on September 5, 1964 grabbed the top spot on the U.S. pop charts with their bluesy hit about a New Orleans whore house. No bubble gum here.

“We were looking for a song that would grab people’s attention,” said Eric Burdon. “House of the Rising Sun” got people’s attention big time. The song originated many years before the Animals recording. Alan Lomax recorded an early rendition in the ’30s. Bob Dylan and various folk artists had also recorded versions.

The song is supposedly about a house on St. Louis Street in the French Quarter, said to be the original House of the Rising Sun brothel, run by a Madam named Marianne LeSoleil Levant between 1862 and 1874. The early version is a lament by one of the working girls:

There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor girl and me, O God, for one.
If I had listened what Mama said, I’d be at home today.
Being so young and foolish, poor boy, let a rambler lead me astray.
Go tell my baby sister never do like I have done
To shun that house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.

September 5 , 1929

Noted for his deadpan humor and stammering delivery, Bob Newhart came to prominence in the bob-newhart-41960s with an album of comedy monologues, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. The album was a worldwide bestseller and topped the Billboard pop album chart.

Born on September 5, 1929, Newhart worked as an accountant before entering the world of comedy. He later claimed that his motto, “That’s close enough,” and his habit of adjusting petty cash imbalances with his own money shows he didn’t have what it takes to be an accountant. He says he also worked as a clerk in an unemployment office, making $55 a week but quit when he learned that a weekly unemployment benefit check was $45 a week and he “only had to come in to the office one day a week to collect it.”

In addition to his successful stand-up comedy, Newhart had an acting career that included two long-running and prize-winning situation comedies, first in the 1970s as psychologist Dr. Robert “Bob” Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show and then as innkeeper Dick Loudon on the 1980s sitcom Newhart. He has also appeared frequently in guest spots on other TV shows and in many movies.

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5 thoughts on “September 5, 1964: Animals House

  1. And in dull moments, one can entertain one’s self by swapping the words and melody, “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” for “House of the Rising Sun.” Same meter. Swap works beautifully, except one has a tough time singing the words of one to the melody of the other.

  2. A song covered by Alan Lomax, Bob Dylan, The Animals and anybody who has ever walked into a guitar shop to this day. Incidentally, Richard, weren’t you merely poor before? Sorry to hear about your present wretched state. 😦

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