It's one of those traditional songs that just about everybody has covered. Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan -- even Nina Simone and Dolly Parton have recorded it. And, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can listen to practically every version.
But when you think of "House of the Rising Sun'' you probably think of the Animals. Click here and hear for yourself. This version rocketed to the top of the Billboard chart in September of 1964.
It was the first song by a British Invasion band NOT written by Lennon-McCartney to reach No. 1. The Beatles, truly impressed by a song they must have known but hadn't covered, even sent a telegram of congratulations to Eric Burdon and Company.
The intro guitar hook may be one of the most recognized in rock history. Add Burdon's angry vocals and the distinctive Vox organ work of Alan Price and you have the ingredients for a classic.
Picker alert: If you're just tinkering around with a guitar this is a perfect song to learn. It's a simple chord progression of Am, C, D, F, Am, C, E. Then Am, C, D, F, Am, E, Am, E. To pick it, just pluck the base string of each chord and go up and down the ladder.(For Am and C, it's A-D-G-B-G-D, for D and F it's D-G-B-E-B-G, and for E it's E-A-D-G-D-A). You're sure to impress your friends with this one!!!
The Animals' neat trick was to change the lyrics and make it a song about gambling instead of whoreing, which probably helped them avoid hassles with the FCC. (Kids, I know this is hard to believe, but you just couldn't publish anything you wanted to back in 1964. There were actually censors standing by waiting to flag your naughty messages.)
The song had been on the Animals' touring playlist long before they decided to record it, which may explain how they nailed it in one studio take. It's another splendid example -- and there are many -- of a UK band doing a brilliant yet respectful interpretation of American blues.