Thursday, 6 March 2008

THE ANIMALS: Inside - Looking Out

1966, and the Animals were slowly coming apart, but there was one last blast of agony to come before they devolved into going to San Francisco, discovering future rock stars and other less strenuous activities. By now they had moved away from Mickie Most and Columbia towards Decca and Tom Wilson, a man who had or was producing records by Cecil Taylor and the Velvet Underground - indeed the production of "Inside - Looking Out" immediately preceded that of the first Velvets album.

Although subsequently ruined by Grand Funk Railroad, whose 1971 9:53 33 rpm 7-inch live version held the title of longest UK hit single prior to the emergence of the 12-inch, "Inside - Looking Out" is one of the bloodiest and least inhibited of singles even by 1966's notoriously bloody standards. It was their penultimate hit but already they looked set to vapourise. It begins with huge slamming cell doors of beats as Burdon beats a chain around his own head, unsure whether to be scared or glad of his confinement; the operatic weeping "surroundin' me" is counterbalanced and perhaps negated by the proto-Iggy purr of "sympathy, yeah" in the next line. However, the tension immediately bubbles upwards; I can't think of any of its chart contemporaries musing about keeping themselves sane in a burning oven - and then he goes into overdrive; he might be chanting "my reason" but it sounds much more like "rebirth" and he shrieks it over and over as Hilton Valentine's guitar snaps and gurgles behind him (and with Dave Rowberry's organ one is already thinking: this is already beyond the Doors) before giving way to a hysterical and eventually arrhythmic call-and-response of "yeah"s and "baby"s as the group turns into a self-loathing machine gun.

Burdon sweats over his caressed "canvas bags" as the music subsides back into the verse, but once more there's an explosion of screams and feedback. Eventually Valentine has no option but to go onomatopoeically out behind Burdon's grunts, whispers and pleas, loving her, wanting her, demanding her freedom - and given the involvement of Chas Chandler it sounds like a direct precedent to and negation of Hendrix's "Stone Free" as though they are laying the ground for Jimi to coruscate. Again, Burdon whips the band up for the final onslaught :"Can't you feel my love? Can't you see my skill?") as the music eventually throttles itself towards orgasmic release. All this in three minutes and 45 seconds; it's as though all of rock had been condensed and squeezed into this tiny oven and challenged to survive and thrive. It took the man from Seattle to pick up the gauntlet that it fearlessly thrusted onto an unwilling ground.