First Hit #1: September 5, 1964
For Halloween, it’s only appropriate that we get a tale of woe, and the House of the Rising Sun is the tale of a young man corrupted in the titular house. I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever completely understood the lyrics completely, not because they are overly complicated but because the lead singer’s cry of anguish often makes them borderline unintelligible. That’s not really a problem, and is arguably one of the song’s main strengths. Apart from being fun to shout when drunk, as a recording the emotion in the lyric overwhelms everything else in the song, including the organ bubbling up underneath and the distinctive guitar.
The most interesting thing about the song is that it’s a folk song, but so thoroughly modern that one would be forgiven for thinking it an Animals original. They own the song, they take it over and make it their distinct piece. It sounds like their own personal tale of woe, as the shouts of agony become increasingly frantic and the instrumentation builds over itself. Yet, it’s not their songs, and the Animals have effectively shown what makes a good cover – at the end of the day, the song just sounds wrong interpreted any other way.