Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

It’s My Life – the Animals

It’s My Life

Performed by the Animals. Written by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. You can listen to the studio version here and see a performance from the TV Show Hullabaloo here (including live vocals and canned music and a nearly surreal set that included women’s heads poking through a wall like mounted animals.) You can buy the song from iTunes here.

From the opening heavy strums of Chas Chandler on the bass followed by Hilton Valentines’ dirty guitar riffs, this song is trouble, but what makes it are the swaggering vocals laid down by Eric Burdon. What misunderstood teenager (and aren’t all teenager misunderstood) wouldn’t relate to the anger and bravado in Burdon’s voice?

Written in the Brill building for the Animals, the songs fits nicely with the working class stance taken buy the Animals, but played well in the States too for any teenager feeling oppressed, misunderstood and left behind. First released in 1965 as part of the British invasion, the Animals may have been the nastiest of the bunch, nothing pretty about them as they churned out in-your-face blues laden hits.

I came late to the party, discovering them in the mid 70’s after buying a used record (still have it with the $1 tag still on it to this day) in a dingy store outside Huntington Village. The defiant voice, the fist-pounding beat, gave voice to much of what I felt. No, it wasn’t a class warfare thing; I could never claim those working class roots, it was the sense of standing up, of staking a claim for my life my way. I remember thinking how I could just play that song to explain to my folks and teachers how I really felt.  And isn’t that what the best songs do, give voice to what we cannot fully articulate?

The whole performance, but particularly Burdon’s biting vocals made it all possible. It was teenage rebellion sharpened to its essence:

It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
Don’t push me
It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want
It’s my life
It’s my life and I’ll do what I want
And I can do what I want
It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want
You can’t tell me
It’s my life and I’ll do what I want

Many have covered the song, including David Johansen and Bruce Springsteen. You can catch the Boss’s version – slower, more meditative, more tied to the father-son pathos, in this bootleg video.

 I’ve always thought that the Animals had the talent and musical muscle to make it as big as some of their better selling contemporaries like the Stones. They never lasted, Burden going his separate, hippy-dippy ways (singing “Sky Pilot” and “Spill the Wine”) and Chas Chandler managing and producing Jimi Hendrix. I suppose it’s a chicken or egg question: did they not persist because they could not make it big or did they not make it big because they did not persist? More and more I think persistence is the key. The Stones were bound to succeed if for no other reason than they kept working at it.


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