The Animals at the premiere of the movie Stranger in the House.
Eric was smart enough not to show up!
The other members were Eric
Burdon (vocals), Barry Jenkins (drums), John Weider (guitar) and Danny
McCulloch (bass). John had played with Vic in the Laurie Jay Combo in 1963 and
regarded Vic as somewhat of an older brother. Their friendship is still very
After some weeks of
rehearsal, The New Animals (that is, the version with Vic in it) made their
debut on December 2nd 1966 at the University
of Birmingham. The
band also began recording, making their first single “When I was Young” at
Olympic studios, also in December.
In January, Mike
Jeffrey cut a deal for Eric to sing a song in the upcoming James Bond spoof
"Casino Royale". The song was a Bacharach/David song.
“I was to arrange it. I went up to
see Burt Bacharach at his hotel in the West End.
Even though it was the middle of winter Burt looked tanned and handsome, having
just come from LA. I wrote some horn
parts and we recorded the song. Everyone was there. Tom Wilson (The Animals
producer), Mike Jeffrey, Burt and Angie Dickinson and Burt's song writing partner, the
great lyricist Hal David . Everyone was very happy with the track and congratulated me.
I was quite pleased with myself. It was the first time that a written arrangement
of mine had been recorded.”
However, when it came
time for Eric to overdub the vocal, he hadn’t learned the song properly and Hal
David vetoed its use in the movie.
After a few weeks of doing
gigs around the UK and
Europe, it was time for the experience of a lifetime: a tour that would take
the band around the world with concerts in the USA,
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They left for New York on February 2nd
The tour was hard going at
first, slogging through the cold and dealing with unappreciative
audiences in New England, Canada and the Midwest.
But, when the band arrived in California,
there was an immediate feeling of relief, a sense of ‘coming home’. There in Los Angeles, the band
recorded their first album. ‘Winds of Change”. The hit “San Francisco Nights”
(with Vic playing lead guitar) was taken from this album.
Vic at the Monterey Pop Festival
Indian music had become very popular on the West Coast
and Vic was able to buy some great albums including some by India’s top Sarod
Akbar Khan who had taken up residence near San Francisco.
On their visit to San Francisco,
the Animals played an unscheduled gig at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco where they
met the Grateful Dead
. Vic became friends that night with Bill Kreutzman who today only lives ten
minutes drive away on the island
After touring Australia
and New Zealand, the Animals
returned to the UK
in May where the ‘Summer of Love’ was just beginning.
Eric found out that the
Monterey Pop Festival was going to take place and had Mike Jeffrey move heaven
and earth to get The Animals on the festival. And so the band flew back to LA
on June 15th, appearing on Friday June 16th at the festival. On that trip, the
Animals also played two legendary California
venues for the first time: The Fillmore Ballroom in San
Francisco and the Whiskey a gogo in Hollywood.
After spending August and September back in London,
the Animals were back in California
in October. Here they recorded their second album, “The Twain shall Meet”. By
now Vic’s arranging skills were growing in leaps and bounds and are quite
evident on this album where he wrote for strings, horns and even the band of
the Scots Guards. This album produced two hit singles: “Monterey” (again with
Vic playing blistering lead on a Danelectro electric sitar) and “Sky Pilot”.
Vic with Paul McCartney at a recording session for jazzman Chris Barber
December found the Animals
back home in London.
Except that it didn’t feel like home anymore. The “Summer of Love” had come and
gone. The Brits had very little interest in psychedelic music and many felt the
Animals suspect because of their oft expressed attraction for California. It was also becoming obvious
that there was gross financial impropriety in the Animals management.
In January 1968, the band returned to LA, this time to stay.
But something had changed. The Summer of Love had gone from California as well. After the idealism of
1967, 1968 was to be a year that would bring increasingly hostile
demonstrations against the Vietnam War, as well as the assassinations of Martin
Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Friction started between the band members and
it soon became obvious that the writing was on the wall. Eric brought Zoot
Money into the band, but Zoot’s presence, lovable guy and great
musician that he is, only hastened the bands demise. After recording the New
Animals third album (Everyone of Us) Vic and Danny McCulloch left the band in
July of 1968.
The Windsor Jazz Festival August 1967
For a long time, Vic had wanted to try his hand as an
independent arranger and producer. His work with The Animals had already given
him a reputation amongst the musicians of LA and so he began to work as a
producer as well as an independent arranger for other producers. His first
album project as a producer was with Danny McCulloch for Danny’s album ‘Wings
of a Man’.
During the late ‘60’s, the LA recording scene was THE place
to be. An enormous string of hits had been produced by such artists as The
Beach Boys, The Byrds, Sonny and Cher, The
Monkees and many others. At the heart of most of these recordings was an elite
group of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. Although it was an ever changing
group, some of these musicians became famous in their own right; musicians like
Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Michel Rubini and many others.
Vic chose a group of musicians that he felt he could work
with and they became the core of his record dates. They were:
Jim Gordon – drums, Lyle Ritz – bass, Michel (Mike) Rubini –
piano, David Cohen – guitar, Gary Coleman – percussion.
Since these musicians were in demand and not always
available, Vic also used Hal Blaine, John Guerin - drums, Carol Kaye – bass, Alan and Gene Estes –percussion,
Al Casey, Mike Deasy, Don Peake –guitars.
From the wealth of fine horn
players in Hollywood,
Vic would often use Plas Johnson and Gene Cipriano on reeds,
Vince DeRosa, Bill Hinshaw, Art Maebe and Henry Sigismonti on French Horns. And
of course Vic’s long suffering copyist, Virgil Evans on trumpet, as well as
Tony Terran who was featured on "Hotel Hell", a cut from the Animals'
"Winds of Change" album. Vic's concertmaster for the string section
was inevitably the unflappable Jimmy Getzoff, concertmaster for the Glendale
“It was quite incredible. Here
I was in LA working with jazz guys that I had idolized for years. I was in
demand and just having a great time. I cannot express what an honor and
privilege it was for me to play with these great musicians at such an exciting
As well as Danny McCulloch, Vic
produced albums with other ex-animals Zoot Money (“Welcome to My Head”) and
Hilton Valentine (“It’s all in your Head”). He also produced an album with ex
Music Machine lead singer Sean (TS) Bonniwell (“Close”)
"In May of 1969, I was offered a job
with Capitol Records as a staff producer. Although Capitol had musical giants
like The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Band and The Steve Miller Band on their
roster, they had acquired them by luck rather than musical or business acumen.
Located at the intersection of Hollywood
Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, Capitol still had the aura of a
50s record company. They were located in the round CapitolTower
that was supposed to represent a stack of records and was their corporate logo.
Everything about Capitol was much more
set up to handle Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Peggy Lee than the rock bands
that were now their bread and butter. Someone decided that they needed new
blood in the A& R department and they offered me a contract.I
cut a very lucrative deal with them.That was the only redeeming quality about my time with Capitol.Everything else I hated.
On Tuesday, December 15th,
1969, my boss at Capitol Records called me into his office. "Vic," he
said, "I owe you an apology. All the bad things that I said would not
happen if you came to work here have happened. I'm sorry to tell you we're
going to have to let you go. Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas." I
thought "Merry Christmas to you too, m*#$%
f%^$#," but said nothing.
On the way home I was devastated.
How was I going to maintain my lifestyle without my salary from Capitol
Records? And yet, after reaching home, I found a sense of relief creeping over
me. No longer would I have to go and work in this awful constricting corporate
situation. No longer would I have to feel the constant ache in my cheeks from
trying to smile when I was crying inside."