This is one of those songs that comes and goes at very random times. Maybe because so many people have recorded it.
This song is of unkown authorship and is considered a traditional folk song. It may have started out that way, even when Bob Dylan recorded it in 1961 for his debut album. But by the time that The Animals recorded it on 18 May 1964 it was transformed into a “folk rock” hit.
Lead singer of the Animals, Eric Burdon, tells the tale that the group needed a song to end their set while on tour with Chuck Berry, that was different. Not a straight out rocker that most bands were ending sets with. To do this, they took this song, put Eric in a single red spot on stage and rocked it some. The response was so positive they decided to record it over the reluctance of their producer. The song was recorded in one take, all of 15 minutes or so.
The Animals had begun featuring their arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” during a joint concert tour with Chuck Berry, using it as their closing number to differentiate themselves from acts that always closed with straight rockers. It got a tremendous reaction from the audience, convincing initially reluctant producer Mickie Most that it had hit potential, and between tour stops the group went to a small recording studio on Kingsway in London to capture it.
But, that’s not what I came here to tell you about (you were waiting for that line, weren’t you?). Back in the day when I was a worship leader in churches, we used to play around during warm ups by playing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun. Since it’s a very basic song in A minor, and in 4/4 time, the basic melody and rhythms can accept many other lyrics.
For fun, play in your head Amazing Grace to the tune of Peaceful Easy Feeling or better yet the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.
And now that I’ve got that stuck in your head, my job is done here.