When the original Animals broke up, Eric Burdon, having dabbled (maybe more than just "dabbled") in acid, set up shop by the San Francisco bay and immersed himself in psychedelia. Judging by his subsequent recordings, Burdon seemed anxious to distance himself from the Animals' pop/blues confections; his next batch of discs was utterly at odds with his old sound, perhaps even with his old life. The most blatant renunciation came with a track off the Winds of Change LP, billed to "Eric Burdon and the Animals", titled "Good Times". One verse should suffice:

When I think of all the good times that I've wasted
Having good times
When I think of all the good times that's been wasted
Having good times
When I was drinking
I should have been thinking
When I was fighting
I could have done the right thing
All of that boozing
I was really losing
Good times
Good times

Issued as a 45, "Good Times" scraped the bottom of the Top 20 in England; in the US, it was relegated to the B-side of "San Franciscan Nights", a marginally-delirious homage to Burdon's new home. (Disclosure: My brother Paul hates this song with a passion that could only be inculcated by years of listening to me playing the damn thing.)

It occurs to me that thirty-five years later, "Good Times" ought to be due for a revival. Certainly we have no shortage of anxious, grim-visaged teetotalers, foes of fast food and fast living and all the other things that make for bearable literature. And you can't swing a bag of French fries these days without hitting someone who is convinced that anything — anything! — has to be better than taking Saddam Hussein out to the woodshed. Burdon's erstwhile New Puritanism, I'm thinking, is probably even more salable in 2003 than it was in 1968.

And after his dalliance with pharmaceutical mind expansion, Burdon was quite happy to start spilling wine again, this time fronting the L.A.-based funk ensemble called War. Which makes perfect sense, when you think about it: the United States, more by inspired design than by happy accident, is the place to reinvent yourself. Forget F. Scott Fitzgerald's nonsense about there being no second acts in American lives; Eric Burdon, all by his lonesome, managed not only a second, but a third, and he wasn't even born here. It's no wonder the United States is one of only a handful of nations in the history of the world with a waiting list: nowhere else on earth can you find so many opportunities to make something entirely different, possibly even better, out of yourself. It's an American dream. (Includes Indians too.)

The Vent

#329
14 February 2003

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