Edit for headphones. The Animals recorded the most successful commercial version of this traditional folk song, it was a number one hit in the UK, US, Sweden, Finland and Canada.
"The House of the Rising Sun" tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans. Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship is uncertain. Musicologists say that it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads such as the Unfortunate Rake of the 18th century and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting. In the contemporary version, with its oriental name connection, it is thought by some to represent the life of ruin following exposure to an opium den. And in today's world several drugs amply fit the description. Alan Price of The Animals has even claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel.
The oldest known existing recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence "Tom" Ashley and Gwen Foster, who recorded it for Vocalion Records in 1934. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.
Wikipedia: « Recorded in just one take on 18 May 1964, it started with a famous electric guitar a minor chord arpeggio by Hilton Valentine. The performance took off with Eric Burdon's lead vocal, which has been variously described as "howling", "soulful" and "deep and gravelly as the north-east English coal town of Newcastle that spawned him." Finally, Alan Price's pulsating organ part (played on a Vox Continental) completed the sound. Burdon later said, "We were looking for a song that would grab people's attention," and they succeeded: "House of the Rising Sun" was a true trans-Atlantic hit, topping both the UK pop singles chart (in July 1964) and the U.S. pop singles chart (two months later in September 1964, when it became the first British Invasion number one unconnected with The Beatles); it was the group's breakthrough hit in both countries and became their signature song. The song was less successful in Ireland, only peaking at #10 and dropping off the charts one week later. Ireland was a country that had the showband scene, and did not consider rhythm and blues a very popular type of music. The song was also a hit in a number of other countries. »
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