1968 Eric Burdon & The Animals – Sky Pilot
By 1967, only two of the members of the British group The Animals remained, Eric Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins. They worked together on some songs that were intended for Eric’s solo project. Eric decided to reform the Animals as Eric Burdon and the Animals and recruited Vic Briggs, Danny McCulloch, and John Weider to complete the group.
While stereo albums had been available for years (usually for a dollar more than mono albums), the record companies only released singles in mono until the late sixties. In February 1968, US record companies began releasing stereo singles. Some of the earliest hit stereo singles released that month included Rice Is Nice by the Lemon Pipers and In Need Of A Friend by the Cowsills.
MGM Records had announced that Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon and the Animals would be their first stereo single before the other stereo singles came out, but its release got delayed a few months. Perhaps the length of that song was to blame: the song ran over seven minutes, and the record company had to split the song between the A and B sides of the record.
Playing just the first three minutes of the song from side A blunted the impact of the song, but playing a seven-minute song was difficult for most AM radio stations. Perhaps that worked against the single, which peaked at only #14 in the US and #40 in the UK.
The record stood out in part thanks to its clear anti-war lyrics during the Viet Nam War. Its extensive use of flanging also made it sound unique.
The record was the last time that the Animals reached the top forty in the US. Danny left the group, and Andy Summers and Zoot Money joined them for their 1968 tour.
The group scheduled shows in Japan, but had to delay some of their appearances while they waited for visas. When they got to Japan, Yakuzas kidnapped their manager and demanded a $25,000 ransom to make up for the revenues lost because of the delays. When they released the manager, the Yakuzas told the band if they didn’t leave Japan by the next day, they would be killed.
The band left immediately and disbanded shortly thereafter. Eric joined War and had a few more hits, Andy joined the Police, John joined Family, and the others pursued solo careers.
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