‘They’ll hate me even more': Eric Burdon on the bad blood behind ‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’

Eric Burdon’s blistering take on “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” a 1965 hit with the Animals, gained new life last year when Bruce Springsteen lauded it as part of his keynote speech at SXSW. Few know its complicated history, however.

Originally written by the husband-and-wife Brill Building songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the song was recorded by Burdon even as Mann was preparing to record it himself. From then on, the song would be intrinsically linked not with Mann and Weil but with the Animals — something which likely caused the rift that Burdon, in a new talk with Noise11’s Paul Cashmere, references in talking about the song’s continued resonance.

“We Gotta Get Out of this Place” shot to No. 2 in the UK, just behind the Beatles’ “Help!,” and No. 13 in the U.S. It also became something of a battlefield anthem, beginning during the Vietnam War and continuing, Burdon says, until very recently with each successive generation of soldiers.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Eric Burdon's new collaboration with Cincinnati garage-rockers the Greenhornes recalls all of the nervy street toughness of his legendary sides with the Animals.]

Over the years, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s song has, effectively, become Burdon’s.

“They hate me, anyway, and they’ll hate me even more when I say this: I don’t think they realized what they had with that song,” Burdon tells Noise11. “That song can be done a million different ways. For people like guys serving in the military, who really want to get out of a situation, each generation — except for, maybe, this one where now it’s all rap — but leading up to just recently, the British troops in Iraq voted it their No. 1 song. And that happened in every conflict that I know of, up until the advent of rap, which is now the music of the day.”

Springsteen, in his March 2012 speech in Austin, traced the themes of every song he’s ever written back to “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.” “I stole every song I ever wrote from him, after this hit,” Springsteen said later during a concert appearance, “including my whole new fucking album!”

Burdon, who collaborated with the Greenhornes for a Record Store Day release in 2012, will follow that with a new solo full-length project called Til Your River Runs Dry that’s due January 29, 2013 from ABKCO Records.

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