The Worst of Times: When the Animals were stampeded: Alan Price talks to Danny Danziger

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IN 1964, the Animals were on tour in America. We'd had a No 1 record with 'The House of the Rising Sun', and we were very popular.

The American fans were mad, aggressive. When we first arrived in New York, we had to disembark in a different part of the airport because it was being torn to bits by people, and some of the girls climbed over the barrier and literally tore out handfuls of our hair. Wherever we stayed, girls would climb up the fire escape and try to get in the windows.

The other guys in the group loved it - it was as though they'd won the pools. They loved the girls, they loved the glory and they were just intent on raving and being part of that rock'n'roll scene.

I thought we should improve ourselves and rehearse, and try to make the band better. No one listened to me, no one cared. They didn't have the same kind of sensitivity as me. We were all working-class lads, but I had been brought up through the grammar school system; passing exams, working hard, and in our family you always had to better yourself.

The Animals used to be my band in Newcastle, but when we turned pro everyone had an equal say. Some people were in with the manager, and some with the record company. It was like Middle Ages European politics, a constant shift in alliances. And therefore no decisions could be made.

We were working solid. It seemed like a treadmill, and we lost control of our own existence. You can't imagine what it felt like.

Initially we did five shows a day for 10 days at the Paramount theatre in New York - 50 shows in 10 days. Then we had to come back to England to do some promotion and TV. When we finished the Ed Sullivan Show in New York, it was a dash to get the plane, and we went on stage in Liverpool that night, still in the same clothes and make-up from the Ed Sullivan Show. Then it was right back to America again, and we did 42 cities in 42 days.

I hated flying. Just to get on the aeroplane, I used to buy a bottle of duty-free vodka and go into the toilets and drink it before I went on board. So I spent a lot of the time in an alcoholic haze, not for enjoyment but just to blot out what was going on.

In San Francisco we were playing at the Cow Palace, a big convention centre. As we left the hotel, we saw some mad fan running after us, and she ran straight into a lamppost, knocked herself out and was covered in blood.

That was an omen.

We drove to the venue, and there were thousands and thousands of cars, all going to where we were going. There had been a big build-up, a lot of different artistes - Roy Orbison and the Supremes - and by the time we went on, top of the bill, it was getting pretty hysterical.

They appealed for people not to rush the stage, but we were about half-way through when it happened - I had this girl with her arms round my neck, shrieking in my ear, 'Alan, Alan, Alan', as if I didn't know my own name.

The security man was trying to get her off me, but the whole place was in uproar, and we threw down our instruments and ran off to the limos. Several hundred really irate people came out, too, and they recognised us in the car and started banging on the windows.

When you see people en masse in hysteria, it's frightening. There's a kind of animal clawing, grabbing, tearing - you're not really a human being for them. They climbed on to the roof and it started to cave in, so we had to lie on the back seat with our feet up, supporting the roof, to save ourselves.

That was the killer for me. My nerve broke then. We got back to the hotel, and it was a wonderful hotel on top of a hill - you could see the Golden Gate Bridge - and I phoned the tax office in Newcastle, where I used to work. Because of the time difference they were all at work, and they each came on the phone - my bill must have been horrendous. I told them it was awful out there and I hated it. Of course, they thought I was joking: San Francisco, and I'd got to No 1 - they didn't understand at all.

I felt very lonely then.

Shortly after, I told the group I wanted to leave, and one day I just got a taxi to King's Cross and went back to Newcastle.

I'd had dreams of playing in America and being successful, and I suppose one could say that the worst thing that can happen is that your dreams come true.

(Photograph omitted)