To chart-topping American acts like Steve Lawrence (“Go Away Little Girl”) and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs (“Sugar Shack”), 1963 had been a year filled with promise. And then came the Beatles, whose dramatic arrival in January 1964 clearly posed a commercial threat. By the middle of 1964, with Louis Armstrong (“Hello Dolly”) and Dean Martin (“Everybody Loves Somebody”) both having earned #1 pop hits, it may have seemed that the worst was over. But then came another blow in the form of the Animals, whose signature hit, “House of The Rising Sun,” reached #1 on the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1964. Steeped in a musical idiom very different from “She Loves You” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “House of The Rising Sun” hinted at an entirely new line of attack from the forces of the British Invasion.
While some have claimed that the Animals’ rendition of “House of The Rising Sun” was lifted fairly directly from the version Bob Dylan recorded for his 1962 debut album, Dylan himself appears to have lifted his from fellow Greenwich Village folkie Dave Van Ronk. In any event, it was the Animals’ version that topped the pop charts on this day in 1964 and made Dylan himself “jump out of his car seat” with enthusiasm when he first heard it on the radio.