Normal History Vol. 748: The Art Of David Lester

Every week, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 40-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

What was the objective when the Animals changed the lyrics from “girl” to “boy” in “The House Of The Rising Sun”? Oh, now I see Dylan was involved, and there’s likely been plenty written on this subject.

In 1937, the lyrics were about the ruin of many a poor girl, and I must say, I’ve always found the Animals’ version confusing. If, as we’d somehow learned, it was about a brothel, why would it be the ruin of any boy? Evidently, the Animals changed the character of prostitute to gambler in an attempt to secure more radio airplay. I’m not totally studying this trajectory, but it seems likely that their objectives were the money and fame that would make them happy. It is unlikely that they wanted to tell the story of the terrible treatment of prostitutes, etc. Such things were not their purpose. Some number of men took a song that had specific meaning about the plight of women, and they changed it to make money for themselves. Sheesh.

I case you haven’t heard: Fame and money aren’t everything. Personally, I’m grateful that most of my touring experiences were by car, not tour bus. Grateful that we were able to step off the stage after playing and to meet people face to face. If you get too famous, you have to go backstage and eat shrimp rings that have been sitting out for too long. The ruin of many a poor boy, no doubt.

“Tolerate Me” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986) (download):