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We've Gotta Get Out of This Place - the Animals

The third of the Brill Building sixties songwriting husband and wife partnerships was Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Unlike the other two duos - Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, this time the composer of the music was the male and the woman, Cynthia Mann, the writer of the lyrics. Also unlike the other two, they were the only couple whose marriage survived the years and they remain together to this day. They wrote more US Hot 100 entries than either of the other two teams as well as their fair share of classics including "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", "On Broadway", and "I Just Can't Help Believing". Equally at home writing both slow ballads and rock, it was ironic that the couple who teamed up with Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller to write "Only in America" for Jay and the Americans (a kind of "white Drifters"), also wrote the song that became the unofficial slogan of the American troops in Vietnam: the Animals' "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place".

"Only in America" is worth looking up on Youtube, praising as it does the concept of the American Dream whereby anyone can make it, no matter who they are, in a "land of opportunity" where you can "go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire" and "a kid without a cent" can "grow up to be president". Worth looking up, that is, because of the comments on line by people who seem to think that the America of the sixties, when the song was a hit, was a halcyon land of equal opportunity and who yearn for its return. No wonder the Drifters turned it down.

The Animals were incredibly popular in America because Eric Burden's angst riven vocals, suffused in barely suppressed anger, were instinctively recognised by the disillusioned and dispossessed as echoing their own lives. None moreso than the US servicemen drafted to fight in Vietnam who found in the song's title the perfect articulation of the thought that was uppermost in all of their minds.

In the era of Trump, the words resonate as clearly as ever and remind us that these lyrics alone have more relevance than anything by either Barry or Goffin:

"In this dirty old part of the city where the sun refused to shine people tell me there ain't no use in tryin',

now my girl you're so young and pretty and one thing I know is true you'll be dead before your time is due"

And surely Chas Chandler's wonderful bass line deserves a writing credit too.


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