“It’s been a long journey,” laughs PP Arnold down the line from her home in Madrid, as she apologises for a long answer. It's taken us through her days singing in England in the early 1970s, through to a brief reunion with her friend and collaborator Barry Gibb in the United States in the late 1970s and onto to her present-day career, with her continuing to sing professionally, both solo and as a backing singer.
“It’s pretty hard condensing 50 years of your life into a few minutes!”
Patricia Cole - the name PP Arnold was bestowed by photographer Gered Mankowitz in London in 1966 - was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Watts and was an unlikely pop star. Married and with two young children by the age of 17, Cole’s career trajectory commenced when a couple of friends suggested she audition for a vacant spot in the Ike and Tina Review, as one of Ike and Tina’s backing band Ikettes.
Original Animals drummer John Steel. Piotr Bieniecki photo
This May, The Animals are touring Australia and New Zealand.
No, Eric Burdon won’t be with them. He lost the rights to the name in 2008, partly because it was evident to a judge that the name was one of convenience to him. However…
John Steel is one of the co-founders of The Animals. Apart from singer Eric Burdon - now performing under his own name with his own cast of Animals - Steel is the member who has been with most of the incarnations. It's his version of The Animals making the trip down under in May.
Animals co-founder John Steel. Mandy Tzaras photo
Remember the screaming '60s? If not, you’ve seen the footage, in particular of the Beatles in "A Hard Days’ Night", of hordes of howling fans hurtling after their fantastic idols … when the object of pursuit becomes less than human, almost a fetishistic object.
Those days are gone, thank god. The other influential band which everyone remembers is the Rolling Stones, long regarded as the great survivors of the Sixties. Until their last LP of blues covers, their LPs were not selling well. One of the reasons I think their last LP sold so well is, I think, the intimacy implicit in the release. That, and the knowledge that the Stones are rediscovering their roots again.
Truth to tell, if you pull the original versions of the songs the Stones covered … you’d probably enjoy the originals just as much, if not better.
You know the drill by now, surely? The Animals and Friends is the official title, and while many of us might wish to transport ourselves back to 1964 to see The Animals as they once were, that's a tad awkward. Not least because one founder member, Eric Burdon, lives in the US, and the other (who was in the band which Burdon joined with later became The Animals) lives in the UK.
Not wishing to misrepresent what they do, drummer John Steel's Animals has an official title, but really, aside from Burdon's special voice, this is as close as you'll get. The Animals must be on their fourth or fifth tour of Australia. They consistently pack out. Because they're damn good, entertaining and great fun, real and natural and the songs are powerful, still, and resonate like slow sonic booms. John Steel is a co-founding member of the Tyneside group that changed its name to the Kansas City Five, and then (via several permutations) to The Animals in 1963 after Eric Burdon joined. Together with Mick Gallagher (replacing Alan Price in 1965 -Gallagher was the band's second keyboardist), Danny Handley on guitar and vocals and Roberto Ruiz on bass and vocals. Live, they're a royal hoot, Steel is clearly still enjoying playing live and touring. A little perspective: Steel is 78 and, unlike most 78-year-olds, is busy cramming a dozen 90-minute gigs into 18 days, which seems a punishing enough schedule for young bands these days. He's a cheerful man, and our conversations are punctuated with laughter.