Of the original British Invasion bands, the Animals were the most clearly influenced by black American R&B rather than blues. Originally the Alan Price Combo (formed in 1958), they became the Animals shortly after the addition of lead vocalist Eric Burdon in 1962. By 1964, under the wing of U.K. producer Mickie Most, they had recorded their second single, "House of the Rising Sun," a Number One hit on both sides of the Atlantic in summer 1964.

More hits followed through 1966: "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (Number 15, 1965), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (Number 13, 1965), and "It's My Life" (Number 23, 1965). In late 1965 Price left the band (the result of tension between him and Burdon) for a solo career. That, and frequent drug use by members, shook up the band somewhat, but Price was replaced by Dave Rowberry, and the Animals had another hit ("Inside-Looking Out," Number 34, 1966) before John Steel left. With Barry Jenkins (formerly of the Nashville Teens) replacing Steel, the group had several more hits ("Don't Bring Me Down," Number 12, 1966; "See See Rider," Number 10, 1966), but by the end of the year Hilton Valentine left to pursue a solo career, and Chas Chandler became a successful manager (the Animals, Jimi Hendrix, and Slade). Steel became Chandler's assistant.

Now billed Eric Burdon and the Animals, the band endorsed psychedelia with "San Franciscan Nights" (Number Nine, 1967), "Monterey" (Number 15, 1968), and "Sky Pilot" (Number 14, 1968). The Animals fell apart, but a year and a half later Burdon formed Eric Burdon and the New Animals, with a lineup that briefly included future Police guitarist Andy Summers, before embarking on an intermittently successful solo career.

The original Animals reunited for a Christmas show at City Hall in Newcastle in 1968. In 1969 Valentine recorded a solo album entitled All in Your Head The original band reunited in 1976 to record a one-shot LP, Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted. In 1983 they reunited once more. The Animals recorded Ark and mounted a tour (captured on Rip It to Shreds) before the band members again went their separate ways. In 1992 an Animals lineup that included Vic Briggs (who had become a Sikh and recorded under the name Vikram S. Khalsa) and Barry Jenkins performed in Moscow's Red Square. In 1994 the Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Chandler died of a heart attack in 1996.