Queen‘s Brian May has paid tribute to late Animals guitarist Hilton Valentine by posting a pair of videos in which he plays — and discusses — the famous intro part that Valentine created for The Animals’ classic 1964 version of “The House of the Rising Sun.”
In the first clip, May introduces the riff by saying, “I’m gonna take you back to 1964, when a revolutionary sound burst upon the airwaves, something like this…”
After playing the famous arpeggiated chord progression, Brian talks a bit about The Animals’ “immortal” recording of “The House of the Rising Sun,” which topped the charts in the U.K. and the U.S.
“[I]t really was totally revolutionary in its time, because English pop music was not like that,” May maintains. “It was very fluffy and rather lovely and melodic and sweet, but it didn’t have the passion that this had.”
He goes on to explain that The Animals “didn’t care about English music that much,” adding, “What they loved was the music of the black blues men who put into their music a passion and a feel and an urgency which really wasn’t known in England at that time. So they’re one of the pioneers of the blues.”
Reflecting on Valentine’s guitar riff, May says, “It has to be played roughly. It’s not about perfection, it’s about feel, and that’s partly what made this record so exciting, so raw, I think.”
May finishes his tribute by saying, “R.I.P. Hilton Valentine. We love ya, and thank you for this amazing, amazing contribution to the development of rock music. Gonna always love it.”
In the second video, May gives a tutorial on how to play the riff.
Valentine died on Friday, January 29, at age 77.
By Matt Friedlander
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