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Steel during a concert of The Animals in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, 2016
|Born||4 February 1941|
Gateshead, County Durham, England
|Associated acts||The Animals|
John Steel (born 4 February 1941) is an English musician well known for being the drummer for The Animals. Having served as the band's drummer at its inception in 1963, he is the only original bandmember playing in the current incarnation of The Animals. His tenures with the band are 1963–1966, 1975–1976, 1983 and 1992–present.
John Steel was the youngest of four children. He attended Gateshead Grammar School. As a child, he and his siblings took piano lessons, though only Steel would go on to have a career in music. Growing up, Steel was exposed to records from Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Fats Waller and Sid Phillips.
Steel started his career as a musician while still in school around 1957. He met the future lead singer of the Animals, Eric Burdon, while they were studying together at the Newcastle College of Art and Industrial Design. His first instrument was the trumpet, and this was his primary instrument in the first group where he and Burdon played together. Steel's musical influences initially came from traditional jazz, but he later drew influence from modern jazz. When he transitioned to drums, Steel admired jazz drummers such as Elvin Jones and Art Blakey. They switched from jazz to embrace the new rock 'n' roll explosion.
When I played drums rather than trumpet I never felt really confident enough, because the people I was influenced by and admired were jazz drummers ... There was no way I was going to be that good so I never considered myself good enough to aspire to that kind of thing. But somehow I just accidentally fell into rock 'n' roll and R&B.— John Steel, Interview, 2011.
In March 1959, Steel met Alan Price at a church hop in Byker, Newcastle, and with Hilton Valentine (guitar) and Chas Chandler (bass) formed a band; by 1960 the Alan Price Combo had acquired a reputation in Newcastle. Burdon joined in 1962 from a band called the Pagans, and the Animals were born.
Subsequently, Steel returned to Newcastle and became a businessman, while also working in former bandmate Chas Chandler's management and publishing organisations. In 1971, Chandler introduced him to the band Eggs over Easy, with whom he played as they started the pub rock music genre. Over the years Steel has remained active as a part-time local drummer and has joined several Animals' reunion incarnations.
Steel has toured since 1993 as the drummer with variations of the Animals line-up including Hilton Valentine, Dave Rowberry, Zoot Money and Mick Gallagher. In 1993, Hilton Valentine formed "Animals II", which was joined by John Steel in 1994 and Dave Rowberry in 1999. Other members of this version of the band include Steve Hutchinson, Steve Dawson and Martin Bland. From 1999 until Valentine's departure in 2001, the band toured as the Animals. After Valentine left this Animals incarnation in 2001, Steel and Rowberry continued on as "Animals and Friends", with Peter Barton, Jim Rodford and John Williamson, joined on occasion by ex-"New Animals" bassist Danny McCulloch. When Rowberry died in 2003, he was replaced by Mickey Gallagher (who had briefly replaced Alan Price in 1965). Animals and Friends continues to perform today, and frequently plays engagements on a Color Line ship that travels between Scandinavia and (Germany).
In 2003, Steel provided an invited review of Sick of Being Me, a novel by Sean Egan, a novelist and journalist with a number of publications relating to the music industry. The novel concerned the challenges to a struggling musician in the 1990s.
Ownership of Animals name
In 2008, an adjudicator determined that John Steel owned "The Animals" name in Britain, by virtue of a trademark registration Steel had made in relation to the name. Eric Burdon had objected to the trademark registration, arguing that Burdon personally embodied any goodwill associated with the Animals name. Burdon's argument was rejected, in part based on the fact that he had billed himself as "Eric Burdon and the Animals" as early as 1967, thus separating the goodwill associated with his own name from that of the band. In 2013 Eric Burdon won an appeal, making him the owner of the Animals name.
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Biography of The Animals. Rockhall.com. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "Interview – John Steel (Animals and Friends)". Earlyblues.com. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard book of number 1 hits. Billboard Books. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
- Steve King, History of The Animals; History of British Blues, 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
- Steel expressed his views of the novel as follows: "Sean Egan tells a dark and dirty tale about the world of rock and roll: the sleazy, desperate bottom of the Rockpile where the people who don't 'make it' live. The central character Paul finds he has a natural ability as guitarist but he doesn't get the breaks. Given a chaotic upbringing by his dysfunctional, penniless parents, his ambition to make it as a musician too soon brings him into contact with hard drugs. He quickly becomes addicted to heroin, a smack habit which creates a battleground of his need to score and his need to play.". Review particulars of Sick of Being Me; Amazon.com. Retrieved 15 June 2017. "New Animals" guitarist Vic Briggs also contributed a review of the novel.
- "Eric Burdon loses battle to be the only Animal". Daily Mail. 14 December 2008. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- "Singer Eric Burdon given rights to perform as The Animals without bandmate John Steel", Daily Mail, 16 November 2013.
- The Animals biography and discography at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 October 2009)
- John Steel biography at Allmusic website