View Full Version : House of the Rising House
01-02-2006, 12:02 AM
I am writing this in response to several Forum Members discussing the Animals' Song 'House of the Rising Sun'.
Since I haven't been able to respond (computer illiteracy), I am writing a new thread to respond.
The song 'House of the Rising Sun' was originally written about a whore house in the early 1920's, but through the century, the meaning, as well as the lyrics, have changed, at least the way that I understand it.
The House of the Rising Sun changed from a description of a Whore House to a song about addiction to alchohol. The song the way the Animals sang it, as I understand, is a re-written version, making several refferances to alchoholic addiction, such as the 'Ball and Chain' referance, and the 'Sin and Misery', which refers to the mental and physcial exaustion and pain which alchoholism brings (The sin is not a literal sin in the sense of christian sin, but a popular referance to any sort of vice).
This was how I understood the son, anyway. If anyone has any questions, or you want to correct me, please resond within thirty days, or email me at Altsang77@yahoo.com
C K Dexter Haven
01-02-2006, 07:45 AM
Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Altsang, we're glad to have you with us.
You've posted this thread in a forum dedicated to comments on Staff Reports (in our section called "Archives," there's a bunch of reports on interesting topics, called either "Staff Reports" or "Mailbag.") I'm therefore moving your thread to the forum called "Cafe Society," where you'll get more attention and more response. You might want to read over the forum descriptions on the main page.
And I'm sure you'll get the hang of replying to threads pretty quickly; there's some little buttons in the lower right, the one with a picture of a pen on a paper with no descriptive word is the one for a simple reply. Alternately, in the lower left at the bottom of the thread is a button that says "Post Reply." Either of those work fine. So, welcome!
01-02-2006, 08:23 AM
I always thought it was about gambling; that the singer had gotten one lucky break while everyone else had lost big, but would be back tommorow to lose.
01-02-2006, 11:38 AM
The problem with the Animals' version is that it is sung by a guy - which is a cop out. I suspect their label told them they couldn't do the real lyrics. Men can sing it from a woman's point of view - I offer you the version on Dylan's first album, which I think is terrific. That was from only a few years before the Animals' version
01-03-2006, 11:00 AM
There's an article that addresses this tangentially in the January 3, 2006 New York Times. The title of the article is _Archaeologist in New Orleans Finds a Way to Help the Living_.
The article is about archaeologist Shannon Lee Dawdy's efforts in the reconstruction of New Orleans. She tells the story of the 2004 discovery of the remains of an 1820's-era French Quarter hotel called the Rising Sun Hotel. During the course of her investigation, she found "an unusual number of liquor bottles and rouge pots".
"For Dr. Dawdy, it was a lucky break, the kind of find that can make a reputation. 'Can you prove archaeologically is this a brothel?' she asked. 'I can't prove it with a yes or no answer.'
"Nor can she say with certainty that this Rising Sun was the inspiration for 'House of the Rising Sun,' the famous song first recorded in 1937 by Alan Lomax, a musicologist and folklorist.
"'I love the ambiguity of it all,' Dr. Dawdy said."
This citation conflicts with Cecil's 3/27/01 report regarding the first recording of the song, in case anyone cares to investigate that further.
01-03-2006, 11:10 AM
I have a feeling that Altsang77 may have stumbled across this staff report: What's the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" all about? (http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mrisingson.html)
01-03-2006, 11:43 AM
I always interpreted the Animals' version as being sung by a guy who fell in love with one of the prostitutes and spent his life trying to rescue her from that fate when she couldn't (or didn't want to) leave.
01-03-2006, 11:50 AM
There's a version sung by Andy Griffith (!!) on the original album Golden Throats, that essential collection of weird song covers. Griffith's version changed the lyrics of the Animals' version, to the point where the song is completely incomprehensible. It's the audio equivalent of Plan Nine from Outer Space.
Push You Down
01-03-2006, 11:59 AM
In a guitar tabs book I have from the 40s (belonged to my grandfather) it has this song. The lyrics it includes are also from a male perspective and tell a clearer story about a young man who falls for one of the prostitutes at the House of the Rising Sun brothel.
Interestingly, Amzing Grace and HotRS can be sung to the same tune.
01-03-2006, 12:23 PM
Interestingly, Amzing Grace and HotRS can be sung to the same tune.
Even more interesting, on the album A Twisted Christmas they sing "O Little House of Bethlehem" to the same tune.
"O Li------ttle House......................ofBethlehemmmmmmmm
How Stiiiiiiillllllllll we seeeeeeeee thee liiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeee..."
01-03-2006, 12:35 PM
So can "Gilligan's Island" and "Stairway to Heaven".
There are only 6 stories? Pshaw. There are only 6 tunes.
01-03-2006, 08:10 PM
There are only six stories ?? WTF?
In other news, an accidental release of radiation at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was caused by a sudden increase in core fuel temperatures, nearly causing a full core melt-down.
If our new Guest is correct in his/her/it's assertion, it does beg a pretty decent Cafe Society hijack- how many songs have endured long enough to have their origins seriously altered? I don't mean a "Puff The Magic Dragon" kind of thing, where there are radically different interpretations of what the song is about ( some involve cannabis, some involve children. None involve children using cannabis. :D )
Altsang77, welcome to the Straight Dope. Who wrote the original song, and first recorded it?
01-17-2006, 11:45 AM
If our new Guest is correct in his/her/it's assertion, it does beg a pretty decent Cafe Society hijack- how many songs have endured long enough to have their origins seriously altered?
Hundreds at least in English alone. It's an old roots/blues song, and old blues songs tend to change a bit according to the singer's predilictions. To cite another obvious example, "Stack o' Lee Blues"/"Stack o' Lee"/"Stagger Lee" - even the title changes.
The contention that The Animals' label pressured them to change any lyric is unsubstantiated nonsense.
01-17-2006, 12:04 PM
Having double-checked the lyrics, I think the song is eminently straightforward. The singer is an everyday drunk spending his money on whiskey and the dice (maybe women, too), going nowhere. He's doing exactly what his father did, and he doesn't want his kids to end up the same way.
Then he goes back to his wife and kids, who are probably not pleased.
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