The promise of rock 'n' roll - and of all music in general - is that it can liberate the individual. Rock in particular is the ultimate democratic music in that just about anyone with some skill can play it and music lessons are not strictly necessary. Thus it is that people can free themselves just by having the guts to go onstage and play, play and play until they get heard. If you want freedom enough you will go through just about anything to get it, and the same goes for rock*. Who knows how many dubious parents watched as their sons and daughters set off for musical glory, though I am guessing they were mostly supportive as well, since music is like a bug - it cannot be helped, and the need to play and sing is as strong as other primal urges...
...all of which is to say here we are in Newcastle, with a band who undoubtedly had music as their one way out; it surprised me to find out they didn't write this song, as it is so much their story. And yet once heard it became everyone's song, from the UK to the US to soldiers in Vietnam, for whom this was an anthem. The imperative to break the chains and start up fresh and GET OUT are fuelled by the tense, rough vibe of the song and Burdon's compassionate and loud pleas. Can things really go on as they are? Can a young man go off to join the Freedom Riders, only to come back and find his girl's parents watching The Black & White Minstrel Show? Generations were slamming into each other all over the place and the intractability of the older generation was threatening to smother the younger - they simply HAD to break free, because 1965 wasn't 1945 or even 1955 (how much of UK culture refuses to comprehend this, I wonder).
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote this for the Righteous Brothers; then Mann was going to record it himself, only to have this come out first (due to Allen Klein's giving a copy of the demo to Mickie Most). From New York to Newcastle the message was sent and received, and heard and understood worldwide. In the above clip the Animals seem to be in a post-Shindig!-riot Victorian museum - bad boys they may have been, but freedom perceived and freedom not-quite-within-reach could make anyone angry. And one way or another this song spoke to many everywhere yearning for escape, even if they had no real expectation of it, just kids with transistor radios under their pillows, listening and biding their time. Freedom is there, you just have to be determined enough to take it. How to escape, though; that's the thing.
*There is a wide manly sentimental streak in rock that forgives and tolerates a great deal; in the Sixties the liberation was on all fronts, which of course caused some to overdo it. The repercussions of those excesses caught up with some faster than others.