Your mama and your daddy now told me, baby
Not to bring you to the south
I brought you from the city
And the bright lights knocked you out
Early publicity shot of the Animals taken at Newcastle Castle Keep c1964
(thanks, Richard William Laws)
“Gonna Send You Back to Walker” by the Animals was based on a song written by Timmy Shaw called “Gonna Send You Back to Georgia (A City Slick)” released in 1964. Later that same year the Animals released their self-titled first album, with their largely altered rendition of Shaw’s song. The Animals
album was a hodgepodge of R&B hits by names so well known that only Timmy Shaw sticks out like a sore thumb – or would, if he was credited on the album. For some reason, this song is given to Shaw’s long-time cowriting partner, Johnnie Mae Matthews, who may or may not have cowritten this song with him. Discrepancies abound. Feel free to add yours in the comment section.
The question we’ll attempt to tackle here is, why did the Animals change the lyrics from “Gonna Send You Back to Georgia” to “Gonna Send You Back to Walker
”? What is the significance of this place in the minds of a couple of wet-behind-the-ears British Invasion boys from Newcastle, England? Was it a real place of significance, or does it just have the ring of a sh*t-kicker small town down in the US Deep South?
Newcastle Castle Keep
Let’s look at the evidence. Burdon sings “I’m gonna send you back to Walker, girl, that’s where you belong. Since you’ve been in the big city, you’ve been startin’ treatin’ me wrong.” So, we know Walker is definitely a small town. Looking for and finding small towns called Walker is not a problem, there are 11 in total in the USA, and two in California alone. We don’t know in which big city Burdon is, but we know that Burdon has brought her “to the south.”
At this point in the song, the poor girl is starting to sound like a captive being shipped around the country like a parcel. But the truth is that Shaw’s original had to be greatly altered in order to make it acceptable. For example, “I’m gonna send you back to Georgia, girl, because you don’t know a thing. Now, when I first, I met you, baby, you couldn’t even read or write your name. You sure was dumb.” Opening another priceless window into a southern man in the ‘60s world, comparable in shock and amazement to those old advertisements of people feeding bottles of Coca-Cola to babies. Later Shaw sings, “But I’m gonna send you back to Georgia, girl, before having to use my rod.”
To give the game away, Eric Burdon, the notoriously-voiced singer of the Animals, was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the central suburb of Walker in the United Kingdom, and nowhere near
the US’s Deep South. When he revamped the song, he localized all the places in it. Walker is a pretty run down industrial district next to the River Tyne, a shipbuilding centre of the distant past that has long since been forgotten by the modern world. The way Burdon used this place as his archetypal idea of a sh*t-kicker town in Newcastle says a lot about what it must have been like growing up in Walker. Which ties everything very nicely into an unpretty bow: This song represents Burdon’s revenge on his hometown.
~ Douglas MacCutcheon