Them – Mystic Eyes

Van is the man….he made some absolutely classic songs when he started out with Them. Gloria is probably the most famous song they did but they had many more. I discovered them when I was 18 and I had to import an album from the UK to get an album. It’s not like it is now…you had to work for it. It’s pure music with a relentless backbeat.

This powerful song builds up and lead singer Van Morrison takes over. Van’s voice and the bass are hypnotic. It was the first song on the first album by Them…named Angry Young Them released in 1965. It was written by Van Morrison who would in the future use the word Mystic in a few more songs.

The song peaked at #33 on the Billboard 100 and #24 in Canada but didn’t chart in the  UK. I  mentioned earlier that Gloria is their most popular song but the hit version was by Shadows Of Night in 1965. It was a B side with Them to the great song Baby Please Don’t Go.

Van has said the band was improvising in the studio and the song was born.

Van Morrison said the song was inspired by his own experience walking around England’s Nottingham Park when he saw some kids playing by a graveyard. Morrison was struck by the powerful intersection between the “bright lights in the children’s eyes” and “the cloudy lights in the eyes of the dead.”

Mystic Eyes

One Sunday mornin’
A-we went walkin’
Down by, the old graveyard
The mornin’ fog
I looked into
A-yeah, those mystic eyes

Her mystic eyes
Mystic eyes
Mystic eyes
Mystic, eyes
Mystic eyes
Mystic eyes
Oh, the mystic eyes
Mystic Eyes

Them – Mighty Like A Rose

Ya’ know, their turnin’ on
in the classroom
ain’t the point.
It’s when you’re missin’ out
teacher teach ya’ how to
roll a joint.

I’ve pulled the album out and I’ll type the liner notes on this song… Mighty Like A Rose:

“Remember Brown Eyed Girl? (It’s not here) Well it’s father, Mighty Like a Rose is one elegant slice of raunch and it’s here in spades. It’s a simmering summer song about a nympha and her sugar cubes. “

This song was not a B side… it was never released when the band was together. I first heard it when I bought an old import album called Them Featuring Van Morrison ‎– Backtrackin’ that was released in 1974. I found it in a cutout bin in the mid 80s.

It has the sound of Brown Eyed Girl. Van Morrison has said that this was just a demo…not a finished song but it sounds really good. It does predate Brown Eyed Girl…after he left Them he recorded for Bert Burns and released Brown Eyed Girl.

Them was a very good sixties band. Some of their songs were Stones like…in many cases a little tougher and raunchier…and I mean that in a good way. Mighty Like A Rose is one of my favorite Them songs.

I doubt the song would have passed the censors back then…it probably would have been blacklisted immediately.

Mighty Like A Rose

You have drowned
a thousand sorrows
all in one,
and mixed with mugs, (?)
and millionaires
you have done.
Ya’ been and gone and done it
for a quid,
and just what you don’t know,
up there you got hid.

Lord, you’re only
fourteen summers
and God knows,
yeah, child,
you’re gettin’ mighty
like a rose.

You got pulled (?)
for tryin’ to straighten
up this town,
and looked bashful
bribin’ old, bent
Barrister Brown.

Ya’ know, their turnin’ on
in the classroom
ain’t the point.
It’s when you’re missin’ out
teacher teach ya’ how to
roll a joint.

Lord, hey,
while you’re down there
lookin’ up my nose,
yeah,
child you’re gettin’ mighty
like a rose.

Next time they try to fire me,
ya’ make the scene.
You’re gettin’ sugar cubes
for breakfast.
Ya’ know what I mean.

And the, the hazard old, (?)
the wind blows
through you’ ears.
Ya’ haven’t got enough
of those
what ya’
haven’t got for years.

Yeah, but never mind
steppin’ on my toes.
Yeah, child,
you’re gettin’ mighty
like a rose.

Yeah, hey, hey,
you’re mighty like a rose.
Uh-huh, aww, aww, aww, aww, aww, aww,
mmm-mm, mmm-mm, mmm-mm, mmm-mm…

Them – Baby Please Don’t Go

There are many versions of this old blues song but the one I know the best is Them featuring a 19-year-old Van Morrison on lead vocal. This song was the A-side to Gloria when it was released. Gloria ended up being the hit but this one managed to peak at #10 in 1961 and #65 in the UK in 1991.

Morrison based Them’s version on John Lee Hooker’s 1949 arrangement, which he titled “Don’t Go Baby.” He heard the song on Hooker’s 1959 Highway of Blues album.

A pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page, a session musician at the time, played guitar on Them’s version. There’s debate over whether or not he wrote the guitar part or simply played what Them’s Billy Harrison came up with. Whether or not Page is actually the one playing is, itself, debated.

Blues great Big Joe Williams is credited with writing this song, but it was developed from a folk song titled “Long John,” which was recorded in 1934 by John and Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. That recording captures the song being sung by black prisoners working at Darrington State Prison Farm in Texas. It was a popular tune there because “Long John” was about an escaped prisoner on the run from authorities.

Baby, Please Don’t Go

Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don’t go

Baby, your mind done gone
Well, your mind done gone
Left the county farm
You had the shackles on
Baby, please don’t go

Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
To git you way down here
I make you walk alone
Baby, please don’t go
Hey

Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don’t go

Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Git you way down here
Make you walk alone
Baby, please don’t go

Know how I feel right now
My baby leavin’, on that midnight train
And I’m cryin’

Baby, please don’t go
Oh, baby please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don’t go
Let’s go

Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
Before I be your dog
To git you way down here
I make you walk alone
Baby, please don’t go, yeah

Alright

Them – Gloria

Please pardon the personal story…

This song belongs right beside Louie Louie and Wild Thing as a staple of garage band rock. Three chords… E D A and you are off to the races.  A beginner guitar player can emulate this song rather well. When I was in high school, the band I was in… played this song. We would play more challenging songs of course but this one always got a good response and participation from the crowd with the call and answer lyrics.

When I was a senior we played in the “fall frolics” (rock bands, singers) in our high school gym and I had a couple of friends who were curious/envious and wanted to know how it felt to play in front of people. We had been playing at parties and a bar (shhhh yea we were underage) by this time. What I did was show one of them this song on bass…it’s that easy… and the other one we handed a tambourine and told him to participate in the chorus.

For that one song we called them up and they got to know how it felt. I ran into one of them a few years back and he thanked me again. He said it was one of the scariest but best moments he ever had in high school.

Sorry for the detour… This song was by “Them” which featured no other than Van the man Morrison (who also wrote the song). It peaked at #93 in the Billboard 100 in 1965 and #71 in 1966.

The song charted higher for The Shadows of Knight in 1966 at #10 in the Billboard 100.

At this stage in their career, session musicians played on Them’s records instead of the actual band, although Van Morrison did the real singing. One of these session players was Jimmy Page, who played guitar on this song.

 

From Songfacts

Them was a garage band from Belfast. “Gloria” was written by Van Morrison, who was their lead singer. The song is about a girl who comes by for (presumably) sexual encounters.

The recorded version is a tidy two and a half minutes with nothing explicit, but when Them (and later The Doors) would perform the song live, it often became an extended jam with Morrison going into more graphic, spoken-word detail about the encounter. Anyone who wondered just what happened when a groupie came by to see a willing rock star was given a first-hand account.

According to Van Morrison, the song was titled after his cousin Gloria, who was 13 years older. The song is not about her though.

In December 1964, this was released as the B-side of the Them single “Baby Please Don’ t Go,” which was a cover of a blues standard. “Gloria” gained traction when it became a highlight of the group’s live shows, sometimes developing into a 20-minute jam.

The song got little airplay in England, but found a following in America among the same garage rock audience that loved “Louie Louie.” In the US, it was first released (as the B-side) in March 1965, but was reissued as the A-side of the single in April 1966, which is when it charted at #71. It became the most well known song for the group, despite its humble beginnings.

The Shadows of Knight made a version that hit #10 in the US two years later. It became a very popular song to cover because it’s easy to play on guitar and contains an anthemic chorus (G-L-O-R-I-A).

Some of the other groups to record the song include I ragazzi del sole (1966), Blues Magoos (1967), Patti Smith (1975, with a line from her poem Oath added at the beginning: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”), The Doors (1983), Count Five (1991), Eddie & The Hot Rods (1997), Rickie Lee Jones (2001), Simple Minds (2001) and Popa Chubby (2001).

Van Morrison released his own version in 1974. 

In Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time issue, Morrison says of this song: “I was just being me, a street cat from Belfast. Probably like thousands of kids from Belfast who were in bands.” 

In 1966, The Doors shared a bill with Them at the The Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood, California for a series of shows. Them’s Morrison was a big influence on The Doors’ Morrison, and Jim learned a lot about stagecraft and incorporating poetry into his act from watching Van. The final night of the performances, both bands shared the stage to perform this song.

This song did not make Van Morrison a rich man. In fact, he saw almost zero money from the hit. Upon reviewing the numbers, attorney Alan Gershen estimated that Morrison had lost out on at least $250,000 – a huge amount of money, especially for that time. “It seemed to me that Van really didn’t have a clue about the music-publishing business,” friend Jon Gershen said of the situation.

Gloria

Like to tell you ’bout my baby
You know she comes around
Just ’bout five feet-four
A-from her head to the ground
You know she comes around here
At just about midnight
She make me feel so good, Lord
She make me feel all right

And her name is G-L-O-R-I
G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria!
G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria!
I’m gonna shout it all night
Gloria!
I’m gonna shout it every day
Gloria!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

She comes around here
Just about midnight
She make me feel so good, Lord
I want to say she make me feel all right
Comes a-walkin’ down my street
Then she comes up to my house
She knock upon my door
And then she comes to my room
Yeah, and she make me feel all right

G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria!
G-L-O-R-I-A
Gloria!
I’m gonna shout it all night
Gloria!
I’m gonna shout it every day
Gloria!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
So good
Gloria!
All right
Feels so good
Gloria!
All right, yeah

Them – Here Comes The Night

Van Morrison sounds great on this one.  This song was written by Bert Berns and was released as a single in 1965 with “All For Myself” as the B-side. It was the biggest hit for Them. Bert would later sign Van Morrison to a solo contract with Bang records. It is the biggest hit they had but the Van Morrison written song Gloria is probably their most well known.

Here Comes The Night peaked at #24 in the Billboard 100 and #2 in the UK in 1965. The song was originally released by LuLu in 1964 but only charted at #50 in the UK and didn’t chart in America.

In the 1980s unlike today I had to order a UK import album to get this song. Van went on to bigger and better things but Them produced some memorable songs. His voice on this one is as always great.

From Songfacts

Van Morrison was Them’s lead singer. He left the band in 1966 to pursue a solo career, and Them changed their name to The Belfast Gypsies and released one album before reverting back to their original name. They released four more albums before splitting.

Bert Berns (a.k.a. Bert Russell) was a talented songwriter and producer whose life was tragically cut short in 1967 at the age of 38 by a fatal heart attack. Among his writing credits are “Twist And Shout” (Isley Brothers, The Beatles), “Hang On Sloopy” (The McCoys), “Piece Of My Heart” (Erma Franklin, Janis Joplin), and “Tell Him” (the Exciters). His production credits include Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Under The Boardwalk” by The Drifters.

Here Comes the Night

Whoa, here it comes
Here comes the night
Here comes the night
Whoa whoa whoa yeah

I could see right out my window
Walkin’ down the street, my girl
With another guy

His arm around her
Like it used to be with me
Whoa, it makes me want to die
Yeah yeah yeah

Well, here it comes
Here comes the night
Here comes the night
Whoa whoa whoa whoa yeah

There they go
It’s funny how they look so good together
Wonder what is wrong with me
Why can’t I, accept the fact she’s chosen him
And simply let them be
Whoa whoa whoa

Well, here it comes
Here comes the night
Here comes the night
Whoa whoa whoa yeah

She’s with him he’s turning down the lights
And now he’s holding her
The way I used to do

I could see, her closing her eyes
And tellin’ him lies
Exactly like she told me, too
Yeah yeah yeah

Well, here it comes
Here comes the night
The long, the long and lonely night
Night, night, night, night, night, night

Whoa, here comes the night

 

 

 

New Musical Express Winners 1965 Concert

I have the video of this show. First, the lineup to this event included

  • The Moody Blues
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
  • The Seekers
  • Herman’s Hermits
  • The Ivy League
  • Sounds Incorporated
  • Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Cilla Black
  • Donovan
  • Them
  • The Searchers
  • Dusty Springfield
  • The Animals
  • The Beatles
  • The Kinks

Think about the talent on that stage. To see the Stones, Animals, Van Morrison with Them, The Kinks and The Beatles all in the same day on the same stage. This would be a dream concert. Jimmy Saville hosted the event. It’s hard to watch the guy knowing what we know now about him.

It’s great to see The Rolling Stones with Brian Jones but you can tell the Beatles were THE Band of the day and were clearly the most anticipated.

You see a young Van Morrison fluff a line in “Here Comes The Night” but his voice comes through loud and clear. It’s a wonder you have a sound at all. In between songs you see roadies roll out amps and drums for the next band. They did quite well and it was never a long break between bands.

The sound quality is not the greatest but it’s good enough to watch considering the hectic way they had everyone perform.

The next year the Who, Rolling Stones, and the Beatles would play but The Beatles and Stones would not let their segments be recorded.

As far as I know, there is not an official release of this video…You can watch it on Youtube or order a bootleg DVD on various sites.

Van Morrison

Van the man is supposedly a difficult man to know but man can he sing and write… He started out with a group called Them in Belfast Ireland. They were very underrated and made some great music in the mid 60s. Gloria, Mystic Eyes, Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes The Night, Don’t Look Back and my favorite that is hard to find…”Mighty Like A Rose”…

He quit Them and signed with Bert Bern’s Bang records and wrote Brown Eyed Girl which sounds fresh no matter how many times i hear it. After the death of Berns he started on his great albums. Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and The Street Choir, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, Hard Nose the Highway and the list continues on.

My favorites are Moondance and Tupelo Honey. These albums are consistently great. I also love the title track to Saint Dominic’s Preview…it’s an epic song that I can listen to over and over with the imagery never getting old. I would suggest to anyone to get the early to mid seventies albums (but his other albums are great also) and listen to all the songs….not just the radio friendly ones. The radio songs are great… Moondance, Crazy Love, Tupelo Honey, Blue Money, Domino, Blue Money, Caravan, Wild Night but there is so much more.

Van’s voice and phrasing is like no other. I saw him live finally in 2006 and his voice was even better than I thought. If I could sing like anyone…I would pick Van.

For a person who wants to listen to Van for the first time… I would recommend the Tupelo Honey and Moondance albums to start off with…. Rock, country, folk, pop and some jazz for good measure…all mixed together in terrific songs… for his early work with Them get The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison