Them took their defiant blues to garage rock glory with this sad scorching soul. George Ivan (“Van”) Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland where he began playing guitar at age eleven. As a teenager, he joined a group called The Monarchs and toured military bases around Europe before returning to Belfast where he answered an advertisement to play at a new R&B club at the Maritime Hotel. He brought together members of a band called The Gamblers and they changed their name to Them, inspired by the science fiction horror film 'Them!'.
Morrison remembers: "My first gig in school was a skiffle group – a couple of guitars, washboard, tea-chest bass – but I'd already been doing gigs before that, youth club gigs. By the time I left school, I was already playing in bands, so I think I knew when I was about 15. First it was skiffle groups, and then there was what you call rock'n'roll groups, but not what they call "rock" nowadays, that didn't exist. When we went to Germany it was seven sets a night, and nine on weekends, no days off. So it was about 55 gigs a week...That's why I never bought into the "pop" mythology, because when you've done that, it's like boot camp training. I came back and started the R&B club at the Maritime Hotel. We were asked to do a TV show and I thought, "Nah, I can't do this, it's too phony." And a lot of these TV shows wanted people to mime. I said, "Why?" and they said, "Oh, well, some of these people have to mime 'cos they can't play it live." I just came out of Germany where you had to play live, in your face, all the time, from eight to three in the morning!...It was hard! I'm not saying it was easy, but that's how I learned to do what I do. If I hadn't done that, I would not have been able to keep it going, I wouldn't have been able to have the stamina...I always end up dealing with … if you break it all down, it's about energy, because the words keep changing all the time. I mean, "R&B" doesn't mean what R&B used to mean, for instance. "Soul" doesn't mean what it used to. Words keep changing all the time, even in religious organisations. But now it's all just to entertain people, and keep them preoccupied with stuff like reality TV, which is people in a room "acting" like it's real, keeping everybody distracted so they don't really know who they are, so they can't even stop to think "Who am I? What is it I'm feeling?" Everything is distraction, selling clothes and cars and all that. I think it's a way of keeping the population under control – keep them preoccupied all the time."
Them were discovered by Dick Rowe of Decca Records and signed to a two year contract. After a couple of singles, their debut album 'The Angry Young Them' was recorded in London with producers Tommy Scott, Bert Berns ("I Gave My Love a Diamond", "Go On Home Baby", "My Little Baby"), Dick Rowe ("Gloria"). The lineup at the time featured Van Morrison on vocals, harmonica, and tenor sax; Peter Bardens on keyboards & organ; Billy Harrison on guitar; Alan Henderson on bass; and John McAuley on drums, piano, and harmonica.
Morrison considers: "I think any musician in what they call rock & roll is from the streets, otherwise he couldn't sing it or play it...Image is a definite problem. I don't have an image, I don't want to have one, I'm not interested in it. I went through that when I was a teenager. I wasn't modeling myself after someone, there was an image that was projected – people will project an image, and you can either buy it or not. I was just being me, a street cat from Belfast, and was probably like thousands of kids from Belfast who were in bands. But the management built an image around that – "The Angry Young Them" – the punk image, when in actual fact there were lots of people like me in those days. Everybody's got different sides to them, but an image is like taking one thing and saying a person is that. Most of the time it sells more albums if somebody is somebody. Who wants to package nobody?"
The classic "Gloria" was originally the b-side to "Baby Please Don't Go".
"Baby Please Don't Go" became a top ten hit in 1964. It included studio musician Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar.
"Here Comes The Night" appeared on the US release of the album. The single went to number two in Ireland and the UK, and number twenty-four in the US.
'The Angry Young Them'
"Mystic Eyes" (Van Morrison) – 2:41
"If You and I Could Be As Two" (Morrison) – 2:53
"Little Girl" (Morrison) – 2:21
"Just a Little Bit" (Ralph Bass, Buster Brown, John Thornton, Ferdinand "Fats" Washington) – 2:21
"I Gave My Love a Diamond" (Bert Berns, Wes Farrell) – 2:48
"Gloria" (Morrison) – 2:38
"You Just Can't Win" (Morrison) – 2:21
"Go On Home Baby" (Berns, Farrell) – 2:39
"Don't Look Back" (John Lee Hooker) – 3:23
"I Like It Like That" (Morrison) – 3:35
"I'm Gonna Dress in Black" (Gillon, Howe) – 3:34
"Bright Lights, Big City" (Jimmy Reed) – 2:30
"My Little Baby" (Berns, Farrell) – 2:00
"(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" (Bobby Troup) – 2:22
The US version 'Them' had only twelve songs with two that did not appear on the UK version:
"Here Comes the Night" (Berns) – 2:45
"One Two Brown Eyes" (Morrison) – 2:39