The world first heard of Van Morrison as the lead singer of Them! Hailing from Belfast this short-lived R&B group had a lasting impact on Rock. Like many of their early '60s contemporaries, Them's repertoire consisted of Blues and R&B covers ("Baby, Please Don't Go") along with songs written by one of the group's producers, Bert Berns.
In fact, Berns and co-producer Tommy Scott, along with session musicians including Jimmy Page, laid down the instrumental tracks with Morrison adding vocals. Aside from Morrison, the group had little to do with recording the songs attributed to Them. This didn't sit well with Them, especially Morrison, who wanted the group to pursue a rougher R&B sound. It was the first of several bad show biz experiences Morrison would accumulate.
Berns wrote Them!'s biggest hit "Here Comes The Night" but it was another song that proved to be their legacy. "Gloria," penned by Morrison, was one of those timeless '60s three-chord wonders. A Rock standard performed by just about every garage band to ever tune up. Morrison's hard driving; growling vocals made this the definitive version. He even overshadowed the guitar. Ironically, "Gloria" failed to have much initial impact in the U.S. outside of California. It took the one-off group Shadows of Knight to have the U.S. hit with it.
While Them! was on their last U.S. tour they played the Whiskey in L.A. The Whiskey's house group was the little known local favorite, the Doors, headed by another Morrison. Both Jim and Van jammed on "Gloria" and Jim was convinced the two Morrison's were related in their distant Black Irish past. The Doors recorded a salaciously graphic version of "Gloria" that eventually appeared on "Alive, She Cries."
Through '66 Them! suffered from line-up changes, music biz shenanigans and a consistent lack of success. Morrison embarked on a highly successful and eclectic solo career while Them! lingered with replacement parts for another year and a half.
Them! compilations are the only way to go since their original albums are out of print or difficult to locate. Besides, the individual albums aren't all that spectacular. "The Story of Them! Featuring Van Morrison" is a double CD set and "Them! Featuring Van Morrison" is a less in-depth single CD though it covers the essentials.