June 11: Them released their debut album The Angry Young Them in 1965
“These five young rebels are outrageously true to themselves. Defiant! Angry! Sad! They are honest to the point of insult!” (original liner notes)
The Angry Young Them is Them’s first album. The album was released in the UK on 11th of June 1965. The band’s lead singer and songwriter was of course Van “The Man” Morrison. He was with Them on only two albums before deciding to go solo.
The opening track Mystic Eyes was from an 8 or 9 minute jam originally, a long intense jam session in the studio with Van making the words up on the spur of the moment. Oh why didn’t they use the long take? Anyway, a good opener.
If You And I Could Be As Two is the next song and it opens with Van’s spoken voice talking (rather angrily) before this wonderful soul ballad continues. Then it is Little Girl which is about watching a 14-year-old (!) school girl on her way to school, not very acceptable these days but we need to remember that Van Morrison was only a teenager himself when he sang these words (still no excuse, I know).
Just A Little Bit by Roscoe Gordon is the next one out, Morrison sings great and it is my favorite song of the non Van Morrison penned tracks. Fantastic song!
Then we are in for the weakest track on the album, I Gave My Love a Diamond. That is not a put-down, because it’s a good sixties ballad, it just pales compared to the other songs on the album.
We then get Gloria. What can I say about this song that isn’t already said thousands of times? It is one of the best rock songs ever written, sung by one of the best vocalists in rock history. Ok? ok.
“And then there’s “Gloria,” rock’s ultimate ’60s sex anthem, and one of the handful of white-authored songs that can just about hold its own against any blues standard you’d care to name.”
Just Can’t Win is a slow descriptive tune, and it is a seminal track for Van Morrison in the way he uses geography and places in his songs. Very good vocals again, and to think how young he was.
Go on Home Baby is very typical for its time. Very 60’s, very british, sounds like Rolling Stones actually.
Then we get a song by one of Morrison’s blues heroes, John Lee Hooker, Don’t look back, Van Morrison sing it like a god, what a voice and what a feeling.
I Like it Like that is the weakest Van Morrison composition on the album, it’s not terribly bad but not very good either. Even Van’s voice can’t save this one.
Then we get House of the Ris…no we don’t, it just sounds like that at the start of I’m Gonna Dress in black. Very Animals like in tone and quite good.
The Jimmy Reed song Bright Lights Big City is next one up, sounds a bit like Animals again (who also played the song), great song, great organ.
My little Baby is a 60s pop ditty, very typical harmonies for the time, not great but an enjoyable song all the same.
The album ends with the standard, Route 66, played by all the british rock band in the sixties. This is a very decent version.
Iggy Pop (from the book 101 Essential Rock Records):
“…I have a vinyl copy of the original. It still blows my mind. I would listen over and over and over to “Mystic Eyes” and “One Two Brown Eyes.” Those two cuts really influenced my ideas of what The Stooges could be.
At about that time I was listening to all the good English groups, plus Bob Dylan, plus anything that came from San Francisco, plus Love, plus tons of garage rock. Them was by far the most experimental, but also had a kind of doomed quality that I liked, because I could see that these guys weren’t cute, didn’t know how to dress and did not have a commercial touch except for the one hit, “Gloria.” “Gloria” at the time was completely inescapable all over the U of M (University of Michigan) campus and at any club, anywhere with live music. Every band covered it, including my own.
I think the liner notes were really pathetic. What a great example of a repressed, apologetic, neurotic show-biz bullshitter. I never saw Them, but I saw Van play once at the Troubadour in LA. It was around the time of “Moondance.” He was very stern, and the group members all looked ill.
He was so cool, the best thing he did was pick up a chair with one hand and wave it over his head while he screamed. I saw him do the same thing on TV on “American Bandstand.” I guess it was his one stage move. I’ve always wondered where he got it. The way Van’s voice ripped through the mic, and the simple arrangements and spirit of experiment, was a huge deal for me. I still listen to the record in the early mornings and when I want to get worked up.”
I can hear the origins of Stooges in the way Them rips through Little Girl and Gloria, and now I understand why.
The Angry Young Them on Spotify: