19 07 2010

Here are a few great rare live videos from one of my favorites, Them. Most people don’t realize that Van Morrison got his start as the lead singer of this Northern Ireland/British Invasion band from the mid 60’s. Actually, when Van “The Man” joined the group in 1964 they were still called The Gamblers and he had to share the lead vocal role with guitarist Billy Harrison, while also contributing on saxophone and harmonica. It wasn’t long before Morrison adopted the position as all his own. It was during their regular gig at the R&B lounge of the Maritime Hotel that he really hit his stride. He later said of the experience, “Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel”, which was meant to be commentary about how they never had a regular routine. Instead, they fed off the energy of the crowd, often ad libbing and stretching out songs, like “Gloria”, to as long as 20 minutes. Many of their tunes were even written right on that stage in front of their adoring crowds of mod kids.

After being “discovered” in 1964, Them toured extensively in addition to recording 2 full length albums, Them Again and The Angry Young Them, which were both comprised of their big hit singles as well as some previously unreleased tracks. Within that period, they played the 1965 New Musical Express (NME) Poll Winners Concert, which remains the finest gathering of British pop acts ever, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, The Searchers, The Moody Blues, Dusty Springfield. The bands had been expected to play only their current hits but Them audaciously segued from “Here Comes the Night” into a 7 minute version of “Turn on Your Lovelight”. Shortly thereafter, critics characterized the bands lead singer, Van Morrison, as generating “more genuine soul than any of his British contemporaries”… pretty amazing.

Between May 30th and June 18th of ’65, Them had a brief residency at the famous Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. During the final week of their stint, The Doors (with lead singer Jim Morrison) opened for Them. Funny enough, this was the first time the Doors played at the Whisky, which would soon become their regular haunt. On the last night, the two bands and the two Morrisons jammed together on a 20 minute version of “Gloria” and then a 25 minute version of “In the Midnight Hour”. Them went on to headline at The Fillmore in San Francisco and then in Hawaii where things went awry. To be expected, it was the standard industry garbage with disputes erupting among both band and with management over financial arrangements. The band broke apart, with Van Morrison and Alan Henderson returning to Belfast, while Ray Elliot and David Harvey decided to stay in America.

Van has tried to put the Them break up in context by saying,¬† “There was no motive behind anything you did (back then). You just did it because you wanted to do it and you enjoyed doing it. That’s the way the thing started, but it got twisted somewhere along the way and everybody involved in it got twisted as well, including me.” [1967] “You can’t take something like that, put it in a box and place a neat little name on it, then try to sell it. That’s what they tried to do. That’s what killed Them.” [1973].

As I said way up at the top of this post, here are a few fantastic live performances from¬† Them in all their glory. The first is “Here Comes The Night” from that infamous concert at the NME Poll Winners concert at the Empire Pool in Wembley, England on April 11, 1965.

The second is the classic “Gloria” from a (rather odd) 1966 French TV performance. I’m especially confused about what the flashes of the donkey are supposed to indicate but despite that, it’s no less cool.

This last one is a bit more rare and, in my mind, really captures the essence of this band. It’s a 2 song open-air performance in London that includes “Call My Name” and “Mystic Eyes”. The latter features Van on harmonica… which I really dig.


More info on Them

More info on Them Again

More info on The Angry Young Them

More info on Van Morrison

More info on “Gloria”

More info on New Musical Express

More info on The Whiskey A Go Go


The Beatles | The Word

24 05 2010

“The Word” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, which makes sense given it’s from my favorite album Rubber Soul. This 1965 release is a real turning point for The Beatles. Although there was always growth from one album to the next, I always thought Rubber Soul took the biggest leap. It represents not just a shift in sound but a new take on lyricism, whereby Lennon and McCartney began approaching their songs in a much more abstract fashion. Many of the lyrics from this period are more open to interpretation than prior attempts. “The Word” may seem like a rather straight ahead tune about love but, in actuality, the message is far more subtle than any love song they had written in their early years. Messaging aside, “The Word” is a simple yet powerful song that features an up tempo, syncopated rhythm accentuated by sharp guitar chords on the 2 and the “and” between the 3rd & 4th beat. The effect is a pushing and dragging feel that creates a great groove. That, along with a sweet 3 part harmony and John’s screaming lead on the chorus and it stands out as one of the bands catchiest “in your face” tunes. Rubber Soul is filled with great material that’s similarly listener friendly while pushing the boundaries of form and expression… “Wait” is a fine example of this quality. As a collection of material, they constantly walk the line between experimental and simple pop sensibility and with great success. Despite The Beatles enormous catalog of great music, Rubber Soul and “The Word” will forever stand as some of their best work.

I recently found this funny video of a post-Beatles Paul. It’s from an interview where he plays a seemingly harmless word association game. By the answers he gives to such mundane triggers as “The Beatles” and “Linda”, one would guess the word is not LOVE but actually it’s more physical cousin, SEX. I especially like how unapologetic he is about the whole thing and how can you blame him. I mean, he’s Paul McCartney. I don’t think the guy has ever had trouble in that department, so…

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