My second gig – The original Them with Van Morrison
There are not many people who can say that seeing the original Them up close in a small club at their very peak was a disappointment. But that is what I thought.
After the triumph of seeing the Birds in their glory I was expecting even bigger things from Them. After all, they were riding high in the charts. Baby Please don’t go was dropping down but Here Comes the Night (with the fabulous Gloria as a B Side) had just been released and was heading to the top. I loved them both. I think I had the EP before I went to that gig – which was incredible – but I might be wrong about that. They were just my kind of band. Not only that but they were honouring a tour that had organised before they hit the charts. They had integrity.
It goes to show what the power of expectation can do to you.
To start with it did not go well. There was no knife fight in the carpark, no girl being shagged on the stairs and no clandestine light show.
I managed to reach the front so I could taste the sweat. I had no concerns for my hearing back then. I was full of excitement.
As a band they did not musically disappoint. They sounded great. Van’s voice was raw, powerful and brilliant. His long wavy hair was orangey in the light and the band looked the part. I couldn’t fault them.
What let it down for me was the stage show. Where the Birds had been dynamic and very aggressive and had put on a very visceral act, Them were restrained. The intensity was in the playing and the anguished vocals. They stood and played. Only once did Van get carried away enough to heave himself into the air on his microphone stand. The music was exceptional but the act wasn’t exciting. I was fifteen and I was lusting after some jumping around and excitement. I enjoyed a bit of showmanship.
After the show we shuffled into the back, in a line, to meet the band. They all signed postcards which were a photo of the band and I managed to get hold of two. They were friendly and spoke with their deep Irish brogue and I saw nothing of the reportedly grumpy Van Morrison. He smiled at me and seemed cheerful.
I had two postcard pictures of Them signed by the whole group. How much would that be worth now?
Unfortunately I no longer have them. I gave one to Mike who was a lab tech at college and could do the best Captain Beefheart impersonation on the planet. He worshipped Van Morrison. The other one was thrown out by my mother when she cleared my room out. For some mad reason she gave away a whole load of my albums away to jumble because she thought I didn’t want them. It was true at the time that, being a fully-fledged Freak of the London Underground, I no longer wanted to be seen with my original Merseybeat albums (including both ‘This is Merseybeat’ on Oriole). It would have been embarrassing to be seen with Billy J Kramer instead of Country Joe and the Fish. But she disposed of my Who, Kinks, Them and Yardbirds as well. I later looked back on it as a disaster. My signed postcard probably ended up in the bin and is somewhere buried in a refuse tip waiting to be excavated by future archaeologists.
I went home from that gig with mixed feelings. I’d really enjoyed it but felt it was lacking in action. It was only in hindsight that I came to appreciate it more. I thought it was great but not as exciting as it might have been.
Never mind. There was plenty more to come!