Van Morrison's early garage-rock years will be chronicled in a new box set, The Complete Them 1964–1967, which collects his recordings as the frontman of the group Them. In addition to the entirety of their two mid-Sixties albums, it contains a disc of demos, sessions and other rarities. One of the curiosities, many of which will come out for the first time ever when the box set hits shelves next month, is a raw, previously unreleased rendition of their biggest hit, "Gloria."
The demo runs at a slightly slower tempo than the single version, which was later covered by artists ranging from Patti Smith to AC/DC, and it sports a different, almost cleaner-sounding mix than the more familiar take. One thing that is consistent, though, is Morrison's scratchy, quivering yelp, which cuts right through the hypnotic guitars, as do his bandmates' call-and-response backup vocals.
The song, which appears on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and in the Grammy Hall of Fame, originally came out as the B-side to the group's cover of Big Joe Williams' "Baby, Please Don't Go." Although the lyrics are about sex, Morrison had written the tune in memory of an older cousin, Gloria Gordon, to whom he felt close.
Later, he expressed ambivalence about the way the tune took off. "[Them's] main success was a song I wrote, 'Gloria,'" the Irishman once said. "It was capitalized on a lot by other people, especially a lot of American groups, whereas I didn't really capitalize on it all that much." (He didn't begin performing it regularly in concert until the mid-Seventies, and it has since become one of his most performed tunes.)
Slated for release on December 4th, The Complete Them will feature both 1965's The Angry Young Them and the following year's Them Again. The rarities disc sports 24 tracks; all but four are previously unreleased.