Van Morrison Went From Them To The Shadows Of Night

The Irish rock band Them, featuring some guy named Van Morrison, was a blues/rock outfit that had some moderate hits in the mid 60's: "Mystic Eyes," "Baby Please Don't Go," and "Here Comes The Night" being the most notable.

The Decca (England)/Parrot (U.S.) recording group was marginally successful in the U.S., but broke up in the middle of a tour--in Hawaii, of all places--in the summer of 1966. Morrison then went on to bigger and better things. But the group is probably best known for a "B" side that did NOT hit, the flip of '64's "Baby Please Don't Go." You may have heard of it, a catchy little 3-chord tune called "Gloria," and if you're thinking of the Laura Brannigan song, you're way too young. It's this:

Somebody somewhere flipped the 45 over and found it, and teenagers being teenagers--I include myself in that category--took notice and stopped trying to figure out the words to "Louie, Louie" long enough to generate some interest in the side to the point that Parrot re-released it in 1965 as an "A" side. It went nowhere. The problem was the lyrics. In the "softer" middle part of the song, Morrison wrote: She comes around here, about Midnight She makes me feel so good, yea she makes me fell all right Comes a-walkin' down my street, then she comes to my house She knocks upon my door, then she comes to my room Yea 'an she makes me feel alright....... OK, it's tame stuff, but for 1964 it brought up enough complaints that radio stations around the country wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. One of those stations was the Chicago 50,000 watt powerhouse rocker WLS. So here we are in 1965 Chicago, which had a very active garage rock scene at the time (come to think of it, you show me a town that DIDN'T have an active garage rock scene), with bands playing sock hops and teen "night clubs" all over the place. It also had talent scouts and record labels all tooling to sign "the next big thing." WLS program director Clark Weber didn't play "Gloria" because of the lyrics, but in the Spring of 1965, during a casual conversation with Bill Traut, mentioned that if someone would record a "clean" version of the song, it "could sell a million." Just so happened that Traut owned the Chicago based Dunwitch Records, which had an Mt. Prospect, Illinois high school age band in it's stable, The Shadows Of Knight. The SoK were a sort of blues-ish band to boot. So into the studio they go and out pops a sanitized version of "Gloria".

Note the difference? She never enters his room. Bingo. Now Mick Jagger is reputed to have once said that if you get airplay in Chicago, you'll have a hit. The theory is if you're played in New York, your song will spread across about a third of the country to the west. Same theory with Los Angeles to the east. Airplay in Chicago, on the other hand, lets songs spread in that one third theory, but it covers four different thirds: North, East, South and West. Here the theory was proven true, as the Shadows Of Knight version of Van Morrison's song sold "a million," for a label that had no national distribution. Traut did do a deal with Atco for national coverage, and the song ended up as a Top 10 hit by the summer of 1966. The SoK had one more hit before their bubble finally burst. As befitting their blues band roots, they cut the Bo Diddily song "Oh, Yeah"....

.....before the band folded in mid 1967. With a recent revival of "The Chicago Sound", with bands like The Cryan' Shames and The Buchinghams, The SoK's vocalist Jim Shons has revived the band and is out there keeping the faith. Before we go, a word about Dunwitch Records. Basically they were a singles house, releasing just one LP that just happened to be by The Shadows of Knight. The label was finally absorbed by Atco in 1967, and Dunwitch became a production house. In 1971 Bill Traut joined forces with Jerry Weintraub to form Wooden Nickle records, which had some success with another Chicago area band, Styx. But that's a story for a different time.

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