Saturday, February 8, 2020

Great UK 60's Singles: Them "Baby Please Don't Go"

THEM-Baby Please Don't Go/Gloria UK Decca F12018 1964

One of my greatest TV memories was Xmas of 1984 and getting a VCR and my dad and I going to the nearby supermarket (which was open!) and rented a "Ready! Steady! Go!" VHS tape and seeing Them perform "Baby Please Don't Go" on it. I don't know if I had known anything about them prior to this but my mind was suitably blown by what I was hearing.

Without resorting to their entire band history, Them were an r&b quartet from Belfast led by one Ivan "Van" Morrison a blues/jazz/r&b aficionado. Signed to Decca, the band's debut single "Don't Start Crying Now" (Decca F 11973, September 1964) failed to garner much attention, but it's follow up "Baby Please Don't Go" (November 1964) rose to #10. I'm not going to wade into the ongoing debate of who played the distinctive riff (Jimmy Page or band guitarist Billy Harrison) on the track but I will debate Them's inspiration for the track. It's been stated that John Lee Hooker's version is the basis of their version but I'm inclined to believe that Mose Allison's interpretation also played a part.  Regardless  Them's version with it's driving riff with tremolo arm action and the zooming bass line backed with Van Morrison's wailing harp and distinct blues shouting makes it instantly recognizable. There has never been a version like this and there probably will never be.

Plugging "Baby Please Don't Go" on "Ready Steady Go!" November 20, 1964

The flip side is the stuff of legends. Van Morrison's "Gloria" could have been an A-side (it reached #71 in the US where d.j's obviously preferred it to "Baby Please Don't Go"). It's monotonous and simplistic three chord pattern is the perfect stuff of garage band mythology (covered by Americans The Shadows Of Knight it went to #10 in the States in 1966) and Van Morrison's lewd leer about "Gloria" is perfect as the band chugs on half frat rock, half r&b. Iconic.

Both tracks are available in a host of place but my favorite recommendation is the essential 3 CD set from 2016 "The Complete Them 1964-1967" (which alternate versions of both sides and a demo of "Gloria" as well as a live B.B.C. take).

Hear "Baby Please Don't Go":

Hear "Gloria":

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