Irish One-Hit Wonders: Here Comes the Night

Deputy Entertainment Editor Julie Crowley continues the retrospective series of Irish One Hit Wonders with a sixties hit:  Here Comes the Night by Them

“I could see her closing her eyes

And tellin’ him lies,

Exactly like she told me too.

Yeah yeah yeah,

Well, here it comes,

Here comes the night,

The long, the long and lonely night”

Them were an R&B band formed in Northern Ireland in 1964. The founding members were Alan Henderson, Ronnie Milling, Billy Harrison, Eric Wrixon, and frontman Van Morrison. Their mysterious, enigmatic name was chosen after the 1954 sci-fi horror film Them!, which featured giant radioactive ants attacking an American city. The band combined garage rock with blues music. They had a proto-punk sound. They signed to the British label Decca Records, who marketed them as part of the British Invasion of the 60s. They had one hit in Ireland: Here Comes the Night.

Here Comes the Night was written by American songwriter and producer Bert Berns, who produced Them’s first album. The song had been recorded previously by Scottish singer Lulu, but her version was a failure, dropping out of the UK charts at no. 50. Session musician Jimmy Page (later of Led Zeppelin fame) played rhythm guitar on Them’s recording. Derry-born musician and songwriter Phil Coulter played keyboards. The song chronicles an obsessive man who follows his ex-girlfriend who is in a new relationship. Van Morrison’ powerful voice ensures its memorability. It’s a great song that still sounds distinctive. Morrison was only 19 when the song was recorded. According to www.irishcharts.ie, Here Comes the Night reached number 2 on the Irish Charts in 1965 and stayed in the charts for 7 weeks. They had slightly more success in the UK: Here Comes the Night was a number 2 hit there as well, and their cover of blues classic Baby Please Don’t Go, and its B-side Gloria (a Morrison original) reached no.10.

Possible factors that hindered their success were anti-Irish sentiment in the UK at the time and the young band’s surly demeanour during interviews. Rolling Stone described Morrison as “a tough man to talk to.” Morrison’s independent spirit clashed with the record company’s aims for the band. He disliked Decca’s insistence that the band appear on Top of the Pops, feeling that it compromised their musical integrity. According to allmusic.com, Morrison regretted that Them were compromised by “image-conscious record company politics” and the use of session musicians in their studio recordings. Morrison left in 1966, feeling frustrated with what he saw as the band’s increasing commerciality and conformity. He sought greater independence in his subsequent recording career (he still doesn’t like interviews).

Van Morrison only recorded two albums with Them: The Angry Young Them and Them Again. They were highly influential despite the brevity of their career. Although the Morrison-led band proved short-lived, they had an influence on subsequent music. Them were a talented band that didn’t quite achieve the success they deserved, but they left behind some memorable songs. Although it was initially a B-side, Gloria continues to be a highly popular garage rock classic. It is now more famous than Here Comes the Night. Notable musicians who have covered it include David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith, The Doors and AC/DC.

Them fractured and continued under shifting line-ups with different members after Morrison left. The group split into various splinter groups: The Other Them/Belfast Gypsies, the Truth, and the Belfast Blues Band. They recorded several albums that veered into other genres such as psychedelia. Them are mainly remembered today for their most popular singles and for launching Van Morrison’s solo career.

After leaving the band, Morrison went on to have an incredibly successful and long-lasting career as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His most famous albums are Moondance and Astral Weeks. He has had success with singles like Brown-Eyed Girl, Moondance, Crazy Love, Into the Mystic, Domino and Days Like This.  The later career of “Van the Man” has far outstripped his early success with Them. In 2016 he was knighted for services to the music and tourism industries in Northern Ireland. His success can be traced back to his early days with Them. Despite the brevity of Morrison’s career with Them, they secured a place in rock history.