I first heard The Angry Young Them when I was at UCLA. My then girlfriend – who later became my wife – Dorothy and I listened to it almost constantly in our little student house that overlooked the palm trees of Venice. It was definitely one of those amazing summer albums for us. It was one of [Jim] Morrison’s favourites.
Ray Manzarek on Them's First Album
The Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek describes how he and Jim Morrison dug the “eerie darkness” of Van Morrison and co’s debut.
“The Angry Young Them was their existential moment. They sprang forth fully formed from the head of Zeus.
“It’s such a great collection of songs. Mystic Eyes! What a song! And of course Gloria is on there – which we covered in The Doors for a while. There’s also that amazing John Lee Hooker song on there, Don’t Look Back.
“That album was as big an influence on The Doors as any ‘rock’ band. We were more like Them than other rock bands. We loved the darkness of Van Morrison. We were always like, ‘That guy’s slightly possessed’. Van Morrison really has that touch of the shaman about him. As I say, Jim was a big fan – well, they were both Morrisons. Van just had that eerie darkness, and we were really drawn to it.
“Of course we loved that beat; all those songs have such a strong beat. And what a blues voice Van had on him.
“I had been listening to lots of jazz and classical until then. In the 50s, rock’n’roll was Little Richard and Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis – all piano players, which I loved. After that we thought rock’n’roll was dead. Rock’n’roll in the US was these pompadour white guys: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vinton, those kinda guys. So I was listening to all the great 60s jazz – Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Modern Jazz Quartet, Charles Mingus. Then came the British invasion. We had The Beatles with their inventive pop, the Stones selling Chicago blues back to us... and we had Them. We just hadn’t heard anything quite like it up until that point. It was truly amazing.
“Our first gig at the Whiskey A Go Go was supporting Van Morrison, where we opened for Them for a week. I was like ‘You’re fucking kidding me!’ Watching Van Morrison up there was amazing, playing my favourite album back to me. And then we could go talk about backstage. Van said to me: ‘Aren’t you getting a little tired of this?’ I was like: ‘No, man, we’re just getting started!’ He said: ‘Oh, I thought you were famous.’ I was like: ‘No. We haven’t even recorded our first album yet.’”
“Has the album stood the test of time? To be honest I haven’t listened to it in a while – a good 10 years. But I know it has. It can’t not have."