Van Morrison celebrates his 76th birthday today. The renowned singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was born on August 31, 1945 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While he is perhaps most well known for his long-running and critically acclaimed solo career, Morrison came to prominence with the Northern Irish garage rock and R&B group Them in the mid-1960s.
The mid-1960s were a heady time for UK bands. The British Invasion was in full swing, led by legendary acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and followed by groups like The Kinks, The Animals, the Moody Blues, Donovan and more. All of the aforementioned storied bands and more would amazingly appear on the same bill on April 11, 1965 for the Poll Winners Concert presented by the UK’s top music weekly, the New Musical Express (NME).
Described by NME as “the greatest pop show in the world,” the famed bands descended on London’s Wembley Empire Pool for a marathon concert with 10,000 fans in attendance and the landmark show was filmed for television. While not quite on the level of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, Them enjoyed chart success with their hit “Here Comes The Night,” penned by renowned ‘60s pop songwriter and producer Bert Berns.
Just ahead of the concert in March 1965, “Here Comes The Night” nearly topped the charts in the UK at #2. The NME showcase saw Them performing the hit, with Morrison leading the way on lead vocals and tambourine. The band also delivered a version of the Bobby “Blue” Bland-recorded 1961 R&B classic “Turn On Your Love Light.” A perfect song for Van’s vocal style and improvisational leanings, Them would back the Belfast belter up on a rollicking, definitively mid-1960s version of the R&B number, which waxed long for a pop concert at around five minutes.
To celebrate Van Morrison’s birthday, watch the singer perform with Them in 1965 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive: