Them: Belfast Gypsies (1967)

A bastardized version of the band alternately billed as The Belfast Gypsies turns up Scandinavia, proving that revenge is Swede.

Kronomyth 2.75: GLORIA IN REDUNDAM. This is one of the murkier chapters in the convoluted history of Them: an album recorded by a splinter group of the original band that was released in Sweden and, at least on the cover, appeared to be credited to Them. In reality, the band went by the legally approved name of Belfast Gypsies, and there seems to be some conjecture as to whether the official album title should be regarded as an eponymous album by Belfast Gypsies (with the reference to Them no more than a bit of bold cross-marketing) or as Belfast Gypsies by an alternate, unlicensed version of Them. At this stage, the connection to the original Them was the smallest of splinters; Pat (John) McAuley was the band’s original drummer, and his brother Jackie appears to have played in some version of the band as well. Guitarist Billy Harrison, who led the original defection, had already been replaced by Ken McLeod, while Mark Scott had the distinction of at least being the original bass guitarist in the group that featured Harrison. This dilution by degrees hardly boded well for the music and, no offense to the Swedes, their homeland has never been the epicenter of musical pop culture. All of which makes the fact that Belfast Gypsies is only marginally less interesting than Them’s official second album quite a surprise. Jackie McAuley is a screamer in the mold of Van Morrison, although clearly not up to his calibre (who was?), and the Gypsies are as professional and passionate as most British Invasion R&B acts from the period. Produced by the ghoulish Kim Fowley, the record doesn’t make any bones about cashing in on Them’s fame, from the bald rewrite of “Gloria’s Dream” (in which everyone lines up at the royalty trough) to yet another cover of Bob Dylan’s “Baby Blue.” The group also seems to get away with nicking Bach’s G string for the portentously titled “Aria of the Fallen Angels.” Despite these missteps, the album is a remarkably solid R&B exercise for a Swedish-only import. Jackie McAuley is a formidable singer, organist and harpist, and the rest of the band provides powerful accompaniment on songs like “Boom Boom,” “Midnight Train,” “The Last Will And Testament” and “People, Let’s Freak Out.” The record ends on an odd note: the disharmonious and dark “Suicide Song” and the paranoid “Secret Police.” It’s speculation on my part, but some of the more sinister undertones in the music may be the work of the crypty, creepy Fowley. This record and a few assorted singles represent the sum and substance of Them’s second act as the Belfast Gypsies. Thankfully, archivists have unearthed these recordings and given them a second life on compact disc and an audience to appreciate them.

Original LP Version
A1. Gloria’s Dream (Ken McLeod/Mark Scott/Jackie McAuley/Pat McAuley/Ray Henderson/Kim Fowley)
A2. The Crazy World Inside Me (Jackie McAuley/Ken McLeod)
A3. Midnight Train (Traditional)
A4. Aria of the Fallen Angels (Ken McLeod/Mark Scott/Jackie McAuley/Pat McAuley)
A5. Baby Blue (Bob Dylan)
A6. People, Let’s Freak out (Ken McLeod/Mark Scott/Jackie McAuley/Pat McAuley)
B1. Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker)
B2. The Last Will And Testament (Ken McLeod/Mark Scott/Jackie McAuley/Pat McAuley)
B3. Portland Town (Daryl Adams)
B4. Hey Gyp! Dig The Slowness (Donovan)
B5. Suicide Song (Ken McLeod/Mark Scott/Jackie McAuley/Pat McAuley)
B6. Secret Police (Kim Fowley/Dennis Hardesty/Walther)

CD reissue bonus tracks
13. Portland Town (French EP Mix)
14. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (French EP mix)
15. Midnight Train (French EP Mix)
16. The Gorilla (French EP Mix)
17. Secret Police (7” mix)
18. Gloria’s Dream (7” mix)

The Players
Jackie J. McAuley (vocals, organ, harmonica), Pat J. McAuley (drums), Ken McLeod (guitar), Mark Scott (bass). Produced by Kim Fowley.

The Pictures
Layout by Leif Illernas.

The Plastic
Released on elpee in 1967 in Sweden (Grand Prix/Sonet, GP-9923).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in the UK (Sonet, SNTF 738) with different cover.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in Sweden (Grand Prix/Sonet, GPCD-9923).
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc on September 22, 2003 in the UK (Rev-Ola) with 6 bonus tracks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *