Listen to this track, a slice of grungy R&B from Belfast’s R&B purveyors Them featuring a young and ballsy Van Morrison on lead vocal. It’s the garage classic “I Can Only Give You Everything” which was a single for the band in 1966, and featured on their second LP Them Again. This song became a fast garage band favourite, also recorded by the MC5, and later by Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Soon after this song was released, Morrison would embark on a solo career.
This tune was unusual in a couple of ways as a single for Them. First, it wasn’t written by Van Morrison. Second, it wasn’t an established R&B recording. It was in fact an original song written by a couple of British songwriters, Mike Coulter and Tommy Scott. Scott also served as producer. But Morrison throws his entire weight behind it, pulling in his own influences and elements from his contemporaries – Solomon Burke, a bit of Jagger, a smattering of Eric Burdon – and distilling it into a knock-out believable performance.
Signed to Decca Records, Them were represented a lot of the time by studio musicians. Dick Rowe of Decca (‘the man who gave away the Beatles’) established this as a standard practice for many bands in their roster. But, what a sound! That opening riff is a monster, and the organ underpinning it is like the generator which keeps the whole thing running. There are some standard British R&B elements here perhaps. But this is a flat-out classic which helped to inspire a template for all manner of bands starting out with rough, unpolished sounds of their own.
Do you think you recognize that opening riff? Beck sampled it for his “Devil’s Haircut” single thirty years later. Well, I say sampled. Beck cheated. He played it live.