Northern Irish musician made name playing alongside Van Morrison, later went psychedelic
By David Sands
April 18, 2017
Alan Henderson, bassist for the Northern Irish band Them, is with us no more. The musician, who’d lived in Minneapolis for the last several decades, died last week at 72.
Originally fronted by Van Morrison, Them is probably best known for their 1964 garage rock classic “Gloria,” which has been covered by The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Patti Smith. Other memorable songs include “Mystic Eyes,” “Here Comes the Night,” and their cover of the blues standard “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”
In addition to Henderson and Morrison, Them’s original lineup also featured drummer Ronnie Milling, keyboardist Eric Wrixon and guitarist and vocalist Billy Harrison.
Harrison recently shared his thoughts on Henderson’s passing with the Belfast Newsletter.
“It’s such a shock to me that he’s gone and I won’t get seeing him again.” he said. “Alan and I had that sort of friendship that even if you don’t talk to each other for a long time you just sort of pick up where you left off. My mother always said he was the younger brother I never had.”
Born in Belfast in 1944, Henderson caught the music bug during his teenage years and set his sights on becoming a professional musician. Together with Harrison and Milling, he formed a group called The Gamblers in 1962. They later added Wrixon and Morrison (who held down sax and harmonica in addition to lead vocals). The outfit eventually renamed themselves Them (a reference to the classic sci-fi monster movie) to avoid being confused with another group with the same name.
Blending American-style rock with blues and R&B influences, Them earned a reputation for their rousing live shows and ended up signing a record deal with Decca. Their first record, The Angry Young Them, was released in 1965, and the band soon joined of a wave of U.K. groups that were promoted in the U.S. as the British Invasion during the mid-1960s.
As they grew in popularity, the band’s lineup became rather confusing with new musicians coming and going all the time, Henderson and Morrison being the only consistent members. The situation became even more confusing when former members of the group, started up a rival version of the band, though Morrison and Henderson ended up winning a lawsuit to retain the rights to the name.
Them toured the United States in 1966, notably playing with The Doors as their opening act for a week during a residency at the Whiskey a Go Go in L.A. When Morrison quit the band in 1966, Henderson, the last original member, became the glue that held Them together. The following year, they relocated to the USA, where they adopted a psychedelic sound and recorded two last albums before disbanding in 1972. Henderson rejoined with Harrison for a short reunion of the band in 1979.
In addition to his work with Them, Henderson also recorded a Christian rock opera, Truth of Truths with Val Stöecklein of The Blue Thing in 1971.
According to the Belfast Newsletter, Henderson worked in the construction later in his life. The late bassist’s wife, Vinnie-Anne, plans to cremate his body and send part of his ashes back to his native country.
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