"Gloria" is a rock song classic written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and originally recorded by Morrison's band Them in 1964 as the B-side of "Baby, Please Don't Go". The song quickly became a garage rock staple and a part of many rock bands' repertoires. It is particularly memorable for its "G–L–O–R–I–A" chorus. It is very easy to play (three-chord) and thus is popular with those learning to play guitar. The song continues to be played by thousands of bands from famous recording artists to unknown garage bands. Humourist Dave Barry joked that "If you drop a guitar down a flight of stairs, it'll play 'Gloria' on its way to the bottom.
The timeless popularity of the song may be best explained in the Allmusic's review written by Bill Janovitz:
"Gloria" was rated number 69 on Dave Marsh's list in the 1989 book, The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. He described the song as "one of the few rock songs that's actually as raunchy as its reputation. In his book, Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles Paul Williams said about the two sides of the "Baby Please Don't Go/Gloria" recording: "Into the heart of the beast... here is something so good, so pure, that if no other hint of it but this record existed, there would still be such a thing as rock and roll.... Van Morrison's voice a fierce beacon in the darkness, the lighthouse at the end of the world. Resulting in one of the most perfect rock anthems known to humankind.
Van Morrison has remarked that he wrote the song, "Gloria" while he performed with the Monarchs in Germany
in the summer of 1963, at just about the time he turned eighteen years old.He started to perform it for audiences at the Maritime Hotel when he had returned to Belfast
and joined up with the Gamblers to form the band Them. He would ad-lib lyrics
as he performed, sometimes stretching the song to fifteen or twenty minutes in duration. After signing a contract
with Dick Rowe
, Them went to London
where they had a recording session at Decca Three Studios in West Hampstead on July 05
, including "Gloria" as one of the seven songs recorded that day. The members of Them were Van Morrison, vocals
, Billy Harrison on guitar
, Alan Henderson, bass
, Ronnie Millings on drums
and Patrick John McCauley on keyboards
. Rowe brought in session musicians Arthur Greenslade
on organ, Jimmy Page
on Guitar, and Bobby Graham on drums as Rowe considered the Them members as too inexperienced. There remains some dispute about whether Millings and McCauley were miked up but Alan Henderson contends that Them constituted the first rock group
to use two drummers on a recording.Gloria was the B-side, when "Baby Please Don't Go
" was released in the U.K.
on November 06
Original studio recording by Them
Studio version with John Lee Hooker
Live versions by Van Morrison
- The Gants (from the album Roadrunner) – earliest known cover version released in November 1965.
- Shadows of Knight (from the album Gloria), number 10 in 1966, topping the original in the U.S. only in areas where Them's version could not be played, because it contained the words, "She comes to my room". Some radio stations objected to this, most notably Chicago's station WLS. The Chicago based band The Shadows of Knight's version replaced this line with "She comes around here.
- Buffalo Group, on Fine Recordings label in the mid to late 1960s recorded a version.
- Status Quo (under name The Spectres) at Saturday Club, BBC on 10/09/66; and as Status Quo at David Symonds Show on 8/4/68 and 12/4/68.
- AC/DC covered the song regularly in their early formation and used it as the basis for their song "Jailbreak". Lead singer Bon Scott had previously performed "Gloria" with his first group, The Spektors.
- Patti Smith, from her 1975 album Horses. This is based on the Morrison tune, but its lyrics are reinvented for the nascent punk rock movement, retaining only the chorus, and adding possibly ironic allusions to the sacred versions. It memorably begins, "Jesus died for somebody's sins / But not mine".
- Eddie and the Hot Rods, on their 7" titled "96 Tears/Get Out of Denver/Gloria/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" that was released in the United Kingdom in 1976.
- Joe Strummer's band The 101ers recorded the song on their album Elgin Avenue Breakdown in 1981.
- The Doors (from Alive, She Cried), a concert performance. Number 18 on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and number 71 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.
- The New Zealand Band The Pleazers performed a version of the song, which is on the Mutiple Artist album Kiwi Classics, Vol 2.
- U2 snippeted this song at the ending of "Exit" on their album/movie Rattle and Hum released in 1988. (They also recorded an unrelated song called "Gloria").
- Energy Orchard, a live version on their 1993 album, Shinola.
- Shane MacGowan performed the song with Van Morrison at the 1994 BRIT Awards ceremony and changed the R–I–A to I–R–A when he was singing the chorus.
- Tom Petty played the song several times on his Highway Companion Tour in 2006, and he closed most of the shows during his twenty-night run at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 1997.
- Jimi Hendrix's version of "Gloria" is included on the 2000 released box set, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
- The Tragically Hip performed a memorable live version of the song, which included a monologue by Gordon Downie about tying his friend, Roch, to the railroad tracks.
- Bill Murray played the song to open 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, stating that it is the only song he knows how to play.
- Other covers of the Morrison song include those by notable artists like The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Rick Springfield, R.E.M., Rickie Lee Jones, 13th Floor Elevators and even a disco version by Santa Esmeralda. It was also covered by Polish band Pidzama Porno, with Polish language lyrics.
In the media
Them's recording of the song appeared in an episode of TV series The Sopranos
, "Pine Barrens
", accompanying the appearance of Annabella Sciorra
's character Gloria Trillo. "Gloria" by Them was played a number of times in the 1983 film The Outsiders
and also sung whilst fending off the monster in the jukebox musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet
| Chart (1965)
|| Position |
| Billboard Hot 100
| Chart (1966)
|| Position |
| Billboard Hot 100
Shadows of Knight
Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker
- 1 As a B-side on 1964 single "Baby, Please Don't Go", the original recording charted at number 10 in the UK mostly due to the popularity of "Gloria".
- Williams, Paul; Berryhill, Cindy Lee (1993). Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles. Hardcover, United States: Entwhistle Books.
- Rogan, Johnny (2005). Van Morrison: No Surrender. Hardcover, United Kingdom: Secker and Warburg.
- Heylin, Clinton (2003). Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography, Chicago Review Press ISBN 1-55652-542-7
- Turner, Steve (1993). Too Late to Stop Now, Viking Penguin, ISBN 0-670-85147-7