Mystic Eyes

Released 12 November 1965 (UK); October 1965 (US)
Length 2:43
Label Decca Records (UK)

“Mystic Eyes” is a song written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison when he was leader of the band Them. It was the opening tune for the band’s first album, The Angry Young Them that was released in June 1965. It was released as a single in the US in October 1965 and in the UK on 12 November 1965. It charted at No. 33 in the US (it did not chart in the UK).

In 1965, Van Morrison explained to a Belfast reporter how the song had just happened during the first recording session for the album and the band was just “busking” around. “Someone started playing a fast riff and we all just joined in. The lyrics I sing at the end were just words from a song I had been writing at the time.” Later in 1966 he told an American reporter how it was inspired by an occasion in Nottingham Park as he walked by a graveyard wall where some children played next to it. “You know, man, there was life and death beside one another so close…yet so different…And then I thought of the bright lights in the children’s eyes…and the cloudy lights in the eyes of the dead.”

Tommy Scott who was acting producer of Them sessions after Bert Berns returned to America described how “Mystic Eyes” came about in the studio as being originally conceived as an instrumental: “after blowing his harmonica for about seven minutes, Van suddenly burst into this spontaneous lyric.” The ten-minute take was condensed to a single’s length by cutting from the beginning and ending of the instrumental. It was recorded at the Regent Sound a mono studio in Denmark Street in London England. The lead guitar runs on the song were provided by a then-relatively unknown session guitarist by the name of Jimmy Page.

Below: Harry Brus

The Extended Play (EP) cover for Them’s second big hit, after their first, “Here Comes the Night”, at least in the states (it failed to chart across the pond in the UK), “Mystic Eyes”. “Mystic Eyes” was written by Van Morrison and has the distinction on the recording of having a young Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar substituting for an on-break Billy Harrison. Initially released in June 1965 on Them’s album, “The Angry Young Them”, it wouldn’t be released as a single until October 1965. “Mystic Eyes” entered the Billboard Magazine’s HOT 100 charts, at #97, on the week of October 24th to 30th, 1965 just in time for the fall of 50 years ago. The single of “Mystic Eyes”, with Jimmy Page’s guitar playing and all, would reach to #33 on the week of December 5th to 11th, 1965. Below the image of the EP for “Mystic Eyes” is a video of a live performance of the song from Them in France during the fall of 50 years ago, with Harrison on the rhythm guitar looking as though he’s trying to imitate Pete Townsend of The Who, not Jimmy Page: — with Benn Gunn.