A tough U.K. R&B band with an attack that recalled the harder garage rock sounds of the day, the story of the Belfast Gypsies is one of the most unusual in the British Beat era. An offshoot of the Irish blues stalwarts Them, the Belfast Gypsies never publicly performed under that name, and had drifted apart by the time their sole album was issued only in Sweden in 1967. Despite that, the group's only LP, confusingly titled Them, became a cult favorite among fans of blues-wailing '60s sounds and earned a small but loyal following long before the group's complicated history became known among rock fans.

The Belfast Gypsies were led by Pat McAuley and his sibling Jackie McAuley. The band's genesis was the result of an acrimonious 1965 personnel shake-up in the Irish R&B combo Them (best known for introducing Van Morrison to the world), who by that time had relocated to London. Squabbles within the group led to Them splitting into two factions, with vocalist Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson on one side and keyboard player Pat McAuley and guitarist Billy Harrison on the other. Both sides began touring using the name Them, with the McAuley/Harrison edition also including singer Nick Wymer, bassist Mark Scott, and drummer Skip Alan. A lawsuit granted the Morrison/Henderson version of the group the right to use the name Them in the U.K. However, the judgment didn't apply to a number of other territories, and McAuley and Harrison's band played in the United Kingdom as the Other Them, while they still billed themselves as Them in Europe and the Netherlands. The Other Them began having lineup problems of their own when Skip Alan quit to join the Pretty Things; for a short period, he was replaced by former Pretty Things drummer Viv Prince, the very drummer Alan was brought in to replace.

By mid-1966, the Other Them's lineup had settled into a quartet, with Pat McAuley moving from keyboards to drums, his brother Jackie McAuley on lead vocals, keyboards, and harmonica, Ken McLeod on guitar, and Mark Scott on bass. American record producer Kim Fowley, at the time scouting talent in London, thought the band had potential, and took them into the studio for several recording sessions. Two songs Fowley recorded with the band, "Portland Town" and "People, Let's Freak Out," were picked up for American release in 1966 by the Warner Bros. subsidiary Loma Records; since the United States was one of the territories where they were forbidden to call themselves Them, Fowley dubbed them the Belfast Gipsies. Another 1966 single was released in England by Island Records, "Gloria's Dream" b/w "Secret Police," also as the Belfast Gipsies. The Island single was expanded into a four-song EP for the French label Disques Vogue with the addition of "The Crazy World Inside Me" and "Aira of the Fallen Angels," with the billing changed to the Belfast Gypsies. By this time, Scandinavian touring had helped the Other Them (or Them, as they were known there) attract an audience; they cut a handful of tracks at a studio in Copenhagen, and struck a deal with the Swedish label Sonet Records, which planned to issue the Denmark material mixed with the tracks Fowley had produced in England.

By the end of 1966, however, the Other Them/Belfast Gypsies had broken up, and the album didn't appear until roughly nine months after they disbanded. Sonet opted to title the 1967 album Them, leading many stores to file the album under the group Them, while some folks assumed the band's name was Them Belfast Gypsies. With no band left to promote the release, the album largely fell on deaf ears, and following the release of a final single on Island, with the band renamed the Freaks of Nature, the Belfast Gypsies story came to a close. However, given continuing interest in Them, R&B and Beat Music collectors and various crate diggers rediscovered Them, and the album received a belated U.K. release in 1978. The British reissue label Rev-Ola gave Them an expanded reissue, and a definitive remastered edition was brought out by Grapefruit Records in 2020. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

THE BELFAST GYPSIES -The crazy world inside me
THE BELFAST GYPSIES-People Let's Freak Out
The Belfast Gypsies – I Want You
Them - Belfast Gypsies - Midnight Train
Gloria's Dream
Portland Town
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