The Monarchs were the group that Van Morrison
played with for a few years prior to joining Them, and they even cut
a single, though as it turns out that record isn't as interesting or
desirable as one might guess. They formed at the end of the 1950s as
an outgrowth of the Belfast band the Javelins. They were at the
outset a showband, a term that in Ireland refers to an ensemble that
can play many kinds of popular music styles.
Morrison was already into rock, blues, and
R&B, but showbands were about the only option for gaining
professional experience, so he paid his dues with the Monarchs,
playing saxophone and singing. They played, without much success, in
Scotland, and through a chance encounter in London in the summer of
1962, passed an audition to be sent over to Germany. Many British
bands, from Liverpool but also from elsewhere, were being sent to
Germany for residencies in the early '60s, and undoubtedly the
Monarchs' time there in 1962 and 1963 helped Morrison become a
tougher, more seasoned performer.
Morrison also played some guitar and drums in
addition to playing saxophone and singing. In 1963, the Monarchs got
the opportunity to record a German single for CBS, "Boozoo Hully
Gully"/"Twingy Baby." Unfortunately for archivists who would love to
hear a professionally recorded disc with Morrison predating Them,
Morrison only played sax on the record and did not sing. Another
member of the Monarchs, George Jones, sang lead on "Boozoo Hully
Gully." Said Morrison of "Boozoo Hully Gully" (as quoted in John
Collis' Van Morrison: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart), "It was a
really bad song but we gave it a dynamite instrumental track."
Both sides of the single appear on the Van
Morrison bootleg Bluesology 1963-'73. "Boozoo Hully Gully"
apparently made the German charts, yet the Monarchs broke up in late
1963. In any event, Morrison's vast musical ambitions could not have
been fulfilled in the band, though he wasn't writing songs yet. His
singing, songwriting, and overall musical vision would take quantum
leaps the following year, when he joined Them.
by Richie Unterberger | AllMusic