Morrison said that he wrote "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 at the Maritime Hotel when he returned to Belfast and joined up with the Gamblers to form the band Them. He would ad-liblyrics as he performed, sometimes stretching the song to fifteen or twenty minutes. After signing a contract with Dick Rowe and Decca, Them went to London for a recording session at Decca Three Studios in West Hampstead on 5 July 1964; "Gloria" was one of the seven songs recorded that day. Besides Morrison, present were Billy Harrison on guitar, Alan Henderson on bass, Ronnie Millings on drums and Patrick John McCauley on keyboards. Rowe brought in session musicians Arthur Greenslade on organ and Bobby Graham on drums, since he considered the Them members 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. Although some sources claim that Jimmy Page played second guitar, other sources deny this.
Gloria was the B-side when "Baby, Please Don't Go" was released in the U.K. on 6 November 1964. It was re-released in 1973 on the Deram label, but did not chart.
The Gants (from the album Roadrunner) – earliest known cover version released in November 1965.
The Bobby Fuller Four (around the time of the song's original popularity in 1965) covered the song live at P.J.'s Night Club. It was recorded as a track and released on Live at PJ's Plus!.
The Shadows of Knight single released in December 1965 (later included in the album Gloria). Reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 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 Shadows of Knight's version replaced this line with "She calls out my name."
Status Quo (under name The Spectres) at Saturday Club, BBC on 10/09/1966; and as Status Quo at David Symonds Show on 8/4/68 and 12/4/68.
The Doors covered the song between 1968 and 1970. One of these performances was released on Alive, She Cried (1983) (number 18 on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and number 71 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1983). The same version can be found on the The Very Best of The Doors compilation album.
AC/DC covered the song regularly in their early formation; lead singer Bon Scott had previously performed "Gloria" with his first group, The Spektors.
Patti Smith, from her 1975 album Horses. This version 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 allusions of the title. It memorably begins, "Jesus died for somebody's sins / But not mine".
Santa Esmeralda (from the album Don't let me be misunderstood) in a disco-gypsy way in 1977.
Jimi Hendrix's version of "Gloria" was first included on the 1979 compilation, The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two, as a 7 inch, 331⁄3 RPM, one-sided single. It is also included on the 2000 released box set, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. His version was not a traditional cover – he included entire verses of his own creation, and appeared to be ad-libbing as he went along. The lyrics included lines about drummer Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.
New Zealand band The Pleazers performed a version of the song, which is on the multiple-artist album Kiwi Classics, Vol 2.
U2 snippeted this song at the ending of "Exit" during practically all its live performances, including the one on their album–movie Rattle and Hum released in 1988. (They also recorded an unrelated song called "Gloria".)
David Bowie played the song regularly on his 1990 Sound and Vision Tour.
A portion of the intro, guitar solo, and outtro of "Play Guitar" by John Cougar Mellencamp, was very similar to a portion of "Gloria"'s guitar riff.
Rick Springfield covered the song live on the 2001 album Greatest Hits Alive and has performed the song several times in concert, often following Morrison's lead by ad-libbing lyrics and stretching the song's length.
Popa Chubby released a live album recorded at a 2003 radio show in France, entitled Live at FIP, that including "Gloria" (sung with his wife).
Tom Petty played the song several times on his Highway Companion Tour in 2006, and he closed most of the shows with it during his twenty-night run at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 1997.
Bruce Springsteen closed his concert at the Hershey Park Stadium on 19 August 2008 with a cover of "Gloria", proclaiming, "Let's take it back to where it all started!" He also performed snippets of the song on occasion as an introduction to "She's the One" on 1978's Darkness Tour.
Billie Joe Armstrong sings the chorus of G-L-O-R-I-A at the ending of the song, "Horseshoes and Handgrenades" on the 2009 Green Day album 21st Century Breakdown. Also evincing Van Morrison's "Gloria" as an inspiration on their eighth album, one of the main characters is named Gloria.
Anthony Kiedis sings G-L-O-R-I-A during the song "Venice Queen". "Venice Queen" was lyrically composed as an ode to Kiedis' drug rehabilitation therapist, Gloria Scott, who died shortly after he purchased her a home on California's Venice Beach
The beauty of the original is that Van Morrison needs only to speak-sing, in his Howlin' Wolf growl, "I watch her come up to my house/She knocks upon my door/And then she comes up to my room/I want to say she makes me feel all right/G-L-O-R-I-A!" to convey his teenage lust. The original Latin meaning of the name is not lost on Morrison. Them never varies from the three chords, utilizing only dynamic changes to heighten the tension.
"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."
Humourist Dave Barry joked that "You can throw a guitar off a cliff, and as it bounces off rocks on the way down, it will, all by itself, play Gloria."
Williams, Paul; Berryhill, Cindy Lee (December 1993). "Baby Please Don't Go / Gloria – Them (1964)". Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles (Hardcover ed.). United States: Entwhistle Books. pp. 71–72. ISBN978-0-934558-41-9.
^Williams, Paul; Berryhill, Cindy Lee (December 1993). "Baby Please Don't Go / Gloria – Them (1964)". Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles (Hardcover ed.). United States: Entwhistle Books. pp. 71–72. ISBN978-0-934558-41-9.