CD (532 219-2)
Jackie Wilson Said
The story of Dexys Midnight Runners is, to be more accurate, the story of Kevin Rowland, who was bom in August, 1953, in Wolvrhampton, in England's industrial heartland. His first recording of any note was as guitarist with a Bimingham-based punk group, The Killjoys, who made a single at the time when punk rock was at the cutting edge of musical innovation. Rowland later recalled: "In mid-1978, I started listening to a few old soul records. They sounded so fresh and alive, so punchy and innocent and honest compared to the overproduced groups around. It was inspiring." The result was that Rowland and Killjoys guitarist Al Archer launched a new group, Dexys Midnight Runners, which, while espousing the spirit of punk and 2- Tone (the ska revivalist label which launched the carrers of The Specials, Madness, The Beat. etc.) looked elsewhere for its musical inspiration, to Sixties R&B and soul. The group name was a reference to dexedrine, a trendy 'upper' pill which was also popular in the Sixties especially among lovers of the Motown / Staxi / Atlantic dance hits of the time, who attended all-night raves and needed artificial energy.
Enough past history - the eight man group. vith Rowland as vocalist and main songwriter, adopted an image copied from the Robert DeNiro movie, "Mean Streets," and were managed by Bernie Rhodes (ex-rnanager of The Clash). Rhodes arranged for Dexys to be offered a record deal with EMI, and their first single, released in early 1980, was a minor hit. Three months later, a second single, "Geno" (a kind of tribute to Sixties soul star Geno Washington), topped the UK chart: its brassy sound, which was very much a thowback to the mid-Sixties, clearly delighted a new generation and povoked happy memories for their parents.
The group's first album, "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels" was finally released in the summer of 1980, when it made the Top 10 of the UK chart, but Rowland had delayed its release; the master tapes were purloined until EMI agreed to renegotiate the group's contract becase of their chart-topping succes. Another Top 10 single followed, but in the autumn of 1980, Rowland insisted on the release of a fourth single which EMI regarded as uncommercial. Relations between label and group were at a low ebb by this time, and when that fourth single (Rowland's choice) flopped, EMI released another single of their choice against Rowland's wishes.
Both parties probably breathed a sigh of relief when a loophole was found in the contract, and the group signed with Mercury in mid-1981. However, most of the band, who were equally unhappy with Rowland's leadership (but don't forget that it was his conception,) left to form The Bureau, who were far less successful. Rowland recruited rplacements, and "Show Me" was the rebuilt band's first Top 20 hit for their new label.
A follow-up single, "Liars A to E" with strings accomparying the band, was a brave failure commercially, although its appearance here may convince many that their decision to overlook it in late 1981 was hasty. By the spring of 1982, the group had been augmented by a pair of Irish folk violin players known as ne Emerald Express, the guitarist was playing banjo and the keyboard player accordeon, producing the unlikely blend of '60s soul and traditional Irish folk music. - Rowland, although born in England, was of Irish extraction. The group's image also changed again - it had briefly been sports gear after the "Mean Streets" look, and the third new "uniform" in a short time brilliantly reflected the new musical direction, with flip-flops, dungarees and scaves.
This would be the start of the band's finest hour: a first single by this line-up. "The Celtic Soul Brothers" was only a UK Top 50 hit, after which the hom players left the group, reportedly because they felt that the new direction left them with too little to do. In August 1982, Dexys next single, "Come On Eileen" sold a million copies in Britain, and topped the chart for a month, while the group's second album, "Too-Rye-Ay" was also a huge hit, remaining in the UK chart for almost a whole year, and peaking in the Top 3. The next single, a cover version of a Van Morison hit, "Jackie Vyilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)" was also included on the album, but still reached the UK Top 5, after which the band slimmed down to a trio of Rowland and two others. A third major hit single from the 'Too-Rye-Ay' album also reached the UK Top 20, although both sides. "Let's Get This Straight (From The Start)" and "Old" were listed together in the chart. In early 1983, an updated version of "The Celtic Soul Brothers" was released as a single, and also became a UK Top 20 hit, just after "Come On Eileen" had won a BRIT Award as the Best British Single of 1982.
In the spring of 1983, after the band had effectively split up totally, "Come On Eileen" topped the US singles chart, while the "Too-Rye-Ay" album reached the US Top 20, but these were isolated successes, and nothing was heard from Dexys until 1985, when a new album, "Don't Stand Me Down" emerged. It charted for only a few weeks and peaked outside the Top 20 of the UK chart, perhaps because Rowland decreed that no singles should be released fom it - among the tracks it included were "The Occasional Flicker'" and "Knowledge Of Beauty." At the end of 1986, Dexys (by now effectively just Roland) recorded "Because Of You" the theme tune for a TV comedy series, "Brush Strokes" released as a single, it became the eighth (and last) hit single to bear the name of Dexys Midnight Runners. Subsequently, that name has appeared on a couple mote albums but with no success to match the "Too-Rye-Ay" era, hen Dexys were for several months one of the biggest acts in the universe. Remember them this way