"People call us arrogant, but just because we know we are right, it doesn't make us arrogant.
— Kevin Rowland's live show banter
A British New Wave
group founded in Birmingham
in 1978, Dexys Midnight Runners are probably one of the best known One Hit Wonders
of all time, although to label them as such would be a misnomer. The band that brought us the ridiculously catchy
single "Come On Eileen" was created by Kevin Rowland and Kevin "Al" Archer, two guitarists who had previously been members of a a Birmingham punk
group called the Killjoys. Fans of soul music, this duo created Dexys Midnight Runners as a horn-driven Northern Soul
outfit which achieved success with its early singles "Geno" and "There, There, My Dear" and their seminal album Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
After seveal changes in their line-up, including the integration of strings into the group to create a fusion of Irish folk and soul music (heavily influenced by the work of Van Morrison) described by Rowland as "Celtic Soul", Dexys released a second album entitled Too-Rye-Aye
, which contained the enormously successful single "Come On Eileen", the group's only American hit. This was followed up by several further singles, a whiddling down of the band from Loads and Loads of Characters
to a quartet (Rowlands, Helen O'Hara, Billy Adams and Jimmy Pattersonnote
) and a third album, Don't Stand Me Down
, which turned out to be a commercial failure (mostly due to Kevin Rowland's refusal to release a single before the album was released and the song eventually issued as a single, "This Is What's She's Like", was twelve minutes long
), but is considered to be the band's ultimate artistic triumph. The band eventually broke up a short time later.
After a few solo efforts (most infamously the My Beauty Cover Album
) and years spent battling personal demons, Kevin Rowland got the band back together in 2003 under the abbreviated name "Dexys". A new studio album, One Day I'm Going To Soar
was released in June 2012.
The band's albums are:
- Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)
- Too-Rye-Ay (1982)
- Don't Stand Me Down (1985)
- One Day I'm Going to Soar (2012)
Notable songs include:
- Album Title Drop: A short spoken section in "There, There, My Dear" for the first album and the bridge of "Come On Eileen" for the second.
- The Band Minus the Face: The spin-off soul group known as The Bureau was essentially the original Dexys line-up without Kevin Rowland.
- Control Freak: Kevin Rowland by all accounts. Aside from making other band members called Kevin use stage names, he reportedly frustrated the Killjoys by refusing a £20000 record deal, imposed a strict physical training regimen for band members and refused to release a single from Don't Stand Me Down, which is often blamed as a reason for its failure. More outlandishly, he refused to associate with the music press and insisted on communicating with fans through printed essays in ad space in music magazines. He later admitted that in he had a tendency to try and change others' opinions by "being autocratic", and that a lot of this was driven by insecurity and self-esteem issues.
- Cover Version: Many of their early B-sides and live performances were covers of classic soul songs, including "Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache", "Hold On, I'm Comin'" and Respect, and their last top ten single was a cover of Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)".
- Gratuitous Italian: Subverted in "This Is What She's Like": during their conversation about his new girlfriend, the singer knows there's a word in Italian that sums her up perfectly ... but can't actually remember what it is:
Singer: I think it means 'thunderbolt'.
Friend: You mean, the Italian word for 'thunderbolt'?
Singer: Uh, yeah. I don't speak Italian myself, you understand. But I knew a man who did.
- Long List: The first half of "This Is What She's Like" is the singer, after being asked what his new girlfriend is like, rattling off a long list of everything and everyone he hates while insisting that she's nothing like that. The second half is him explaining without words what she is like.
- New Sound Album: Searching for the Young Soul Rebels featured horn-driven songs rooted in American soul music, accompanied by a mod-influenced image. The next album, Too-Rye-Aye, saw the addition of strings and brought in influences from Irish folk music. It also generated the most recognised Dexys "hillbilly" image. Don't Stand Me Down turned them into a experimental soul/post-punk band that performed twelve minute songs laced with spoken dialog.
- Officially Shortened Title: The 2012 revival is just called Dexys.
- One-Hit Wonder: "Come On Eileen" was their only American hit single, although they'd had a few top forty hits in Britain including the number one single "Geno", as well as one more song in the top ten after "Come On Eileen". Even so, even in Britain most people will only readily remember that they did "Come On Eileen".
- One Steve Limit: Guitarists Kevin Archer and Kevin Adams were required to go by their nicknames Al and Billy respectively, because Kevin Rowland insisted, "There's only room for one Kevin in this band."
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: The band was named after a recreational drug called Dexedrine, which was popular among fans of Northern Soul at the time. Even so, the group itself made a point of avoiding drugs and pursued a group exercise regimen because they didn't want to risk giving a bad show (although Kevin Rowland had problems with drugs after Dexys broke up).
- Shout-Out: The number one hit "Geno" is a shout out to the American expatriate soul singer Geno Washington and describes one of Kevin Rowland's experiences at one of his concerts, "back in '68 in a sweaty club."
- The Rival: According to Horace Panter of The Specials, they had a habit of booing when a demo tape by fellow Birmingham musicians The Beat were played on a tour bus.