- 07 Aug 19
37 years ago today, Dexy Midnight Runners topped the charts with 'Come On Eileen'.
Here's a fact to make you feel old. 'Come On Eileen' reached number one closer to the end of the Second World War than to today.
Don't just take our word. Take it from comedian and Pointless compere extraordinnaire Richard Osman.
‘Come On Eileen’ reached number one closer to the end of the Second World War than to today.
— Richard Osman (@richardosman) August 7, 2019
Beloved by the masses at the time of its release and a firm fixture as the last song of the night at bars, clubs and weddings across the world, 'Come On Eileen' is one of the most recognisable songs of the last 40 years.
At the time of its release, Dexys were in a strong place as chart favourites. Buoyed by the success of their debut album, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, and the single 'Geno', Dexys' second album Too-Rye-Ay (no prizes for guessing where they got the name from) entered in at No. 14 in the US Charts.
Despite this, the success wasn't maintained in the years that followed.
In 2012, Hot Press caught up with Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland to talk about their early days, his reputation for perfectionism, and getting the band together again.
Kevin Rowland Interview
As the awkward squad previously known as Dexys Midnight Runners stage a dramatic return, Kevin Rowland talks about his reputation for perfectionism, putting the band back together and why he doesn’t regret appearing on an album sleeve in women’s underwear.
It’s not at all intentional, but Hot Press is giving Kevin Rowland quite a serious pain in the head. “Sorry, mate, but every time you ask me something your voice is, like, crackling really badly in my ear,” the Dexys singer complains, speaking down the line from his London home. “Do you have me on speakerphone or summat? Any chance you could take it off?”
When your slightly embarrassed correspondent explains that the speaker is required for recording purposes, Rowland sounds a little unhappy. “Right...” he sighs. Then he cackles, “Okay then, I’m gonna put you on speaker at my end. Get
Thankfully, this arrangement seems to work. Unfortunately, now that my questions are coming in clearer, he’s not finding them any more agreeable. When asked if he now thinks it was a mistake to pose in sexy lingerie for the cover of his solo 1999 covers album, My Beauty, he snaps, “not in the slightest! I think I looked great!”
A query of “do you think your perfectionism makes you difficult to work with?” is met with an audible intake of breath and a long silence. Eventually he says, “come on, Olaf – are you doing this for Hot Press or The Sun?”
It’s not a particularly loaded question. A few months ago, Dexys released the widely acclaimed One Day I’m Going To Soar, their first album since 1985’s Don’t Stand Me Down (reported at the time as being one of the most expensive albums ever made). That follow-up to their classic 1983 breakthrough Too-Rye-Ay failed to do the business and, in between various sackings, resignations and internecine disputes, that seemed to be pretty much it for the once massive Birmingham band. Although Rowland recorded a couple of commercially disastrous solo albums, it was widely rumoured that his perfectionism had scuppered
He doesn’t agree. “Well, do you know what? I don’t think I am a perfectionist really. I think I was. I mean, I’ve seen it written about me a few times. But if I was a total perfectionist, I wouldn’t have got the album done. That’s for sure.”
Even so, given that the band actually reunited as a touring concern in 2003, the LP was a very long time coming. Featuring original members Mick Talbot, Pete Williams and Jim Paterson, alongside new recruits Ben Trigg, Neil Hubbard, Tim Cansfield, Madeline Hyland and Lucy Morgan, One Day I’m Going To Soar was recorded over a matter of years rather
“It’s been a long time,” Rowland admits. “But I’m really happy with it. That’s the important thing.”
Having tasted massive success in the ‘80s, the next two decades weren’t too kind to the writer of such classic hits as ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Geno’. Rowland reportedly lost a lot of years, and also presumably a lot of money, to a serious cocaine addiction. He’s also rumoured to have been homeless for a time. Looking back, does he have any regrets about the long and winding road he’s travelled?
“Any regrets?” he repeats, sounding aghast. “Do you know what, that’s the last thing I wanna talk about, any kind of regret. I’ve just made a record that I’m really happy with and it’s a positive time for me. It’s a good album, it’s been really well-received, which is great. Great reviews. When we play live, One Day I’m Going To Soar is a show rather than a gig. We play the album in sequence. We’re about to do some more shows, including the Electric Picnic, we were just working on the rehearsals today. So I’m not really thinking about any regrets and I’m not really thinking too much about the past. I’m bang in the present with this. It’s been received in a contemporary way and I’m a contemporary artist.”
Was it emotional going back into the studio with his old bandmates?
“Well, there were moments that were emotional. It wasn’t so much coming back to the band, it’s more of a reinvention than anything. Because if you look at the first three albums, there were three different line-ups. Me and Jim were the only constants on the ‘80s albums. We’re the only ones on all three. So it really was a reinvention. Doing something different.
“It was a lot of hard work,” he continues. “I’d done some demos and we honed them and honed the arrangements. But there was moments that were really emotional. Like one day I walked into the studio and I saw Jim and Pete Williams talking, and I hadn’t seen those guys together for like 30 years. Just watching them interacting was absolutely lovely.”
The ‘Midnight Runners’ (‘80s slang for speed pills) has been dropped from the band’s original name. Why are they now just Dexys?
“I guess we lost the ‘Midnight Runners’ because
we wanted to say this is us, but we’re also
In recent years, Rowland made a bit of a name
for himself as a nightclub DJ. Did this parallel
career have any influence on the recording of the
“I get a great performance buzz from DJ-in,” he enthuses. “I learnt quite a lot from it as well, about structuring a set. I knew some stuff about structuring a set, but I learned more. And some journalist said to me, ‘do you think your DJ-ing influenced the record at all?’ and I said, ‘What? Of course not!’ And then I went away and it struck me that, ‘You know what, it probably has a little bit’. Because we were very careful to make sure that all the grooves were kicking – you know, on the bass and on the drums. And I’m very conscious of that when I’m DJ-ing.
“I spent a lot of time in clubs in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I was always watching the records that put everybody on the floor and what was it about them. The thing about DJ-ing isn’t just knowing what records to play, but you’ve got to play ‘em in the right order. Anyway, to answer the question, the album is structured in a different way, but the DJ-ing definitely influenced the grooves. I wanted to make sure we had a real strong groove on every track.”
While as soulful, funky and poppy as ever, ODIGTS is also at times painfully introspective and confessional. As he puts it in the monologue on rueful album closer ‘It’s OK John Joe’, “I don’t show much of myself in person, but in my music I put it all in there, it’s like I’ve got a need to get it all out of me.”
In a time when music is more widely available than ever, blasted from every shoe-shop, does he think that it matters as much as it did in his heyday?
“Well, it matters to me,” he asserts. “I’ve waited a long time to make this album. If I’d wanted to knock out any old rubbish, I’m sure I could have done that. But it’s taken a long time. I don’t wanna sound like an old codger saying, ‘It was better in my day’. My day is now anyway. I’m interested in what’s going on now. I think young people have a lot more music available to them. They can just check out anything from any era – the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s. But I don’t think about that stuff too much. I just do my bit.”
Elsewhere on the album, he snarls the line, “Take your Irish stereotype and shove it up your arse.” With the Rowlands originally from County Mayo, does he feel stereotyped as a second generation Irish person?
“No, not at all. The album talks a lot about not belonging anywhere really. I know some Irish people, and not necessarily first generation Irish people, who are into this whole Irish stereotype clichéd thing, and I just wanted to take a pop at it. But I think Mayo is the most amazing place. I think it’s haunted. When I go over there I feel such a strong connection with it.
“And I like Ireland,” he continues. “And what I am is a second generation Irish person. That almost says more about me than my social class. Because second generation Irish growing up here is quite different to first generation Irish, and quite different to English as well. It’s just different. But a lot of people whether they’re Irish, Italian or Cockney, they fit into this stereotype. But that just ain’t me. I’m not into that.”
Rowland is about to turn 59. Before hanging up, I wish him a happy birthday.
“How the hell do you know that?” he laughs. “I’m actually doing a gig in Wales on the night. But you know what? It’s great, mate. I’m really blessed to be doing this. Doing a really good job is how I get my kicks these days.”