Dexys Midnight Runners

Dexys Midnight Runners were an English new wave band that emerged from the Birmingham R&B–ska scene with the 1980 EMI–Parlophone album Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, which spawned the UK No. 1 “Geno.” They embraced Celtic folk-pop on the 1982 Mercury release Too-Rye-Ay and its transatlantic hit “Come On Eileen.” Bandleader Kevin Rowland revised the lineup for each album, culminating with the 1985 sophisti-pop experiment Don’t Stand Me Down.

Members: Kevin Rowland (vocals, bass, guitar, piano), Kevin Archer [aka Al Archer] (guitar, vocals, 1978-81), Pete Williams (bass, vocals, 1978-80), Pete Saunders (organ, 1978-79, 1980, 2003), John Jay (drums, 1978-79), Jeff Blythe (saxophone, 1978-80), Steve Spooner (alto saxophone, 1978-80), Jeff Kent (trumpet, 1978-79), Jim Paterson (trombone, 1978-82, 1984, 1993-98, 2012-16), Bobby Ward (drums, 1979), Stoker [Andy Growcott] (drums, 1979-80), Andy Leek (organ, 1979-80), Mick Talbot (keyboards, 1980, 2003-13), Seb Shelton (drums, 1980-83), Paul Speare (flute, saxophone, whistle, 1980-82), Brian Brummitt (saxophone, 1980-82), Micky Billingham (organ, piano, keyboards, accordion, 1980-82), Steve Wynn (bass, 1980-81), Billy Adams (banjo, guitar, 1981-87, 1993), Giorgio Kilkenny (bass, 1981-82), Helen O’Hara (violin, 1982-86), Steve Shaw [Steve Brennan] (violin, 1982-83), Roger MacDuff [Roger Huckle] (violin, 1982-83), Nick Gatfield (saxophone, 1982-85), John “Rhino” Edwards (bass, 1982-85), Spike Edney (trombone, keyboards, 1982-83), Kevin Gilson (saxophone, 1982-83), Bob Noble (organ, 1983-85), Vincent Crane (keyboards, 1984-85), Crusher Green (drums, 1984), Mick Bolton (keyboards, 1984-86), Trevor Burton (bass, 1984), Mick Woodmansey (drums, 1984), Tim Dancy (drums, 1984-85), Julian Littman (mandolin, 1984-85), Tommy Evans (steel guitar, 1984-85)


Background

Dexys Midnight Runners formed in mid-1978 when singer–guitarist Kevin Rowland and guitarist–singer Kevin “Al” Archer recruited musicians for a soul band.

Rowland (b. August 17, 1953) spent his early childhood in his parent’s native Ireland before the family returned to his place of birth in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton. He spent his adolescents in Harrow, Greater London, and worked as a hairdresser after leaving school at age fifteen. His first band was Lucy & the Lovers, an unrecorded Roxy Music-inspired act with two real-life lovers: guitarist Mark Philips and bassist Ghislaine “Gil” Weston (aka Gem).

In 1977, Rowland, Archer, Philips, and Gem formed The Killjoys, a pioneering Birmingham punk band with drummer Joe 45 and backing singer Heather Tonge, Kevin’s then-girlfriend. They moved to London and lodged at a disused Barclay’s Bank building. The Killjoys cut one single comprised of Rowland originals: “Johnny Won’t Go to Heaven” (which lampoons then-rampant media fear-mongering of Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten) and “Naive.” The single appeared on the punk specialty label Raw Records (RAW 3) amid titles by The Users, The Hammersmith Gorillas, The Creation (a reissue of their sixties freakbeat classic “Making Time”), and The Soft Boys. “Johnny Won’t Go to Heaven” sold 18,000 copies but the Killjoys soon split due to Rowland’s autocratic work ethic. Gem later surfaced in the NWOBHM band Girlschool.

Dismayed with the punk scene, Rowland and Archer returned to Birmingham and immersed in sixties Stax/Volt and Blue Beat sounds. The original Dexys lineup included keyboardist Pete Saunders, bassist Pete Williams, trombonist “Big” Jim Paterson, drummer John Jay, and saxophonists Geoff “JB” Blythe and Steve “Babyface” Spooner.

Rowland encouraged the band members to quit their jobs and spend each day in rehearsals. They derived their band name from Dexedrine, an energy drug used by Northern soul enthusiasts, who typically partook in all-night dance events.

On November 29, 1978, Dexys played their first show at Jodari’s in Dudley.


1979

In the spring of 1979, Jay cleared for drummer Bobby “Jnr” Ward. The eight-piece Dexys lineup of Rowland, Archer, Saunders, Williams, Paterson, Blythe, Spooner, and Ward signed on with Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, who also represented Subway Sect, an album-less act from the first wave of punk. At Rhodes’ encouragement, Rowland adopted an emotional vocal style drawn from Bryan Ferry and Chairmen of the Board singer General Johnson.


Dance Stance

On November 23, 1979, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Dance Stance,” a Kevin Rowland original backed with the Rowland–Blythe–Saunders “I’m Just Looking” on Rhodes’ Oddball Productions.

A. “Dance Stance” (3:41) For their debut album, Dexys re-recorded this song under its working title “Burn It Down.”

B. “I’m Just Looking” (4:23)

Rhodes produced both sides for Oddball, which pressed the demos (red-dotted green label) and official versions (ashtray label) under the same catalog number (R 6028). The back sleeve features a cartoon pool-table illustration and credits that identify the singer as ‘Carlo Rolan,’ Rowland’s short-lived stage pseudonym.


1980

On the week of January 19, 1980, “Dance Stance” peaked at No. 40 on the UK Singles Chart. Dismayed with Rhode’s production, Dexys Midnight Runners broke from Bernie and signed with Oddball’s distributor, EMI, which linked the band with producer Pete Wingfield, an erstwhile musician (Keef Hartley Band, Olympic Runners) who scored a 1975 novelty hit with the fifties doo-wop pastiche “Eighteen With a Bullet.” Pete Saunders briefly cleared for Wailing Cocks organist Andy Leek.

Dexys Midnight Runners scored a No. 1 hit with their March 1980 second single “Geno,” inspired by Kevin Rowland’s memories of a 1964 concert by American R&B singer Geno Washington. To counter the off-color statements of journalists, Dexys ruled out interviews and promoted their activities through full-page ads in the music weeklies.


Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

Dexys Midnight Runners released their debut album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, on July 11, 1980, on EMI and Parlophone. It opens with the “Dance Stance” re-recording “Burn It Down” and features two additional songs (“Tell Me When My Light Turns Green,” “Love Part One”) by frontman Kevin Rowland, who co-wrote one song each with trumpeter “Big” Jim Paterson (“I Couldn’t Help If I Tried”) and organist Pete Saunders (“Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply”), plus two (“Geno,” “There, There, My Dear”) with guitarist Kevin “Al” Archer, who lone-wrote “The Teams That Meet in Caffs” and partnered with saxophonist Geoffrey “Jeff” Blythe on “Keep It.”

Young Soul Rebels also contains Dexys’ re-recorded b-side “I’m Just Looking” and the Chuck Wood cover “Seven Days Too Long.” The album generated three singles, including the UK chart-topper “Geno,” one of two songs (along with “Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire”) recorded with organist Andy Leek, who cleared for Saunders after the first round of sessions.

Dexys are an octet for this release with bassist Pete Williams, drummer Andy “Stoker” Growcott, and alto saxist Steve “Babyface” Spooner.

1. “Burn It Down” (4:21)
2. “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green” (3:46)
3. “The Teams That Meet in Caffs”  (4:08)
4. “I’m Just Looking” (4:41)
5. “Geno” (3:31)

6. “Seven Days Too Long” (2:43) originated as a 1967 Roulette a-side by Baltimore soul singer Chuck Wood (aka J.R. Bailey, ex-Cadillacs), who co-wrote the song with ex-Coasters Vernon Harrell.
7. “I Couldn’t Help If I Tried” (4:14)
8. “Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply” (2:59)
9. “Keep It” (3:59)
10. “Love Part One” (1:12)
11. “There, There, My Dear” (3:31)

Apart from the 1979 “Geno” session, Dexys recorded Searching for the Young Soul Rebels in April 1980 at Chipping Norton Studios in Oxfordshire, where Pete Wingfield produced the album ahead of singles by Nine Below Zero and The Step. Chipping staffer Barry Hammond engineered Young Soul Rebels in sequence with 1980 singer–songwriter albums by Chris Rea, Gerry Rafferty, and Iain Matthews.

Cover artist Peter Barrett designed the Young Soul Rebels visuals. The front cover uses a green-tinted Evening Standard photo of a thirteen-year-old boy fleeing home during the 1971 Belfast Troubles. The back cover and inner-sleeve feature red titles and green text (on white) with lyrics, song annotations, and liner notes.

Between the album’s completion and release, Dexys feuded with EMI over royalties. In protest, they confiscated the tapes until the label agreed to a compromise.

“Geno” appeared on March 15 as the lead single, backed with the non-album Bandwagon cover “Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache.”

B. “Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache” (3:24) originated as a 1968 CBS–Direction a-side by Rochester soulsters Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon, whose original reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart. Its writers, Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, also wrote sixties hits for The Toys (“A Lover’s Concerto”) and the Four Seasons (“Working My Way Back to You,” “Let’s Hang On!”).

On the week of May 3, 1980, “Geno” reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, where it overtook “Call Me” by Blondie and held the summit for two weeks. Dexys Midnight Runners mimed “Geno” on the April 3 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which also featured spring hits by Barbara Dickson (“January February”), The Jam (“Going Underground”), Judas Priest (“Living After Midnight”), The Pretenders (“Talk of the Town”), and fellow ska-associated acts Madness (“Night Boat to Cairo”), The Selecter (“Missing Words”), and UB40 (“Food for Thought”). Dexys perform their segment on a black stage decked with circular bar fixtures. Their ruffian image (dock coats, stocking caps, pencil mustaches) contrasts the sleek neo-mod style then worn by ska and R&B contemporaries Madness, The Specials, and Paul Young‘s Q Tips.

In June 1980, Dexys Midnight Runners released “There, There, My Dear” as the second Young Soul Rebels single, backed with a cover of the Cliff Nobles R&B instrumental “The Horse.”

B. “The Horse” (2:22) originated as the instrumental b-side version of the 1968 single “Love Is All Right” by Philly soul singer Cliff Nobles. Despite its b-side status, “The Horse” caught hold with DJs and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100; billed to Cliff Nobles & Co (his backing band comprised of future MFSB players) despite Nobles’ absence on the recording.

“There, There, My Dear” reached No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart. The video intersperses scenes of a small-scale Dexys club performance with lone moments of the song’s antagonist, who wanders blue-lit streets and slumps in an alley while his silhouette cuts to studio footage of the band with a wall-wide Irish flag.

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart. In August, Dexys launched the Intense Emotions Review, a UK–European tour that included an August 15 Belgian stop for Jazz Bilzen, an annual jazz and rock festival with sets by The Stranglers, The Lambrettas, and Girlschool. In October, Dexys played six shows in Germany.


“Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One)”

After Dexys wrapped its Young Soul Rebels promotions, Pete Saunders made his final exit. He joined The Decorators, an Acton post-punk band that released the 1982 album Tablets and the 1983 EP Rebel Songs on indie Red Flame. He also backed singer Carmel and joined comedy punk Serious Drinking. Dexys hired organist Mick Talbot, who recorded one album with mod-revivalists The Merton Parkas and did auxiliary work for The Chords and The Jam.

On November 14, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One),” an up-tuned re-recording of the Young Soul Rebels track “Keep It” with altered lyrics and pained vocals; backed with the Drifters cover “One Way Love.”

A. “Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One)” (3:45)

B. “One Way Love” (3:09) originated as a 1964 Atlantic a-side by The Drifters; written by Bronx songwriter Bert Russell and Hit Factory’s Norman Meade (“Time Is On My Side,” “Piece of My Heart”) and covered that same year by Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers.

Dexys Midnight Runners mimed “Geno” once more for the Christmas 1980 edition of TotP, which showcased the year’s biggest hits, including songs by David Bowie (“Ashes to Ashes”), Leo Sayer (“More Than I Can Say”), Pink Floyd (“Another Brick In the Wall”), The Police (“Don’t Stand So Close to Me”), and Sheena Easton (“9 to 5 (Morning Train)”). For this performance, Dexys donned slicked-back hair, brick-red cardigans, and boot-tucked drainpipes.


1981

Kevin Rowland’s strict band leadership exasperated the Dexys, which crumbled in early 1981 when five members — Blythe, Spooner, Williams, “Stoker,” and Talbot — broke off into The Bureau, a mod-ska band that released a self-titled album on WEA. Talbot later teamed with former Jam frontman Paul Weller in The Style Council, which released five albums and multiple singles between 1983 and 1988 on Polydor.

Meanwhile, Rowland’s longtime bandmate Kevin Archer reteamed with temp Dexys keyboardist Andy Leek in The Blue Ox Babes.

The walkouts reduced Dexys to two members: Rowland and trombonist Jim Paterson, who dubbed themselves ‘The Celtic Soul Brothers’ due to the family heritage of Rowland (Irish) and Paterson (Scottish). They formed a new Dexys octet with guitarist–banjoist Kevin “Billy” Adams, keyboardist–accordionist Mickey Billingham, alto saxophonist Brian Maurice, tenor saxist Paul Speare, bassist Steve Wynne, and drummer Seb Shelton. Billingham cut one prior single with the Brummie metal act Cryer. Shelton recorded two albums with mod revivalists Secret Affair.

The new Dexys Midnight Runners adopted a ragamuffin look characterized by shaggy hair, facial stubble, hankerchiefs, and baggy blue overalls. Rowland’s new band regimen included group athletic activities (bonding rituals) and pre-gig sobriety.


“Plan B”

On March 6, 1981, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Plan B,” a Rowland–Paterson number backed with the Bar-Kays cover “Soul Finger.”

A. “Plan B” (2:37)

B. “Soul Finger” (2:12) originated as the April 1967 debut single by the American soul-funk sextet the Bar-Kays, whose version reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and appears on their title-sake debut album, released six months before the plane crash that killed four band members and concert headliner Otis Redding.

Dexys recorded “Plan B” with producer Alan Shacklock, the former guitarist of Babe Ruth and Chris Farlowe‘s Thunderbirds who also produced 1980–81 singles by The Look and Honey Bane.

Between the completion and release of “Plan B,” Dexys wiggled free of EMI, which issued the single anyway with no band support. In June, Dexys signed with Mercury Records.


“Show Me”

On July 3, 1981, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Show Me” backed with “Soon,” both Rowland–Paterson originals.

A. “Show Me” (3:24)

B. “Soon” (3:25)

Dexys recorded “Show Me” with erstwhile Bowie soundman Tony Visconti, who also produced recent titles by Afraid of Mice, The Boomtown Rats, Hazel O’Connor, and Zaine Griff.

“Show Me” reached No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart. Dexys mimed the song in brick hooded cardigans under pink lights on the July 17 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired the song amid summer ’81 hits by Bad Manners (“Can Can”), Depeche Mode (“New Life”), The Human League (“Love Action (I Believe In Love)”), The Jacksons (“Walk Right Now”), Kate Bush (“Sat In Your Lap”), Saxon (“Never Surrender”), Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”), Spandau Ballet (“Chant No.1”), The Specials (“Ghost Town”), Third World (“Dancing on the Floor”), and Visage (“Visage”).

Wynne cleared for bassist Mick Gallick, who Rowland nicknamed Giorgio Kilkenny.


“Liars A to E”

On November 6, 1981, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Liars A to E,” which Rowland and Paterson joint-wrote with former Pink Military bassist Steve Torch, currently of White & Torch. Paterson wrote the b-side with drummer Sheb Shelton and organist Mickey Billingham.

A. “Liars A to E” (4:10)

B. “…And Yes We Must Remain the Wild Hearted Outsiders” ()

Dexys recorded the single with Neil Kernon, a veteran seventies engineer (Ace, Brian Auger, Headstone, Patrick Moraz) who produced recent recordings by Brand X (Product), Hall & Oates, and Random Hold. “Liars A to E” marked Dexys first use of strings, which Rowland assigned to Speare (violin), Paterson and Maurice (cello).

Dexys Midnight Runners plugged the new arrangement with November three-nighter (13–15) at the Old Vic in London.


1982

In January 1982, Kevin Rowland enlisted string players to complement the brass on the upcoming Dexys Midnight Runners album. He discovered classical violinist Helen Bevington through a demo of Archer’s new band The Blue Ox Babes. Rowland hired her under the Irish surname O’Hara and the two became an item. She introduced the band to Steve Brennan and Roger MacDuff, both violin students. Rowland dubbed the three new members ‘The Emerald Express.’ 

For the upcoming album, Rowland rearranged “Plan B” and “Lairs A to E” to accommodate the violin section. This caused a rift with the brass section, who felt marginalized under the new arrangement. Maurice, Paterson, and Speare planned their walkout but remained for the duration of sessions.

In March 1982, Dexys Midnight Runners released “The Celtic Soul Brothers” as a taster from their just-completed album.


Too-Rye-Ay

Dexys Midnight Runners released their second album, Too-Rye-Ay, on July 22, 1982, on Mercury. It features nine co-writes by singer Kevin Rowland and trombonist Jim Paterson, including re-arranged versions of the 1981 a-sides and “Plan B” and “Liars A to E,” the latter third-credited to non-member Steve Torch.

Side One contains the Van Morrison cover “Jackie Wilson Said” and the spring a-side “The Celtic Soul Brothers,” which the duo wrote with keyboardist–accordionist Mickey Billingham.

Too-Rye-Ay gets its title from the refrain in the album-closer “Come On Eileen,” a transatlantic hit with writing input by guitarist–banjoist Billy Adams.

1. “The Celtic Soul Brothers (More, Please, Thank You)” (3:07)
2. “Let’s Make This Precious” (4:03)
3. “All in All (This One Last Wild Waltz)” (4:08)
4. “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” (3:06) originated as the opening track on the 1972 Warner release Saint Dominic’s Preview, the sixth solo album by Irish folk rocker and soul singer Van Morrison.
5. “Old” (5:00)

6. “Plan B” (5:04) is a twice-length re-arranged version of the March 1981 a-side; affixed with the summer b-side “Soon.”
7. “I’ll Show You” (2:41)
8. “Liars A to E” (4:10)
9. “Until I Believe in My Soul” (7:00)
10. “Come On Eileen” (4:32)

Sessions took place between December 1981 and March 1982 at Genetic Studios in Streatley, Berkshire, where Rowland co-produced Too-Rye-Ay with the team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, the soundmen behind Madness. Langer recorded three classic seventies albums with Liverpool vaudevillian rockers Deaf School and subsequently fronted Clive Langer & The Boxes.

Langer and Winstanley co-produced Too-Rye-Ay ahead of 1982 titles by Blue Rondo a la Turk, The Nitecaps, and the fourth Madness album The Rise & Fall, which contains their crowning global hit “Our House.” Human League soundman Martin Rushent engineered Too-Rye-Ay ahead of projects with Altered Images and The Members.

Too-Rye-Ay presents Dexys Midnight Runners as an octet composed of Rowland, Billingham, Adams, bassist Giorgio Kilkenny, drummer Seb Shelton, reedist Paul Speare (flute, saxophone, tin whistle), and violinists Helen O’Hara and Steve Brennan (aka The Emerald Express). Paterson and saxophonist Brian Maurice — who stayed through the sessions but announced their walkouts beforehand — appear in the musicians credits but not in the group photo on the inner-sleeve. Therefore, only Rowland remains from the Young Soul Rebels lineup.

Additional guests on Too-Rye-Ay include the Sisters of Scarlet, a vocal backing trio comprised of veteran session singers Carol Kenyon (Ali Thomson, Atmosfear), Katie Kissoon (Walker Brothers, Chris Rea, Our Daughters Wedding, UK Players), and future solo recording artist Sam Brown (daughter of pre-Beatles English pop star Joe Brown).

Young Soul Rebels cover designer Peter Barrett did likewise for Too-Rye-Ay, which features outer- and inner-sleeve photography by Kim Knott. The cover shows Rowand crouched against a wooden fence with paint-enhancements by Andrew Ratcliffe.

“The Celtic Soul Brothers” appeared four months ahead of the album in March 1982, backed with the Rowland–Billingham miniature “Love Part Two.”

B. “Love Part Two” (1:43)

In the “Celtic Soul Brothers” video, Kevin (clad in red sweater, white suspenders, and rolled-up baggies) stuffs newspapers into a Harrods bag, used as empty collateral when he flees a nearby diner while the Emerald Express (Helen and Steve) arrive on the scene. Mischief ensues before the band performs to a plain-clothed audience (young and middle-aged) inside the lounge of the Double Diamond building. After the show, Dexys lead a caravan of attendees out into the night streets.

In the UK, “The Celtic Soul Brothers” reached No. 45 on its first release but re-charted at No. 20 after its 1983 re-release. Dexys mimed the song amid flashing corridors and throngs of new wave teens on the April 7, 1983, broadcast of TotP, which also showcased hits by Big Country (“Fields of Fire”), Culture Club (“Church of the Poison Mind”), F.R. David (“Words”), JoBoxers (“Boxerbeat”), Michael Jackson (“Beat It”), and Nick Heyward (“Whistle Down the Wind”).

On June 25, Dexys Midnight Runners released “Come On Eileen” as the second single, backed with the non-album Rowland–Paterson number “Dubious.”

B. “Dubious” (2:50)

The “Come On Eileen” video opens with the fiddle forward and runs stock footage of a Johnnie Ray fan greet as Kevin name-checks the fifties crooner, followed by vintage Rowland family pics. Though fictional, old photos present Eileen as Kevin’s childhood friend and eventual romantic interest. The present day cuts between a Dexys street-side performance and a scene where the guys cavort while Helen and Eileen (played by Máire Fahey, sister of Bananarama‘s Siobhan Fahey), push a stroller past Kevin, who tries to regain her affection. After she dismisses him a second time, the guys join Kevin on the middle-eight and they trail the girls down the road. As the song accelerates, he runs up from behind and lifts her by the waist for a spin. On the final chorus, Dexys perform after dark as Kevin and Eileen take off into the night, arm-and-arm. Filmmaker Julian Temple (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle) directed the video amid clips for 1982 singles by ABC (“Poison Arrow”), The Beat (“Save It for Later”), Culture Club (“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”), Depeche Mode (“The Meaning of Love”), Judas Priest (“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”’), and The Kinks (“Come Dancing”).

On the week of August 7, 1982, “Come On Eileen” overtook “Fame” by Irene Cara (a 1980 US hit) as the No. 1 song on the UK Singles Chart. Dexys (billed as Dexys Midnight Runners & The Emerald Express) held the top spot for four weeks and bowed on September 4 to Survivor, who in turn spent four weeks at No. 1 with “Eye of the Tiger,” the Rocky III theme song. “Come On Eileen” became the best-selling UK single of 1982 and also reached No. 1 in Ireland, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and South Africa.

In September, Dexys released “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” as the third single (b/w “Let’s Make This Precious”). It reached No. 5 in the UK, No. 7 in Ireland, and No. 14 in Belgium.

Dexys Midnight Runners mime “Jackie Wilson Said” on the Season 1 fourth episode (“Bomb”) of the BBC Two slapstick sitcom The Young Ones (aired November 30, 1982).

Too-Rye-Ay reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart, where it spent four weeks lodged under The Kids of Fame, which then blocked Upstairs at Eric’s by Yazoo. Too-Rye-Ay also peaked at No. 2 in Australia and New Zealand and went Top 10 in the Netherlands (No. 9) and Canada (No. 10). In the US, Too-Rye-Ay reached No. 14 on the Billboard 200. In New Zealand, it outlasted the competition and ranked No. 1 on the 1982 year-end chart.

When promotions wrapped on Too-Rye-Ay, Speare and Paterson formed the TKO Horns with Maurice, who soon cleared for earlier Dexys saxophonist (and recent Bureau member) Geoff Blythe. Along with Mike Westbrook trumpeter Dave Plews, TKO played on 1983–84 Langer–Winstanley-produced albums by Elvis Costello & The Attractions (Punch the Clock) and Madness (Keep Moving).


“Let’s Get This Straight (From the Start)”

On November 26, 1982, Dexys Midnight Runners released the standalone single “Let’s Get This Straight (From the Start),” a Rowland–Adams–O’Hara number backed with the Too-Rye-Ay cut “Old.”

A. “Let’s Get This Straight (From the Start)” (3:36) is a mid-tempo ballad with doo-wop vocals set to a Celtic folk arrangement.

“Let’s Get This Straight (From the Start)” reached No. 5 in Ireland and No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. Dexys mimed it under green–blue lighting amid glass fixtures on a multi-level stage for the December 2 TotP broadcast, which also showcases late ’82 hits by Duran Duran (“Rio”), Human League (“Mirror Man”), The Jam (“Beat Surrender”), Madness (“Out House”), Wham! (“Young Guns”), and Whitesnake (the original “Here I Go Again”).

On December 3, Dexys Midnight Runners performed “Let’s Get This Straight” and “Celtic Soul Brothers” on the BBC2 music program the Oxford Road Show. They also performed both songs (along with “There There My Dear” and “Plan B”) on that day’s broadcast of The Tube, a Channel 4 music show hosted by (ex-Squeeze keyboardist) Jools Holland and (Bob Geldof‘s partner) Paula Yates.

Dexys also mimed “Let’s Get This Straight” on the December 26 broadcast of the BBC1 children’s game show Cheggers Plays Pop. The same day, they appeared on the ITV holiday special “Christmas Goes Pop” with performances of the recent hit and the 1973 Slade seasonal “Merry Xmas Everybody.”


1983–1985

In February 1983, Mickey Billingham jumped ship to General Public, the new band of Beat frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger. Dexys Midnight Runners hired session keyboardist Bob Noble (Omaha Sheriff, Judie Tzuke) for a brief US tour.

Meanwhile, “Come On Eileen” gained heavy rotation on the 18-month-old cable music channel MTV, which drew stateside attention to the new British pop. On January 22, 1983, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100. On April 22, “Come On Eileen” ousted “Billie Jean” as America’s No. 1 song. In Canada, “Come On Eileen” peaked at No. 2. The band (billed as Kevin Rowland & Dexys Midnight Runners) performed “Come On Eileen” and “The Celtic Soul Brothers” on the May 14, 1983, broadcast of the NBC sketch-comedy program Saturday Night Live, guest-hosted by New York City mayor Ed Koch.

On June 9, Dexys opened for David Bowie at the Hippodrome D’auteuil in Paris.

Dexys commenced work on a new album in late 1983 with a trimmed lineup composed of Rowland, Billy Adams, Helen O’Hara, and a new recruit: saxophonist Nick Gatfield.

In February 1984, Rowland hired Vincent Crane, the one-time keyboardist of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown who led psychedelic hard-rockers Atomic Rooster through multiple on-off iterations in the early seventies and early eighties. Sessions commenced in April–May at Mountain Studios in Montreaux, Switzerland. Former Dexys trombonist Jimmy Paterson returned to the band, which briefly featured American drummer Crusher Green, a Wilson Pickett sideman.

In June–July, Dexys reheased and recorded in England with ex-Mott the Hoople keyboardist Mick Bolton and the former Spiders from Mars rhythm section: bassist Trevor Burton and drummer Mick “Woody” Woodmansey. The ongoing project tapped multiple producers, including John Porter (Killing Joke, Microdisney), Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic), and American heaveyweight Tom Dowd (Aretha Franklin, Cream, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane).

By September 1984, Dexys started sessions anew with the lineup of Rowland, Adams, O’Hara, Gatfield, Crane, and drummer Tim Dancy, a sideman of Al Green and former member of Stax funksters Circle O’Fire.


Don’t Stand Me Down

Dexys Midnight Runners released their third album, Don’t Stand Me Down, on September 13, 1985, on Mercury. Kevin Rowland lone-wrote three songs: “One of Those Things,” “Reminisce Part Two,” and the opening track “The Occasional Flicker.” He plays bass, rhythm guitar, and piano on the album, which features three songs over the seven-minute mark.

Rowland co-wrote “Listen to This” with guitarist Billy Adams and they joint-wrote the epic “This Is What She’s Like” with violinist Helen O’Hara, who co-wrote “Knowledge of Beauty” with Kevin and former Dexys bassist Steve Wynne. Don’t Stand Me Down closes with “The Waltz,” a co-write between Rowland and “Liars A to E” contributor Steve Torch.

Don’t Stand Me Down presents a four-piece Dexys lineup of Rowland, Adams, O’Hara, and saxophonist Nick Gatfield, who appear on the cover in formal attire. The inner-sleeve features their profile pics along with two additional members: keyboardist Vincent Crane and drummer Tim Dancy. Auxiliary players include mandolinist Julian Littman, steel guitarist Tommy Evans, organist–synthesist Bob Noble, and bassist John “Rhino” Edwards (Noble’s colleague in Judie Tzuke’s backing band). Littman hailed from Charlie Dore’s backing band and plays on her 1979 hit “Pilot of the Airwaves.”

Original Dexys trombonist “Big” Jim Paterson appears in a guest capacity. His involvement makes him the only player besides Rowland who appears on all three eighties Midnight Runners albums.

1. “The Occasional Flicker” (5:49)
2. “This Is What She’s Like” (12:23)
3. “Knowledge of Beauty” (7:01) features bassist Randy Taylor.
4. “One of Those Things” (6:01)
5. “Reminisce Part Two” (3:31)
6. “Listen to This” (3:19) features drummer Tyrone “Crusher” Green.
7. “The Waltz” (8:21) stems from the June–July 1984 sessions with pianist Mick Bolton and drummer Woody Woodmansey.

Rowland co-produced Don’t Stand Me Down with Adams, O’Hara, and Too-Rye-Ay soundman Alan Winstanley. Studio vet Pete Schwier (Yes, Bonnie Tyler, Duran Duran, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) engineered Don’t Stand amid 1984–85 titles by Belouis Some, Jim Diamond, Junko Yagami, and Private Lives.

Ongoing Dexys visualist Peter Barrett designed the Don’t Stand packaging, which features images by Claire Mueller and Too-Rye-Ay photographer Kim Knott.

Rowland wanted Don’t Stand Me Down to speak for itself without promotion or singles. At Mercury’s insistence, Dexys released an extract of “This Is What She’s Like” backed with the song’s final section.The single appeared in November 1985 in 7″ and 12″ formats; the latter with the full-length song backed with an instrumental version plus the non-album “Reminiscence Part One,” which first appeared as the b-side to the 1983 “Celtic Soul Brothers” reissue. Mercury also issued a gatefold double-7″ version with a fourth track: the Status Quo cover “Marguerita Time.”

B. “Reminiscence Part One” (5:50) produced by Colin Fairley (Bluebells, Delta 5, It’s Immaterial).

C. “Marguerita Time” () originated as a 1983 a-side by Status Quo; co-written by Quo guitarist Francis Rossi and band-associate Bernie Frost and included on their sixteenth studio album Back to Back.

Kevin Rowland licenced Don’t Stand Me Down to Creation Records for its 1997 CD reissue, which retitles “Knowledge of Beauty” (“My National Pride”) and “Listen to This” (“I Love You (Listen to This)”) and co-credits “One of Those Things” to Warren Zevon for its use of the “Werewolves of London” theme. Dissatisfied with the Creation disc’s stereo enhancements, Rowland licenced the album to Dexys first label, EMI, for the 2002 reissue titled Don’t Stand Me Down (The Director’s Cut), which opens with the originallly intended eighth track: the Rowland–Adams–O’Hara number “Kevin Rowland’s 13th Time,” a product of their sessions with John Porter.

1. “Kevin Rowland’s 13th Time” (5:05)

The Director’s Cut sports an image from an alternate 1985 photo-shoot with the Kevin, Helen, and Billy decked in fifties-style preppy clothes in a field setting.


1986–1988


“Because of You”

In November 1986, Dexys Midnight Runners released the standalone single “Because of You,” written and recorded by the recent core lineup of Kevin Rowland, Helen O’Hara, and Billy Adams. The b-side, “Kathleen Mavourneen,” is a Rowland-arranged traditional. London Master Room owner Arun Chakraverty produced both sides.

A. “Because of You” (3:08)
B. “Kathleen Mavourneen” () is an 1837 composition by English cellist Frederick Crouch with words by one Mrs. Crawford.

“Because of You” became the title-tune of the 1986–91 BBC1 sitcom Brush Strokes. The song reached No. 11 in Ireland and No. 13 on the UK Singles Chart.


Discography:

  • Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)
  • Too-Rye-Ay (1982)
  • Don’t Stand Me Down (1985)

Sources:

1 thought on “Dexys Midnight Runners

  1. Intro draft (2018): “Initially inspired by Stax/Volt and two-tone, Dexys reinvented itself for each album, from the ragamuffin Celt-pop of the second lineup to the stripped, plaintive lyricism of the third album. The band enjoyed a promising start when their second single “Geno” topped the UK chart. However, a radical lineup overhaul preceded the transatlantic success of the sophomoric Too-Rye-Ay album and its anthemic evergreen “Come On Eileen.”

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