My friends Mike and Tyler really turned me on to Dexys Midnight Runners years ago. It took a bit for it to really sink in. But for a couple years now their first album I’ve been thinking is one of the greatest debut albums of all time — 1980´s Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.
As the title in a way announces, they came onto the scene as the forebearers of a new wave of soul. Unfortunately, I think many of my contemporaries don´t have a clear idea of soul in their musical vocabulary. I found it´s not untypical for somebody to see saxophones and horns and erroneously jump to ska as a point of reference. Soul comes from gospel and R´n´b and leads directly into funk. There were many regional flavors across the States and even in Britain (in Detriot for example there was “motown”). Bands such as the Animals were heavily influenced by soul. And so, before moving on, here´s a point of reference:
Dexys was a band that was always very image conscious, but with an image as distinctive as its sound. Kevin Rowland, the band´s singer and visionary, said “we didn’t want to become part of anyone else’s movement. We’d rather be our own movement.” And so without further adue, here´s a brief tour through the bands distinctive phases:
“There There My Dear” from Searching for the Young Soul Rebels:
Also check out “Geno,” also from Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, which is about Rowland when he was a kid seeing Geno Washington (top video in this post) perform.
Most of the band then quit due to problems with Rowland´s personality quirks (which included a press embargo). At this point the band starts working out and running together. “Show Me” is a single that came out during this period:
I´m sad that this short-lived phase didn’t yield an album. [But I guess the live? compilation The Projected Passion Revue, which I have not heard, captures this line-up.] What happened instead is this. One of the former Dexys, guitarist Kevin Archer, had started a new band, The Blue Ox Babes, which mixed folk into the soul mix. Rowland stole his fiddle player and likewise infused a celtic folk sound into the Dexys soul. Again, with the new sound came a new, right-off-the-farm look. Their next album even introduces the band with a new name, “introducing the Celtic Soul Brothers and featuring the Strong Devoted.” It was this phase that produced what the world remembers them for, “Come On Eileen” from Too-Rye-Ay:
Once again, there were big line-up changes, with horn players leaving feeling their role was diminished with the introduction of fiddles. And another image change. “This is What She´s Like” from Don’t Stand Me Down:
Then the band breaks up. “Concrete and Clay” from solo Kevin Rowland album “My Beauty” (album sells only 500 copies):
Rowland´s myspace page promises another Dexys album, and even has a demo track from it.