Dexys Midnight Runners is a band not represented in the Record Cell, apart from this very song included on a New Wave Comp bought for its other wonders. I was aware of the band dating back to their debut album, “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.” For one reason or another, I never heard anything from it, so it passed me by. I can’t say the same for the band’s second album!
It’s hard to believe now, but for the first 30 times I heard this song, I found it to be an ebullient tune that dared to tilt against the synths and drum machines of the day, which were becoming too prevalent, even for my tastes. That was then. Now, after having heard it incessantly for 30 years, listening to it is like having a strident street person accost you for change while not taking no for an answer. Hearing it is hearing the sound of a band trying just too damn hard… and then knuckling down to make certain you’re getting the point! I can probably trace my bias against Irish/Celtic music to this song as ground zero!
And then there was the band’s repulsive, yet highly contrived bucolic Gypsy image! Never have I spied a worse looking band!! It seemed as if they even applied cosmetic filth to “enhance” the look. In the UK, there’s a tradition of bands even with a lot to offer musically traded heavily in contrived images. Bowie. Roxy Music. In America, the only bands with images seemed to be formulaic contrivances like KISS or The Osmonds! Never the less, this tune managed to win over Americans ignorant of the UK’s penchant for bands with a strong image to top the US charts as well as those in the UK. The big difference was that in the UK, their fans might have tried dressing like dirt farmers as a fashion trend. No one in America intentionally wants to look like dustbowl share-croppers!
After peaking and absolutely failing to follow up the monster “Eileen” with another hit, the band faded quickly away. When they resurfaced in 1985 with the third Dexys album, “Don’t Stand Me Down,” looking like yuppie accountants on the cover, one wondered what contrived image the mercurial Kevin Rowland would grasp for next? As it turned out, there was none. “Don’t Stand Me Down” is an album legendary for its violently polarizing effect on listeners. I stand with the 99% crowd in finding it an inexplicable, and interminable exercise in possibly channeling James Joyce into music. I actually heard the album… once when given a review copy at my college newspaper to review. After one spin I couldn’t imaging ever listening to it again, so I declined to review it.
But within seven or eight years, demand for “Eileen” started to build. I recall it was one of the most requested tracks my friend Charles had for his Crusty Old Wave program on WPRK-FM. In the early 90s he began his long-running New Wave retro radio show and for a few years, it was actually hard to find a copy of this in any format. It was so heavily requested, that a listener eventually ponied up a cassette to meet the demand! Then within a few years, the Retro New Wave Comp explosion began, and the song was everywhere. By this time, I really started to hate this tune and my feelings continue to this day. It causes my mood to darken when it pops up on the gym sound system, not unlike a Journey or Billy Joel tune. And if you were “New Wave,” that’s a massive fail!
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