New Wave Hall Of Shame: Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen

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!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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10 Responses to New Wave Hall Of Shame: Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen

  1. Echorich says:

    In the annals of the over played, Come On Eileen is in the top 10 certainly. I am a big fan of Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. That album had a purpose and an excitement to it. But Too-Rye-Ay never felt as alive. Come On Eileen was one of those songs I couldn’t avoid for trying – much akin to Lies by the Thompson Twins. There are songs that were certainly overplayed that I will always cherish – Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, but Come On Eileen always leads me to changing the channel on the local 80’s station.
    I have to agree that Don’t Stand Me Down may be one of the worst albums of the 80’s. The concept obviously destroyed the art. But Rowland’s solo effort My Beauty on the Creation label was really kinda wonderful. Rowland’s interpretation of mostly 60’s and a few 80’s pop songs was strangely magnetic.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I should give “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” a chance before I completely write off DMR. the Quietus is ga-ga over the new one but that just may be their contrariness manifesting itself.

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  2. Brian Ware says:

    When you did your first Hall of Shame entry, I alluded to my favorite candidate hoping that you’d include it in a future posting. BINGO!!!

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  3. zoo says:

    Monk, I second you giving Searching For The Young Soul Rebels a chance. It’s a pretty good album. I’ve avoided Too-Rye-Ay for 25+ years and don’t plan on that ever changing. I am intrigued, however, by the third album…anything that is hated by so many people is at least worth one listen to see what all the fuss is about. And lastly, I, too, turn the station if I happen to be listening when “Come on Eileen” plays on the radio. Pure garbage.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – I’m over twice as old now. I would give “Don’t Stand Me Down” a second listen if someone would loan me a copy of the record. You should hear it and form your own opinion, even though odds are that you won’t like it. It is idiosyncratic enough to give if a shot.

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      • zoo says:

        When I said I’ve avoided Too-Rye-Aye for 25+ years, I was approximating the time that has passed since its release date (which I suppose is closer to 30 year now). I’m well over 25 years old myself (40, to be exact)

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          zoo – I didn’t know since I am definitely old enough to have avoided records for 25+ years! What hurts me is finally getting ahold of a record that I’ve wanted to hear for 30 years! That sort of thing! The only thing worse is the dreaded record I’ve searched for for 20 years that then sits on my racks for another decade following purchase
          before I give it a spin! Welcome to the world of bitter old men! I am 49 and hopefully not your future.

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  4. Taffy says:

    Agreed that Eileen is so overplayed that it should probably never again be heard by human ears. However, in my “other” life as a DJ for alternative dance nights I have played “Knock Out Eileen,” a clever mashup with LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” which is more than tolerable and allows me to satisfy those who request Dexys (and of course want to hear the HIT).
    I don’t have great affection for Too-Rye-Ay either, but think Searching For the Young Soul Rebels is quite the corker of an album. Count me in as one who think the Monk should give it a chance!
    The only track from Don’t Stand Me Down I am familiar with is “This is What She’s Like” (caveat – I own a drastically shortened edit, and have never heard the full 12 minute album version), so no opinion on that one or the brand new album. I will admit to skepticism, as the British press’s lauding of Kevin Rowland’s supposed brilliance comes across as nothing more than absurdly hyperbolic inflation of one man’s rather modest talent.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Oh for the burden of the DJ! Glad to hear you have negotiated a way through. My friends The Tarantulas are a surf band, but they do an amazing cover of “Mama Said Knock You Out” that has to be heard to be believed. In a similar fashion, I always enjoyed DJs who played Soho’s “Hippy Chick” while the Smiths Fans [of which I am not one] got all set to groove to “How Soon Is Now,” only to be served a much better song!

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