In the early days of his musical acreer, Kevin Rowland was in two bands: Lucy And The Lovers and The Killjoys. Having given up all notion of being a priest by the time he was 11 years old, he had also become a hairdresser. Frustratingly, neither band produced a song that hit the charts so in 1978 Rowland left and formed another band with Kevin Archer and Pete Williams. This band was called Dexy's Midnight Runners and it was one that would make Kevin Rowland a near-legend.
Searching For The Young Soul Rebels
With vigorous training regimes and a ban on smoking and drugs, Rowland was determined to have success with his new band, Dexy's Midnight Runners. Dodging train and bus fares and using abandoned warehouses, Rowland tried to eke the most out of a very low budget. They did, however, manage to hire a trumpet player and a small brass section.
Dexy's Midnight Runners first major hit was 'Burn It Down' (or 'Dance Stance' depending on which country you are from; 'Dance Stance' being the UK release). It was a song about Irish writers and it spoke out against the 'dumb Irish' mentality so common then in Britain. Taken from their debut album, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, it peaked at Number 40 in the charts and Dexy's had their first appearance on Top Of The Pops (TOTP). Even on the way to this performance, Rowland was still dodging his bus and train tickets. Old habits die hard it seems.
The band's second hit (also taken from Searching For The Young Soul Rebels), and their first Number 1 was 'Geno', a song about the famous Geno Washington1, whom Kevin Rowland had seen live once with his brothers at the Railway Hotel. The concert inspired him to write the song, and to go with the 'soul, bass and brass' feel that Dexy's now successfully employed. The song was loved so much, that it ended up being the only song certain fans wanted to hear. This annoyed the band who felt that other fans were being denyed the chance to hear their library of songs, and that the song 'Geno' was becoming bigger than them. One occasion at a live performance, Rowland shouted out 'If you're here only to listen to Geno, you can f... off, we're not playing it!'
The next hit, which hit Number 7 was the remarkable 'There, There My Dear', a song which no one is 100% sure exactly what it's all about. In another eccentric move, Rowland announced that he 'would only communicate to the fans through essays'. This got mixed reactions from the press, which began the press's love/hate relationship with him. More bizarrely, the band stole and ransomed their own demo tapes in order to re-negotiate their record deal. This was something that Rowland believes was important for them at the time, but in hindsight gained them little real advantage.
Searching For The Young Soul Rebels was as massive for Dexy's as it was for the people that bought it. However, Kevin Rowland didn't rest; in a radical move that surprised Dexy's new legion of fans, he completely changed the look and feel of the band.
Kevin Rowland changed the look of the band to a traditional Irish look, and adopted an Irish Folk sound to complement it. This is their best-known look, dressed in dungarees and berets.
Their next songs 'Plan B' and 'The Celtic Soul Brothers' only got to Number 58 and 45 in the charts respectively, and things weren't looking too good. Dexy's then released another two songs that failed to make much of an impression on the charts, 'Liars A to E' and 'Show Me', before releasing a song featuring the fiddle trio Emerald Express (Helen O'Hara, Steve Brennan and Roger MacDuff). The song was 'Come on Eileen' (released in 1982) and was hovering at Number 75 in the charts for a few weeks. After some airplay and a live performance on the Radio One tour, 'Come On Eileen' shot to Number 1. This is the song that Dexy's are destined to be known for forever. 'Too Rye Ay', the album from which all the previously listed songs came from, also reached the coveted Number 1 spot in the UK. Meanwhile in America, 'Come On Eileen' was doing just as well, reaching Number 1 there too.
After this song, they released 'Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile), a Van Morrison cover. This did relatively well, but the story behind the TOTP performance of was a bigger hit than the song itself. As they performed 'Jackie Wilson...' on TV, the backdrop fro their perfomance was of the famous Scottish darts player, Jockie Wilson. Rowland always insisted it was intentional, as a joke, but many believe there was a mishearing over the phone between him and the people who work on the set.
However, soon after many band members left, and formed their own groups, The Blue Ox Babes, Secret Affair and The Bureau.
Don't Stand Me Down
For their next album 'Don't Stand Me Down' (1985) Kevin Rowland once again changed the image of the band replacing the Irish look with an American Ivy League style. The album flopped and was given poor reviews by almost everyone. It criticised the middle and upper classes of England, the 'yuppies' too. Rowland was angry, and it was through his music that he could express this anger. It also reflected Rowland's feelings upon his Irishness, and how he felt that he had deserted Ireland.
The album was never meant to have produced singles, as it was a body of work, rather than a single's album. However, worried that the album was going to sell very badly, the song 'This Is What She's Like' was released by the label. However, this singles version of the song was a mere snippet of the original, which lasts 12 minutes 30 seconds. It too sold poorly.
The Lowest Time
After the failure of Don't Stand Me Down, Rowland went on to make the solo album The Wanderer, but only hit Number 1 again with his Dexy's cohorts, on the song 'Because Of You'. It was during the 90's that Rowland, due to the depression of two failed albums, turned to drugs. During his recovery, he made a cover album of all the songs he would listen to whilst in rehabilitation. This album, My Beauty, sold extremely badly.
Don't Stand Me Down - The Directors Cut
More than a decade after its release, Don't Stand Me Down has been reappraised, belatedly being declared by some critics as one of the best albums of all time.
Dexys went on to release a 'best of' album called Let's Make This Precious, and two new songs 'Manhood' and 'My life in England'. Their revitalisation ended in 2003 with a tour around Britain and other countries.
On June 2 2005 Rowland announced that Dexy's were back in the recording studio. This is the Dexy's story so far...