I'm going to do what I really want to do: form a great group. We'll wear great clothes and make soulful music. (Kevin Rowland to friend and guitarist Kevin Archer.) Kevin Rowland formed Dexys Midnight Runners in Birmingham in 1978, naming them after dextroamphetamine, a popular recreational drug among Northern Soul fans. In autumn of 1979, they signed to Bernie Rhodes' Oddball label, having rejected an offer from Jerry Dammers to record for 2-Tone (although they later supported the Specials on tour). At this time, drummer John Jay was replaced by Bobby Ward (previously in Subway Sect, and who had appeared on that band's first Peel session in 1977). Rowland himself had been in the Killjoys, who recorded two sessions in late 1977-early 1978.
December of that year saw the release of the band's first single, 'Dance Stance', on Oddball. However, the band objected to Rhodes' interference with the mixing, and signed direct to EMI, which was the parent company. (Nevertheless, the single went on to make number 40 in the UK charts the following January, leading to a February appearance on Top Of The Pops.) Bobby Ward's brief stint on drums came to an end, being replaced by Andy Growcott (Wailing Cocks: prior to the band's greatest success, Andy Leek was also a member and played on their only Peel Session). At this stage of their career, they played covers of Northern Soul standards such as 'Hold On I'm Coming' (the Sam and Dave number), and wore woolly hats and utilitarian clothing reminiscent of New York stevedores. Their one and only Peel session in February preceded the release of a tribute to soul singer Geno Washington, 'Geno,' a version of this appearing on the session. The single peaked at number 1 in the UK charts in 1980.
1980 was a turbulent year which saw most of the band quitting: Rowland had a less than satisfactory relationship with the music press, as their debut LP Searching For The Young Soul Rebels garnered mixed reviews. In fact, he imposed a press embargo, electing to state the band's position in music paper advertisements, and, against EMI's wishes, chose 'Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One)' to follow up their second big hit, 'There, There My Dear.' It flopped, after which Rowland took on a host of new members, changed the image to a gypsy style, signed to Mercury, and recorded the 1982 album Too-Rye-Ay, which ditched the soul sound for one of Celtic folk and Van Morrison influences (as evidenced by their covering 'Jackie Wilson Said', from his 1972 LP 'St. Dominic's Preview.') 'Come On Eileen' was a number 1 hit in the UK, and even made the 1982 Festive Fifty (yearly chart) despite JP never having played it.
Peel was co-hosting 30 September 1982 (TOTP) when a picture of darts player Jocky Wilson was projected behind the band during their performance of 'Jackie Wilson Said.' This is believed to have been a deliberate prank.
One session. Recorded 1980-02-26, first TX 13 March 1980, rpts 02 April 1980, 05 May 1980 and 24 December 1980. It was included on the expanded reissue of the group's debut LP, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, released in October 2010.
- (Tell Me When My) Light Turns Green / Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache / The Horse / Geno.
Festive Fifty Entries
- 1982 Festive Fifty (yearly chart): 'Come On Eileen' #19 (JP: 'Another triumph for Kid (Jensen), I suppose, in a way, and for the charts.')
- 26 November 1979: Dance Stance (7") (Oddball)
- 06 December 1979: Dance Stance (7") (Oddball)
- 19 December 1979: Dance Stance (7") (Oddball)
- 05 January 1980 (BFBS): Dance Stance (7") Oddball Productions R 6028
- 23 January 1980 (BFBS): Dance Stance (7") Oddball Productions R 6028
- 21 July 1980: There, There, My Dear (album - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels) Late Night Feelings / Parlophone PCS 7213
- 27 December 1982: 'Come On Eileen (LP - Too-Rye Ay)' (Mercury) (1982 Festive Fifty, yearly chart, #19)