Dexys Midnight Runners
The eternal fire and passion of Dexys Midnight Runners.
There was something about this band that I could never quite put my finger on why I liked them so much. For a relatively short period of time around the early eighties they were absolutely immense. I also followed them through their chameleon-like changes which for me worked at times but not others but it’s always the original soul band that I think of when I think of Dexys.
The soul band incarnation saw the band in the guise of New York stevedore look. Basic and without frills. Dexys when asked about alcohol consumption famously claimed they ‘preferred tea’! Many were the tales about them at that time, never popular with the press whom they often rejected, they blazed their own individual trail – even to the tune of breaking into their recording studios headquarters and seizing back a master recording which they didn’t favour.
It was said that during the long and projected auditions for band members a huge amount of potential horn players were rejected because they simply didn’t play hard enough. Great intensity was always the point with Dexys Midnight Runners as will be witnessed by the odd video of Dexy’s horn section players in concert with blood around their lips.
Singer, writer and inspiration of the band, Kevin Rowland was fixated on the literary aspect of the music and of it’s pureness. For him there were to be no compromises for the band, a stance that perhaps made the band as powerful as they were in spirit and sound.
I recall one amusing moment on children’s TV program TISWAS one Saturday morning. Kevin Rowland was being interviewed by the show’s presenter, Sally James when suddenly she asked a rather ill-advised question:
Sally: “So how did you get your name Dexys Midnight Runners then?”
‘Dexys’ being the common abbreviation for Dexedrine which was often used as an illegal stimulant amongst the Northern Soul circles from where Kevin took many of his influences)
Kevin:: “Well, you know what Dexys are…?”
Suddenly I felt the world stop turning on it’s axis for what felt like whole minutes as Sally and the studio took a deep breath.
Sally: “erm So, when’s the album coming out…”
I managed to see the band on their Projected Passion Review’ tour at Derby Assembly Rooms in 1981 and their show completely blew me away – it was extraordinary and I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve rarely heard such a powerful, punchy and tight blast of music from any band, whilst Kevin Rowland had the crowd in the palm of his hand that night. I’ve seldom ever experienced a feeling of real soul feeling like it either.
I’ve wondered at times over the years as to how contrived they were as a younger band but I truly believe that Kevin and his associates in the band knew exactly what they wanted to do and set out to do it with sincerity – a word not always strongly associated with popular music. Yes perhaps image was part of the deal with Dexys but it was an intrinsic part of the musical, literary and fashion stance of the band. It made sense when viewed in the overall context.
The memories and raw emotion of that band live on for me.
As for plastic, artificial pop music – For God’s sake Burn it Down, as Kevin would have said…
“You see Robin, I’ve been searching for the young soul rebels,
I cant find them anywhere. Where have you hidden them…?
Maybe you should welcome the new soul vision…”