Thirty-four years after they first burst onto
the music scene, thirty years after they topped the charts with "Come On Eileen" and twenty-seven years after the
release of their last album, Dexys are back...
Following the break-up of Birmingham punk outfit The Killjoys in 1978, singer Kevin Rowland (b. 17/08/53)
and guitarist Kevin 'Al' Archer (b. 21/12/58) decided to form a nine-piece 'New Wave Soul' group. Their ambitious vision
for the group was that they would look and sound unlike any other group around - featuring a four-piece brass section and
wearing proto-New Romantic fashions. Adverts were placed in local news papers and the lengthy process to find the right personnel
began, with bass player Pete Williams from Archer's previous band, The Negatives, together with Hammond organ player
Pete Saunders and drummer John Jay being the first recruits. When saxophonists Steve 'Babyface' Spooner and
Geoff 'JB' Blythe were joined by trombonist Big Jimmy Paterson and trumpeter Jeff Kent the first line-up
of the newly-christened Dexys Midnight Runners was complete.
Quickly earning a reputation as a formidable live act playing in
and around Birmingham, the early Dexys set featured several Sixties Soul covers including "Hold On I'm Coming",
"Big Time Operator" and "Respect". By the
end of the following year the group had secured a record deal and a support slot on the Two Tone tour playing alongside The
Specials and The Selector. With Bobby 'Jnr.' Ward replacing John Jay on drums and the brass section
reducing to a three-piece following Jeff Kent's departure, Dexys adopted a new "Mean Streets" look which featured on the cover
of their debut single "Dance Stance". The song, which was a scathing attack on anti-Irish jokes, reached number
40 in the British charts earning the group their first appearance on BBC TV's "Top Of The Pops".
Following the arrival of new keyboard player Andy Leek and
drummer Andy 'Stoker' Growcott, the ever-changing Midnight Runners adapted their visual image yet again, donning
woolly hats and donkey jackets, appearing like a gang of New York dockers. This new-look Dexys hit the top of the British
charts with their next release: the irrepressibly catchy "Geno", a celebration of Kevin Rowland's teenage memories
of seeing soul singer Geno Washington playing a gig in Harrow "back in '68". By the time Dexys embarked on a gruelling touring
schedule with their "Intense Emotions Revue" in mid-1980, Andy Leek had departed and Pete Saunders had returned to
the fold. This line-up completed the recording of the group's debut album, the classic "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels"
with producer Pete Wingfield and created a slice of musical folk-lore when they kidnapped the completed master tapes in
order to secure a better deal from EMI. Having fought a major record company and won, Dexys then turned their attentions to
the British music press announcing that they would not give any more interviews but instead would communicate directly with
fans through a series of 'essays' published in the advertising space of those same magazines.
When it was eventually released in July 1980, "Searching For The
Young Soul Rebels" and the single "There There My Dear" (another excellent Rowland/Archer composition) both
reached the top ten of the British charts but relentless touring and internal tensions were beginning to take their toll on
the group. The release of the blatantly uncommercial "Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One)" - featuring the newly
recruited Mick Talbot on keyboards - as a follow-up single signalled the break-up of the first incarnation of Dexys
Midnight Runners with Williams, Blythe, Spooner, Growcott and Talbot leaving to form The Bureau.
Rowland, Archer and Paterson auditioned a new line-up of Midnight
Runners in late 1980 with drummer Seb Shelton from Secret Affair, saxophonists Paul Speare and Brian Maurice, bassist Steve Wynne and keyboard player Micky
Billingham replacing the departed members. With the new personnel came a new look as the group sported hooded tops and
boxing boots, underlining Dexys' physical fitness regime (which included regular cross-country runs) whilst emphasising their
puritanical stance towards drugs and alcohol. By the start of the following year, Kevin Archer had also decided it was time
to move on and form his own group, The Blue Ox Babes, and his place was taken by Billy Adams as
the new group recorded their first single, "Plan B". This rousing anthem from the new songwriting partnership of Rowland
and Paterson failed to reach the British Top Forty amidst growing dissatisfaction with their record company EMI which had
failed to promote the single. The group discovered a loop-hole in their contract allowing them to leave but, without the financial
backing of a record company, had to cancel most of the shows in their planned "Projected Passion Revue". Among the
few dates to survive, a three-night residency at London's Old Vic theatre produced shows which have been hailed as some
of the best live performances of all time.
Dexys returned to the Top Twenty with their next release, the upbeat
and brilliantly brassy "Show Me" but Kevin Rowland was already planning to replace Dexys' trademark brass-sound with
stringed instruments and consequently Paterson, Maurice and Speare were instructed to learn the viola and cello. The first
result of the new Dexys sound was the single "Liars A To E" (featuring new bass player Giorgio Kilkenny) which failed
to capture the public's imagination and stalled outside the charts, but after hearing Kevin Archer's own experimentations
with strings, featuring the fiddle playing of Helen Bevington, Kevin Rowland invited Helen to play with Dexys and adopted
a similarly folk-influenced sound. Renamed Helen O'Hara and joined by fellow players Steve Brennan and Roger MacDuff, the trio formed a fiddle section called "The
Emerald Express" which featured on Dexys' next single "The Celtic Soul Brothers", a British Number 45 hit in early
1982. Feeling that their role in the group had diminished, the brass section of Paterson, Maurice and Speare decided
to leave Dexys - agreeing to return temporarily on a session basis to complete the second Dexys album (provisionally entitled
"Hey, Where You Going With That Suitcase") - and eventually they re-emerged as The TKO Horns.
With only Kevin Rowland now remaining from the original band, the
story of Dexys Midnight Runners might very well have ended at this point but for the staggering success of their subsequent
single release, the fiddle-led frenzy of "Come On Eileen". Accompanied by a new 'gypsy-style' visual image complete
with dungarees, torn clothing and unkempt hair, the new sound and look proved surprisingly commercial in an age dominated
by synthesisers and New Romantic fashions. Despite a slow ascent up the British charts, once "Come On Eileen" reached the
number one position it stayed there for four weeks, becoming the best-selling single of 1982 and assuring that the album -
by this point retitled "Too-Rye-Ay" - was a similar success.
Dexys soon returned to the Top Ten with a lively cover of Van Morrison's
"Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)" before embarking on "The Bridge" tour with Johnny Edwards
replacing Kilkenny on bass and Andy Hamilton, Nick Gatfield and Spike Edney forming the new brass
section. The double A-side, "Let's Get This Straight (From The Start)/Old" saw the group enjoy yet another British
Top Twenty hit at the end of 1982 and also marked the departure of Micky Billingham who joined ex-Beat members and former
Midnight Runner, Stoker in General Public. Following regular video broadcasts on MTV, the huge
success of "Come On Eileen" was repeated in The United States a few months later, bringing the group global acclaim which
had seemed scarcely possible a year earlier. The re-issue of "The Celtic Soul Brothers" in Britain during the spring
of 1983 maintained Dexys run of chart success but it was the track's B-side "Reminisce Part One" with its spoken dialogue
and unconventional song-structure which pointed the way for Dexys next reinvention.
Two years (and several studios and producers) later Dexys finally
re-emerged with a brilliant new album, "Don't Stand Me Down" and the customary new image, this time based on the 'Ivy
League-look' of American college students, but dismissed by some in the media as a 'double-glazing salesman look'. The new
nucleus of Rowland, Adams and O'Hara, accompanied by previous Dexys members Gatfield, Edwards, Paterson and organist
Robert Noble (who had joined during the latter stages of "The Bridge" tour) were augmented during the album
sessions by several seasoned players including pianist Vincent Crane (ex-Atomic Rooster), Al Green's
former drummer Tim Dancy and Julian Littman on mandolin.
With its elongated songs (including the 12-minute epic "This
Is What She's Like"), unusual arrangements, strong political content and dead-pan comedy conversations between Rowland
and Adams, "Don't Stand Me Down" either delighted or baffled those who heard it in 1985, but the decision not to release a
single ensured that it was overlooked by most at the time. The "Coming To Town" shows which followed featured organ
player Mick Bolton (pianist on some of the the album's early sessions) along with new recruits Pol Coussee on saxophone, Fayyaz
Virji on trombone, Penn Pennington on pedal steel guitar, Jerry Preston on bass and Jerod Minnies on
electric guitar. Although this proved to be a formidable live unit, the album's lack of chart success (despite the belated
release of "(An Extract From) This Is What She's Like" as a single) meant that this line-up was never able to realise
its potential and split after the tour ended. Following its use as the theme tune to a BBC sit-com called "Brush Strokes", the "Don't Stand Me Down"-era composition "Because Of You" was released as a single and returned Dexys to the
Top Twenty late in 1986, but although Adams and O'Hara featured on the song's video, Kevin Rowland performed it unaccompanied
in the "Top of The Pops" studio and by the start of the following year he had decided to go solo, signalling the end of the
first Dexys Midnight Runners era.
Having experienced limited success with his first solo offering,
1988's "The Wanderer" and succumbing to a drug addiction, Kevin Rowland - together with
long-time right-hand man, Jimmy Paterson - attempted to resurrect Dexys Midnight Runners in the early Nineties. Although several
demos were recorded including such titles as "My Life In England" and "Coming Home" the only public airings
of the new Dexys material were the performances of "Manhood" and "If I Ever" on Channel 4's "Saturday Zoo" in
March 1993 and the planned new album never emerged. When Kevin Rowland signed a record deal with Creation in 1997 it was reported
that his solo album "My Beauty" would be followed by a new Dexys album but the demise of Creation shortly after the
album's release meant that this never became a reality.
Eventually in 2003 Dexys Midnight Runners
did return with two new tracks (updated versions of "Manhood" and "My Life In England")
and an almost entirely new line-up for a critically acclaimed tour of Britain and Scandanavia, entitled "To Stop
The Burning". Alongside Rowland and former Midnight Runners, Mick Talbot and Pete Williams (this time featuring as a joint lead vocalist), violinist Lucy Morgan, guitarist Neil Hubbard,
bass player Julian Crampton, drummer Crispin Taylor, keyboard man Volker Janssen
and ex-Bureau trombonist Paul Taylor made up the latest incarnation of Dexys Midnight Runners. An
almost inevitable hiatus followed this flurry of activity with constant rumours that new material was in the pipe-line
which would see Dexys return once more. These rumours seemed to be confirmed when Kevin Rowland announced on Radio 2 that
Dexys were back in the studio working on a new album in June 2005 but all that emerged at the time was a demo entitled
"It's OK, Johanna" which featured on Kevin Rowland's 'My Space' webpage.
Finally - after another delay
lasting longer than the career of most groups - a Dexys line-up featuring Kevin Rowland, Pete
Williams, Mick Talbot, Lucy Morgan and Big Jimmy Paterson returned
in May 2012 with a series of live shows previewing material from their new album "One
Day I'm Going To Soar". The shows, which introduced new recruit Madeleine
Hyland as co-vocalist and Kevin Rowland's "love interest" on several
songs, were greeted by standing ovations and five-star reviews. The subsequent album, including reworkings of songs created
for Dexys' aborted return in the early 90s alongside more recent compositions, received a similarly enthusiastic
response from fans and critics upon its release on June 4th. Improbably or inevitably - but undeniably - Dexys ARE back!
The Dexys Midnight Runners Group Message Boards
Chronological lists of all Kevin Rowland and Dexys Midnight Runners single and album releases including details of all promos and rarities.
A chronological list of the events which have shaped
the history of Kevin Rowland and Dexys Midnight Runners including gigs, releases, press announcements, etc.
A selection of web-pages, features and lists of all
things Dexys, including details of cover versions, live shows, Dexys line-ups, TV appearances and press articles.
A Selection of webpages featuring biographies, discographies and photos
of all the groups with Dexys connections including The Killjoys, The Bureau, and The Blue Ox Babes.