Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For the Young Soul Rebels

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The story of Dexy’s Midnight Runners (hereinafter, “Dexy’s,” because c’mon) is long and weird. I don’t care enough about this band or this album to get into all of it, but suffice to say that leader Kevin Rowland is an incomparable control freak and egomaniac. Among other things, he dictated numerous image and musical changes for the band and at one point forced them to do group exercises and go on runs together. Of course, in the U.S., Dexy’s is known as a one-hit wonder, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s a shame, it does sell this very strange band short.

What I Think of This Album

Before adopting the Celtic jugband sonics heard on “Come On, Eileen” (and also before the overalls and bare feet aesthetic), Dexy’s – all eight of them – played straight up northern soul (and dressed like dockworkers). And it’s not bad. The truth is I rarely listen to this album, and I keep it around mostly as novelty. Kevin Rowland’s quavering yelp is mesmerizing until it’s not, and the retro horn sounds are not always married to the strongest songwriting.

But, tracks like “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green” are pretty unique in early ‘80s British pop and have not-inconsiderable appeal. “I’m Just Looking” adds a bluesy element, and the cover of “Seven Days Is Too Long” is fun. “Geno” is a great tribute to American transplant Geno Washington, and “I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried” is undoubtedly excellent, with “There, There, My Dear” just a notch below it.

I think “Burn It Down” (titled “Dance Stance” in its single incarnation) lacks a consistent melody but is otherwise a slab of hard soul, which is the same for songs like instrumental “The Teams That Meet In the Caffs.” The album is not the easiest listen but it can be interesting every now and then.

The reissue I own has a couple of videos (I’ve never watched them) and some humorous liner notes from former co-leader Kevin Archer. Archer and most of the band left after this album, and Rowland built a new version from scratch (apparently stealing Archer’s idea to add Celtic influences in the process).

Drummer Stoker eventually played in General Public with members of the Clash, the Specials, and the English Beat. Knob-twiddling was handled by Pete Wingfield, who also produced the Proclaimers and was a keyboard player for Paul McCartney, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, a late version of the Hollies as well as the reunion version of the Everly Brothers, and the Housemartins.

The Best Thing About This Album

“I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried”

Release Date

July, 1980

The Cover Art

I love the green and the two-tone text at the bottom. The cover pic is enigmatic and compelling, too. Overall, a winner.

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